A path to follow

I mean, artistic processes are all about making choices all the time, and the very act of making a choice is the distilling down and the getting to the core of what it is that you care about and what you want to say, really — Mike Leigh

The past couple of weeks has been a little harried. Harried in the sense that life has gotten in the way of writing. Didn’t write for eight days straight. What the fuck. Got back to writing last Thursday. I told myself I was setting aside that day to play with my boys, then I would get back to life.

Well, that was a big fat lie.

Played with my boys until yesterday night. I wouldn’t call it a lost weekend but it’s the closest thing to a lost weekend. I have one planned for April. Part of that weekend will be spent with my boys but what I will be doing during the rest of the time, will affect the three of us in the long run.

The four days of writing was a much-needed creative release. It also moved me a little closer to the goal of completing the first draft near the end of May, beginning of June. I strongly believe I can make that self-imposed deadline… as long as life doesn’t get in the way… which is what life is doing right now.

For a number of years, I called this time of year the busy season. After this busy season, changes will be afoot so that next year, I won’t have to suffer through long stretches away from writing. Some folks will be disappointed in the changes but I have to protect and nurture what is important to me.

I’m approaching a crossroads. I’ve seen it coming for awhile. And I know which path I have to travel. There is work to do. And I can’t wait for it to begin.


I don’t have stylistic loyalty. That’s why people perceive me changing all the time. But there is real continuity in my subject matter. As an artist of artifice, I do believe I have more integrity that only one of my contemporaries — David Bowie

Because I consider myself an emerging writer (let’s be honest, I’ve only written one book and there is the second one I’m trying to complete), it’s too early to say whether or not I have a preferred genre I like to work in.

One thing is certain — I’ll always write fiction. Non-fiction doesn’t hold much interest for me. Feels too much like work. My apologies to all the non-fiction writers out there. And I still haven’t figured out the short story format. This may not be the best way to say it, but I just might be thinking too big for short story or too something to that effect.

Another thing that is certain is I don’t think I can stay in one genre. I’m one of those who are pretty much all over the place. Hopefully, in a good way. I have no loyalty or preference to one genre. For example, the first book is fiction with elements of erotica in it. Would I categorize the book as erotica? That would depend on how the literary world and the business side of the literary world define that word. Regardless of what they say, I’ll always argue the book is fiction, first and foremost.

So, with book/novel #2, I’m apparently writing in the crime genre. I didn’t make that determination. It was my writing mentor who made that determination when he started reading portions of the work-in-progress.

It was in the same conversation that I was informed of the concept of conventions, as it pertains to genres. All genres have their own set of conventions or characteristics. Crime has one set of conventions, romance has its own, same with thrillers, and so on and so on.

Honestly, I couldn’t give a shit about genres and their conventions. I suppose that stance might get me into a little bit of trouble. Two words: bite me. I’m more concerned about telling a good, if not great, story. My loyalty is to the art of storytelling. What genre the story is the last thing on my mind. It feels a little boxed in, it can feel a little claustrophobic. Some folks like working within a set of parameters. Some parameters will give you lots of room to move around it. Others, not so much.

Unfortunately, I have to be a little respectful of the conventions. So, I’ve been following some of the conventions. Just some. I hate cookie cutter shit. Any opportunity to be a bit subversive happens on its own. I don’t have to work that hard at it. It’s a natural reaction to be repelled by cookie cutter crap.

If I’m keeping a tally, the first book was/is fiction with hot sex (hot is subjective, I’m aware of that) and the second book is crime fiction with some not-so-comfortable subject matter, then I’m guessing the third book will be fiction, too. Genre to be determined at a later date by someone else (probably my mentor) other than me. That’s how it goes.

Loyalty to storytelling. And only storytelling.

Collaboration at its best

There is a lot to be said for collaboration, and it should be seen as just another way to do things — James Patterson

In my limited experience, the act of writing (in the physical sense) is a solitary endeavour. But I know writers can and do collaborate, especially in writing screenplays.

