So last week I had the privilege of being interviewed by J.A. Allan, fellow author and Canadian who apparently at some point in her life managed to take a roll through the tiny little remote town I grew up in. It was a random little special connection. I really enjoyed the interview and Jenny just made it a joy.

Thanks so much again Jenny!

You can read it here.

Writing is like every other form of creativity. It’s an art form. And like all art forms there are no rules. Yes there are techniques, but there are definitely no rules. There are no set boundaries. Just imagine someone telling Picasso that he was doing it wrong. Or Van Gogh that his use of light and color was all off.

I could go on, but you get the idea.

Writing is also an art, and all art is a form of individual expression. It’s about experimentation. Here’s an interesting fact: Every successful writer has broken the so-called rules of writing and it’s what led to their success. You want to discover your own voice and make an impact on the literary world? Start doing things your own way. Go out of your way to break the laws of writing.

You want rules to writing? Here’s a rule for you. The first rule of Write Club is: Throw out the rules. I know this because every artist knows this.

The reason is simple. Each character in your novel is a person. And you have to treat them that way. The more different you make each of them the more real they become. One excellent way to hone in on this by paying close attention to how the people in your life speak. Take note of all their individual conversational nuances. The terminology they use. The terminology they repeat. The curse terms they make up. Pretty soon you’ll realize that is exactly how you need to write for each individual character. You’ll find you quite enjoy writing it the wrong way.

And by the way when I say take note, I don’t mean that literally. If you start pulling out a notepad every time you engage in a conversation you’ll find pretty soon no one wants to speak to you. My trick is to casually pull out my phone and write anything that strikes me in my Notes app and then put it away. Like I was checking a text or my email inbox.

Funny thing about treating characters as real people. They tend to grow on their own and practically write themselves. Want to be really brave? Next time you’re around people start talking about your characters like they’re actual people.

Hey, did you hear about this guy who had no idea he had dissociative identity disorder? So this dude didn’t have a clue he was making soap from dead peoples bodies and starting a club where people could just fight for the sake of fighting. Eventually he had this massive following of acolytes. Not a clue. They started a group called Project Mayhem that went full on terrorist. Blew up Wall Street. Erased international financial debts. The whole time, he had no idea it was himself.

See how this works? And be prepared. People are going to be fascinated. They’re going to ask you questions. They’re going to want details. The great part is you can say whatever you want and the whole time you’re building your character. You’re writing. Some might eventually call you a liar. But you’re not. You’re writing.

Speaking of Fight Club: Write like your character’s holding a gun to your head and you have to finish before the bomb goes off.

If you really and absolutely need writing rules to follow, here’s another one. The Second Rule of Write Club is: Stop over thinking. Just write. Listen to your characters. Because if you listen intently enough you’ll hear their voice.

 

Writer’s Block is really nothing more than a creative challenge to an author. It is a symptom of a larger issue. And, much like a doctor, if a writer can pinpoint the issue causing the symptom they can likely find a cure.

For example, I tend to write myself into a corner. There is an enjoyment for me to write characters that do insane things or find themselves in extremely awkward and complicated situations. Quite often this is my block or challenge, because these kind of scenarios are super hard to write your way through. So I wait. And I think and meditate on it like any good writer does. I take that down time in writing to read back over my work and edit. Doing this, by the way, has the added benefit to help me truly know my story and understand the characters. And as I mentioned in a previous blog, the more you understand your characters the easier they are to write. I’m sure you see where this is going. It’s a win/win situation.

But, if you’re stuck seemingly beyond help in the moment there are a few tricks to get you moving again.

For starters, stop checking Twitter and your blog. They’re still there, they’re not going anywhere. In fact turn your cell off along with every other device you have except the one you write with. Likely that’s your computer. So if that’s the case turn off the WiFi too. Only keep your writing program open.

But before you do all that, relax. Have a coffee and read the news. I like www.veryquiet.com myself. Just a good news aggregate site. Find the most interesting article of the day. I don’t care what it is. Then shut everything down as instructed earlier and write a back story all of your own design to that headline. I find stuff like this super interesting and I love to let my imagination go as to what series of events led up to that situation. Believe me this works. I swear by this shit. You’ll be writing before you know it.

Now, once you’re writing again go back to your story. Don’t try writing where you left off if you haven’t come up with a solution as to how to move forward. Do something off the wall. Have something ridiculous happen to your character. Write a chapter that you can always inject into the story later. Try introducing a new character, one that creates a brand new circumstance and complications or solutions to your plot.

Be brave and write dangerously. Write like no one’s going to read it. Write like you’re going to die in six months.

Just keep writing.

First off, every writer needs to know that getting published has nothing to do with how good of a writer you are and everything to do with who you are and whom you know. So stop beating yourself up and comparing your success to another.

