Student Writer Finds a Killer First Line and a Novel Is Born

Student profile: Mackenzie Cool

Mackenzie Cool started writing as a child. Then life happened and writing got away from her. After university, she rediscovered her love of reading and became inspired to write again. Originally from Boston, Mackenzie moved to Amsterdam in 2021 where she works for a climate non-profit, based in the US. She finished her second Level I course this spring and is doing Level II in the fall.

WHAT’S YOUR WRITER’S ORIGIN STORY?

I remember being young and writing little children’s stories, but I got away from it in high school and university. It wasn’t until after university that I got back into reading and was inspired to write again. And it’s only in the last couple of years that I have really allowed myself to write – to get over this feeling of ‘I am not good enough.’ Starting out, I think it’s easy to compare your first draft with the finished product of your favourite writers.

WHAT ARE YOUR WRITING PLANS?

Foolishly, I did get back into writing thinking, I am going to write a novel. Easier said than done but that’s my long-term goal. In the short-term, my goal is to publish a shorter piece in a literary magazine.

CAN YOU TELL US A BIT ABOUT THE NOVEL?

It’s a coming-of-age story that follows three individuals in their young adult life. It explores the relationships they have with each other and how those change, but also how their relationships with themselves change. I got the idea for the novel from an exercise I did where you try to come up with a bunch of first lines of a story – something that’s going to hook the reader right away. There was one that I kept coming back to, and the story developed out of that. I still have that same first line and I let it guide me whenever I feel stuck.

WHAT’S YOUR WRITING ROUTINE?

I’m definitely someone who wants to be able to write in the morning, but I find that my actual best writing never ends up happening until the afternoon. Usually I write at home – I need a quiet space. I can’t work in a coffee shop or somewhere public.

HOW HAS THE COLLECTIVE HELPED YOU IN YOUR WRITING?

There are definitely many challenges when writing something like a novel, and one thing I’ve struggled with is writing characters that are very clear about who they are and knowing which details are the right ones to include. One of the ways that the Collective has helped me is to differentiate between tone and mood and how that comes across, as well as being able to really craft different characters’ voices.

I think what’s been most helpful is learning how to critique my own work. Sometimes I would be writing a scene and I knew that it was falling flat but I couldn’t figure out why. Now I feel like I have the tools to be able to diagnose what’s not working and how to fix it. For instance, by adding more specific, concrete details to ground the reader in the scene.

WHICH AUTHORS REALLY INSPIRE YOU THESE DAYS?

I love a lot of contemporary authors. Some of the writers coming out of Ireland, like Sally Rooney and Louise Nealon, but also authors from the U.S, like Brit Bennet and Bryan Washington.

Interview by: Beatriz Ramos

6 October 2022

1 responses on "Student Writer Finds a Killer First Line and a Novel Is Born"

  1. So what’s the killer line? Are you willing to share it?

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