Book Alchemy
The Secret Library Podcast
#28 Gary Wilson on Structure and Novels

#28 Gary Wilson on Structure and Novels

Gary Wilson has been writing fiction for decades.

He was the first person I thought of speaking to when people started asking me to talk about structure on the show. He's the author of two novels and has also taught fiction at the University of Chicago and Johns Hopkins University. Gary is one of my favorite people and I was thrilled to have the excuse to chat books and writing with him. We go through how it is to structure a book, letting the idea inform how you write it, what it's like to have one book interrupted by another story, revision, and his writing routine & the importance of "ass time" in writing.

For all of you who've had ideas but haven't shaped them into books yet, this will be a great conversation to give you the lay of the land that's coming. Think of this as a map- complete with some pitfalls you'll be able to look out for along the way. I'm so thrilled that people asked for this conversation since I learned a lot from having it! Keep asking for topics in the comments and I'll do my best to find the right guest to address them. Happy listening!

Show Notes for Episode 28 with Gary Wilson:

  • Structuring a novel with autobiographical elements (2:15)

  • The interaction between memory and imagination (4:45)

  • The unreliable narrator (6:15)

  • Differing story arc structures (8:30)

  • Different types and roles of narrators (9:30)

  • Narrative voice in a novel (10:15)

  • Finding the voice when writing a novel (10:45)

  • When an image takes hold and won't let go (12:00) 

  • The evolution of the novel and blatant structure choices (14:00)

  • Conscious vs. unconscious choices in writing (15:00)

  • Writing from personal experience in fiction and the transformation that takes place (16:00)

  • The line between fiction and memoir (17:45)

  • Artistic and emotional components to writing (19:45)

  • Teaching memoir and fiction together (20:30)

  • Where it's possible to get lost when writing fiction & staying true to the story (22:15)

  • The process of revision and the creative & critical hats (27:00)

  • The current project & tricky points (31:45)

  • The daily routine, discipline & saving a marriage (32:15)

  • Making progress (38:00)

  • On knowing the ending when beginning a novel (40:30)

  • Comedy or tragedy (41:30)

  • Finding subliminal themes once the book is written (41:45)

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Book Alchemy
The Secret Library Podcast
Most people believe that books are created in cabins all alone, where authors pound away on some manner of keyboard. Then they hand this masterpiece off to a publisher and it feels very much like it goes down a tube and comes out the other side as a book. By speaking to authors and other book lovers, I'm diving into the mystery that is the book world today.