Writers are in love with the idea of being published. I know I was and in a way I still am. It’s the romantic in me that refuses to release its grasp. For myself it was like any other writer, getting published was a life long dream. And I was one of the lucky ones. I don’t deny that. In my own experience my publisher, Rebel Satori Press, was just a good fit. It was my brother who discovered them and encouraged me to submit to them. They were my third submission. Also, to be entirely honest, I’ve yet to hear from them regarding my latest work. Tumble weeds and hollow breezes. This is my own publisher we’re talking about here.

But I digress.

My first two submissions were to Random House and Penguin, this was before those two colossal beasts conjoined into one massive Kraken. Penguin sent me the usual letter of decline (I don’t call them rejection letters and neither should any writer) but Random House was different. They returned my novel dog eared and coffee stained with a full page letter. Initially they apologized for not being able to work my novel into their publishing calendar but then went on to explain how much they enjoyed the story of Year of the Rooster and that they all took turns reading it and how the editing staff unanimously agreed it reminded them of the spirit of Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk.

Lovely letter, yes. Extremely encouraging. Still, once the euphoria of that letter of platitudes wore off, it was a letter of decline. And you want to know why I don’t take it personal? Because they have a publishing agenda and business model to answer for and the demographic for my novels is not part if that. I know this now. If I knew someone with any kind of influence at a major publisher, it would change my odds remarkably. But I don’t. So there. But all writers must understand that the chance of being published out of the gates by a major publishing house is about the same as a musician being signed by a major music label.

And this is the part where we have to ask ourselves: Is it worth it anyway? It’s a dying business model. It’s suffocating. The big houses have this ancient business model and quite frankly are gradually imploding under their own weight. Much like the music industry in the 90’s things are changing very rapidly for the publishing industry. They can’t keep up. And between their refusal to adapt and their inability to conjure any workable and sustainable solutions for these changes they are going to eventually sink hard and fast and take everyone down with them.

The point is, find a small independent publisher that prints the kind of story you’re writing. But only if that’s what you truly desire. And this may make me sound like a hypocrite as a published author, but anymore these days my mind is changing. And there’s a daily struggle inside me as to whether or not I should just move forward with self-publishing and get it over with.

The reason is it was once called Vanity Press. This was a label the big houses slapped on it back in the day because eventually along came the ability for a writer to just go ahead and print their own work out of pocket. As opposed to the idea of submitting your work to the ever watchful and demanding critical eagle eye of the traditional publisher’s editors. This is a model I feel two ways about. First: It is arrogant, self-righteous and elitist. But secondly: At the same time it is a model that forces writers to dig as deep as they can and produce the best writing imaginable in order to reach that pinnacle of publishing.

But here’s the crack in the dyke. The fly in the ointment. The cum in the bathwater.

It doesn’t work.

It fails good writers. And you can bet your ass there are countless of amazing authors who have been declined and never discovered by a readership that would have had an insatiable appetite for their work. It doesn’t work because there is actually a strange sense of pride when you read about editors who turned down authors who went on to be huge names. In any other industry if your boss found out about your complete ineptitude to recognize an immense and sustained money making opportunity YOU WOULD BE FIRED IMMEDIATELY. Instead they sit around sipping latte’s and laughing about it. Meanwhile that poor would-be author who is utterly shattered by the declining of their work goes back to whatever slave wage job they have been fantasizing about escaping by means of their incredible talent and disappears into obscurity.

Which begs the question: Why are we even bothering?

So you know what? Fuck it. We have to have the simple faith that the herd will be thinned by the reading public. Instead of relying at the whim of some pompous and draconian group of individuals who want to make that decision for the readers. And maybe failure to find readers will only force certain writers to hone the craft and get better.

Which leads us to the fact that us writers have to help one another. It is the only way we can succeed. And that my friends is an entirely different blog posting. So stay tuned. There are some major ideas rumbling about and once I get them in order I will be sharing them.

Do Your Homework.

Writing can feel so insular. And it is. That’s the nature of a writer. They crave quiet time alone to think and write. A writer can get so lost in their own creativity they will lean impossibly hard in their own imaginations. It may not even occur to them to research their own character.

That’s’ right, I said research their own character.

Because as well as a writer can imagine, there’s no way of truly understanding an experience unless we have been through it. A writer’s character should be so real that they have a zodiac sign. For real. Find a random way of choosing the day and month a character was born. And all the idiosyncrasies associated to that particular sign, those are your character’s traits and personalities. Whether you believe in astrology or not, this trick is going to help.

As a writer, understanding someone makes it easier to write about him or her. Especially if they want to expand their stories and characters. An author can only write so much about “what they know” because eventually their stories get bigger than they are and the life experiences of the characters go beyond the author’s. For example, no one understands war like a soldier. Arrange to sit down for a chat with one. If a writer has a character that has lost a child they can talk to a person who’s lost a child. If their character has some horrible disease, go talk to someone who has the same disease. Want to write about a detective? You better have one you can turn to for questions. Because authentic characters are relatable. And this is what draws in the reader.

