Summary of N. K. Jemisin’s Masterclass on Fantasy and Science Fiction Writing

Masterclass Notes
4 min readMay 13, 2021

19 key takeaways from the author of The Broken Earth trilogy
  1. Keep trying, and eventually you WILL break in. This is something that writers don’t hear enough. If you’re not good enough yet, work harder. If you’re not where you want to be yet, keep trying. Keep honing your craft and don’t give up. The doubt, fear, and struggle will all be worth it in the end.
  2. Write with the intention to help your readers feel less alone. Create characters that your readers can identify with. Take those characters on journeys that your readers can relate to. If your story has made someone feel that their own experiences aren’t so abnormal, and as a result feel more connected and hopeful, you have succeeded.
  3. Worldbuilding is foundational to science fiction and fantasy writing. The fantasy world you’ve created must first feel real and lived in, only then can your characters and plot thrive. Use real world ideas and allegories to evoke familiarity.
  4. Do extensive research yourself, but acclimate your readers quickly. Learn as much as you can about the cities or cultures that your fictional world is based on, including the minute day-to-day details. This will allow you to write about your fantasy world as if you lived in it, and to be able to easily inform your readers of how your fantasy world works.
  5. If you suffer for your art, it doesn’t mean your readers have to as well. Like an iceberg, most of the work you do will be below the water, unseen by the reader. Do not get too attached to your efforts and drown your readers in too many detailed descriptions that do not add to the storyline.
  6. Don’t make the same mistakes other writers have. Avoid replicating stereotypes and cliches. True representation is what will win people over. Instead of just taking something existing and relabeling it, be bold and dare to create something brand new.
  7. Make a map for your world. Start with the planet, then the continents, the environments, then create people who fit into those environments. Pick a location somewhere in the world you’ve created, and have that as the place where the culture of the people in your novel will develop. Write scenes by pairing landmarks with plot.