Writing a novel can be a fascinating, liberating, exhilarating experience; it can also be frustrating, embarrassing, and infuriating. I started writing mine, The Immortal King Rao, in 2009—13 years before it finally landed on bookstore shelves. This course description begins with my personal experience intentionally, because that's the lens through which, in this master class, we will discuss how to nurture a novel from the earliest moments of gestation into the living creature it is meant to become.
I will tell you how I did it. We'll begin by looking at my earliest drafts, my outlines, my research notes, my feedback letters from mentors and peers, and my margin notes to myself, as a window into how to see all the inputs available to you (research, feedback, self-critique, life itself) as advantages, not hindrances. I'll talk about the highest emotional points and the lowest. The goal, here, is to impart to you—by revealing something of my own experience—some sense of how the idiosyncratic job of writing a novel can be done.
From there, we'll turn to a broader nuts-and-bolts conversation about how all this might apply to your work: At what point in the novel writing-process have you arrived, how long do you hope to spend on your book from here, and how can you work back from that to come up with a one- or two- or five- or ten-year plan? What are the elements of craft to keep in mind while drafting and revising, and how might your consideration of these elements evolve over time? What excites you about your novel, and how can this be an animating force, motivating you to keep going even during the most difficult periods of a long creative process?
We'll end with an open Q&A, in which you can ask any and all questions about the novel-writing process.
A copy of The Immortal King Rao by Vauhini Vara is included in the purchase of this class for participants living in the United States. After purchasing the class, you’ll receive a coupon code to use on Bookshop.org for the book.
We will be recording this class for those who are unable to attend on July 9th. We will post a password-protected link after the class which will be viewable for one week after the class. Please email [email protected] if you have any questions about the recording.
Class meetings will be held over video chat, using Zoom accessed from your private class page. While you can use Zoom from your browser, we recommend downloading the desktop client so you have access to all platform features. The Zoom calls will have automated transcription enabled. Please let us know ([email protected]) if you have any questions or concerns about accessibility.
Check out this page for details about payment plans and discount opportunities.
- A roadmap for building a realistic plan for writing your novel.
- A rubric for considering various elements of craft during the writing and revising process.
- A renewed understanding of what animates your desire to write the novel.
- Specific lessons about how to use inputs during the writing process (research, feedback, self-critique, life itself) as advantages, not hindrances, using The Immortal King Rao as an example.
- 10% discount on all future Catapult classes
Students are encouraged—though not required—to read The Immortal King Rao before class. Come prepared to engage in written discussion in the comments on Zoom.
Vauhini Vara is the author of The Immortal King Rao (W.W. Norton, May 2022), an American Booksellers Association Indies Introduce selection and a recipient of a grant from the Canada Council for the Arts. She is an editor at the New York Times Magazine and a contributor to Wired; she has also written and edited for the New Yorker, the Atlantic, and others. Her fiction has been recognized by the O. Henry Prize, the Rona Jaffe Foundation, and the Yaddo and MacDowell residencies. She is a graduate of the Iowa Writers Workshop.
"A brilliant and beautifully written book about capitalism and the patriarchy, about Dalit India and digital America, about power and family and love."
"Utterly, thrillingly brilliant. From the first unforgettable page to the last, The Immortal King Rao is a form-inventing, genre-exploding triumph. Vauhini Vara’s bravura debut has reshaped my brain and expanded my heart."
"Vara comes out the gate with a masterwork: a book that is three great novels in one–the tale of a thriving and chaotic Dalit clan in the first decades of independent India; an immigrant success story in ’80s America; and a dystopian nightmare of the post-Trump future."
"For a writer working on their first book, one who's published either nonfiction or fiction pieces, they probably wish they could have their magazine editor holding their hand throughout the process. But that's probably impossible. Those editors are busy and divas -- they only return your emails when you're working on a piece for their magazine. They're not looking to help you build out your proposal, offer structural advice, line edits. But that's exactly what Vauhini Vara, who edited my magazine features in The Atlantic and the New York Times Magazine, has done for me as my mentor in the Lighthouse Book Project. There's a soothing sort of language and tone Vauhini offers to writers; it makes you feel safe and open to her suggestions, which usually sound like, "What if we try this," or, "I'm wondering if you'd be open to...." Keeping in mind a character's "internal and external" conflicts and motivations — this what I'm always thinking about because of Vauhini. And so, by the time my editor at Celadon Books/Macmillan gets the draft of my book The Tragedy of True Crime, I'm confident he'll be happy because he'll see that he's getting the kind of quality content he paid for — and that will be, in a large part, because of my secret weapon: Vauhini Vara."
"I've been working under Vauhini Vara's mentorship for nearly two years, and her guidance and wisdom have made me a sharper writer and a more thorough thinker. Writing my first book has been the scariest thing I've ever done, and the work is so much better for her thoughtful feedback. "