Doing this takes courage. Not the kind of courage it takes to have your work published, but still.

People read to escape. Readers get drawn to a particular type of character. Which can be problematic for writers, because it creates the fear of straying away from writing the same particular character over and over again. And some do. It’s the reason serial stories exist. Pulp Fiction of all genres tap into the banality of the wanton masses to hear the same story about the same characters over and over again. Sometimes if feels as though readers are no different than children in this way. Like a six year old boy watching Transformers for the 473rd time, we will read the same novel countless times. As if trying to silence some unspoken inner need.

But this isn’t to say readers can’t be lured into trying something new. However to do this an author has to be brave. The author must create a new someone that is of timeless and classic appeal. It’s really not as complicated an idea as it sounds.

Start with just creating characters. Not stories. A story will write itself if the characters are real. Write a character summary for an addicted individual that will make readers what to arrange an intervention. Write the kind of character that when your readers finish they will hold an annual remembrance ceremony for their passing. Write the kind of character people will want to introduce to their nephew at a wedding. Write the kind of character that will make the reader feel sick to their stomach and want to have a cold shower.

In case you haven’t got the point yet, this is about the Cult of Personality. And it’s vital to writing. Make your audience feel something for the characters in your story and they will be yours forever. The only way this can be accomplished is by the courage to research what we can about a certain type of person and then having the courage to think like they do and expand beyond even what they see as limits and boundaries.

Soon enough you’ll find your characters write the story on their own.

Aaaaaaand we’re back. After like three years.

Alien abduction is a bitch.

Joking. Been doing a good deal of writing. Finished my second novel, started my third, wrote a few screen plays and have recently started into a graphic novel with a very good friend I work with in film who is an super talented artist.

So I promise moving forward I will blog on a regular basis.

I’m considering posting a few of the screenplays, one in particular really. I wrote a Californication stand alone sample script that I’m proud of. It was such a pleasure to write and so easy. The characters on that series are so well fleshed out it’s impossible not to know them like family. In fact when the series ended I Tweeted something saying it’s like saying goodbye to old friends you never had the chance to hug. Someone who acted on the show as a series writer faved it. Whoohoo for me. And I recently worked with an actor who was on Californication and he confirmed that David Duchovney is every bit as cool as he seems.

Anyway, so expect that to pop up in the future. My thought is to create a blog dedicated to posting screenplays alone so I’ll blog a notice about it and have a link to the screenplay.

Speaking of Twitter, when I have the time and mental energy apart from work I will periodically dole out unsolicited writing advice that I find actually works and may work for others as well. It seems so many writers aren’t terribly giving when it comes to the actual and practical methods of executing their craft. Even established authors. They may offer some little snappy and poetic comments on writing, but few if any truly speak their mind freely on what works for them. Or they form a workshop and charge for the advice. Even then they’re not really sharing their best and most effective secrets.  I decided screw all that. So I will be writing blogs that will be linked to and expand on advice that I Tweet about.

Also, I can’t wait to post updates regarding the graphic novel. I know I already mentioned that but I’m very excited about it.

So what I’m saying here in a very long winded manner is stand by for future posts because there’s going to be lots to come.

Hey there everyone. This is my first blog entry. This is not my first attempt at the internet of course, but as far as an official blog entry regarding my writing and career this is it. This is virgin ground right here.

I was not, am still not, entirely sure of what to say. I read Neil Gaiman’s blog and that man blogs like a mad dog. He has so much to share. But then again he’s way famous and has a great deal going on by the look of it. Chuck Palahniuk seems like a complete technophobe and doesn’t blog or Twitter or Facebook or do pretty much anything besides sit at home and churn out magnificent books at a prolific rate. Irvine Welsh doesn’t blog either but he does Twitter on a fairly regular basis. I Twitter now (or Tweet or Twat or whatever it is), after a great deal of arm bending, and I have to say it’s far more enjoyable than I thought it would be. It’s so much cooler than updating a Facebook Status. Plus I don’t do Facebook. Although I should add there is a Facebook page set up for my books. It’s not that I’m some complete Luddite or total techtard. It’s just that cliché writer thing where we prefer our solitude and not giving too much of ourselves away. Or at least more than is necessary.

I also have no idea what to expect of this blog besides sharing my latest artistic exploits with everyone who bothers to pay attention. So come back here to see updates on my writing and workings on various projects. Right now I’m agonizingly close to finishing my latest novel titled The Calculated Life Of Jack Promise which is the project the Ontario Arts Council has been generous enough to help me out with. It is a story that has a way of surprising me with new twists and turns so I’m enjoying it quite a bit. I do have some other exciting stuff coming down the pipe so it should be interesting. I’m looking forward to getting stuff out of my brain and onto the page.

So, please, drop by every so often.