Perseverance and the Art of Changing Directions, featuring Emily X.R. Pan

Sep 24, 2018

Emily X.R. Pan

It took today’s guest, Emily X.R. Pan, ten years to finish her novel. In today’s high-pressure, fast-paced, ambition-oriented culture, you hear more about the people who write a book a year than you do about all the writers toiling away at their craft—and the perseverance, endurance, and diligence it takes to finish a book. In this episode Grant and Brooke talk about taking U-turns in your writing, reinvigorating projects that feel like they’re dying on the vine, and the many variations of creative process that exist.


Emily X.R. Pan is the New York Times bestselling author of The Astonishing Color of After, named by the Wall Street Journal as one of the top twelve books of the season. Emily currently lives in Brooklyn, New York, but was originally born in the Midwestern United States to immigrant parents from Taiwan. She received her MFA in fiction from NYU, where she was a Goldwater Fellow. She was the founding editor-in-chief of Bodega Magazine, a 2017 Artist-in-Residence at Djerassi, and is co-creator of Foreshadow: A Serial YA Anthology. Visit Emily online at, and find her on Twitter and Instagram @exrpan.

Writing Action: The Big Game of "What If"

  • The simple question “What if?” is the starting point for every story. A story builds through a series of “what ifs” because every story has to travel through many narrative forks in the road.
  • To get your story started—and to keep it moving forward if you’re stuck later—use this exercise.
  • Set a timer for 15 minutes. At the top of a clean piece of paper (or document if you’re typing) write “What If.” Then let your imagination go wild and write down every “what if” possibility you can think of. The wilder and crazier, the better.

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