Drawing back the curtain on the mysterious process of writing novels, The Secret Miracle brings together the world's best contemporary writers, the foremost practitioners of the craft to discuss how they write. Michael Chabon, Claire Messud, Jonathan Lethem, Amy Tan, Paul Auster, Roddy Doyle, Allegra Goodman, Aleksandar Hemon, Mario Vargas Llosa, Susan Minot, Rick Moody, Haruki Murakami, George Pelecanos, Gary Shteyngart, and others take students step by step through the alchemy of writing fiction, answering everything from nuts-and-bolts queries—“Do you outline?”—to perennial questions posed by writers and readers alike: “What makes a character compelling?” From Stephen King’s deadpan distinction between novels and short stories (“Novels are longer and have more s**t in them”) to Colm Toibin’s anti-romanticized take on his characters (“They are just words”) to José Manuel Prieto’s mature perspective on the anxieties of influence (“Influences are felt or weigh you down more when young”), The Secret Miracle presents an insightful, honest, humorous, and oft-surprising master class workshop on the art of writing fiction.
Daniel Alarcón is the author most recently of Lost City Radio, which was named a 2007 Best Book by the Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, the San Francisco Chronicle, and others.
826 National is a network of youth tutoring, writing, and publishing centers located in San Francisco, New York, Los Angeles, Ann Arbor, Chicago, Seattle, and Boston.
Introduction by Daniel Alarcón 1
The Writers 9
Chapter 1. Reading and Influences 23
Chapter 2. Getting Started 77
Chapter 3. Structure and Plot 133
Chapter 4. Character and Scene 171
Chapter 5. Writing 223
Chapter 6. Revision 273
Chapter 7. The End 303
Mario Bellatin's Answer 331
Aura Estrada's Diagram of The Loser 337
Index of Writers, Artists, Musicians, and Directors Mentioned 341
About the Editor 353
About 826 National 355