I’m more or less a lone wolf in that regard. Collaborating with anyone seems like being in a temporary serious relationship. But then, all relationships are ultimately temporary. Yes? No?

When the writing group (that I belong to) has its monthly meeting, I hesitate to share or talk about what I’ve been working on. And it’s not because I think someone would steal my story idea. I’m not worried about that. The only person who can tell a story the way I tell a story is me. Nobody else. I don’t care how good someone can mimic my writing, that person doesn’t think like me and it is something that can’t be replicated.

My hesitation stems from the fact I’m not all that interested in having anyone help me problem-solve anything I might be encountering as I write the first draft.

I like to problem-solve my way out of a situation without anyone’s help. I call it challenging my ingenuity. That may or may not be a good thing but I haven’t derailed myself yet.

If you haven’t figured it out by now, this work-in-progress is my baby. I have this indescribable love and affection for these characters and I don’t easily share them with anyone. Only one person, my writing mentor, has read the work-in-progress as I work my way through the first draft. Three other friends have read snippets of it just because I simply needed feedback.

But my mentor and my friends haven’t been part of the actual writing process where the finer details of the characters are being hashed out over cups of coffee. I have one person for that. I like to think of him as my technical advisor. And as strange as it may seem, I do think of him as a collaborator. I’m not willing to say what kind of technical advice I am getting from him but he is key in fleshing out certain scenes for the first draft.

Last week, we had a fantastic three-hour coffee meeting. Seriously, my meetings with him are the best. Time flew by like nobody’s business. We covered a lot of ground and discovered how much we really had in common, with regards to how we look at life. Yep, a friendship in the making. While there are contenders for best coffee conversations, no one comes close to him. I can’t imagine anybody knocking him out of that position.

One of the great things about my technical advisor, aside from his knowledge and expertise, is his understanding of storytelling. In his line of work, he has read a lot of movie screenplays to ensure particular aspects of what the screenwriter has put together are plausible, realistic and accurate.

As well, he has been using his technical knowledge to write for a specialty magazine for the last 20 years. He was regaling me about a recent article he wrote for that magazine and musing about how much shit he could possibly get into for writing it. His editor is backing him up so hopefully, there won’t be much trouble.

Plus, he’s had a little experience with writing a screenplay for a short film, turning that screenplay into a short film and being its director. This was something I was unaware of and I’m glad he shared that tidbit with me. The film played at a few small film festivals and earned the lead actress an award at a festival somewhere in southern California. Some of the stories he told me about that time were fun to hear.

So yeah, he knows a little about writing and getting into a little bit of trouble.

I wasn’t expecting him to be so engaged with my writing process and my characters. But I really shouldn’t have been surprised. He needed to get a sense of my characters, the setting and the story, in order to give me his best opinion about ‘the devil’s in the details’ stuff.

I think I piqued his interest when I first approached him about picking his brain for the novel a year ago.

Before we met, I think most of his interactions were with writers who were screenwriters, not fiction writers/novelists. I think I had him hook, line and sinker when I mentioned a specific scene while he was helping me with some field research.

After the coffee meeting last week, he is pretty invested in my process after listening to some of the new scenarios I cooked up which were in need of his opinion. The reason three hours flew by so quickly was because we were so deep in conversation regarding my characters and their scenes.

There was a lot of ‘what if…’, ‘well, if…’, ‘I’m thinking it would be pretty cool if we had something interesting and cool like…’, ‘what does this character do/what kind of person is this character…’ and so on. Lots of questions were bandied about and answers were in good supply.

It was surprisingly easy to talk to him about the minutiae that belonged to my characters, even though there were times I didn’t think I was precise or succinct enough to explain what was bouncing around in my head. There was a lot of great back-and-forth, thoughtful brainstorming. And lots of anecdotal stories and laughs were had, too.

I can’t say enough about the experience of this kind of collaboration. This suits me to a tee. It is very much about having chemistry with your collaborator. I will always hesitate at the idea of collaborating because I don’t want to work with someone who rubs me the wrong way. I’d be spending most of my time wanting to strangle that person than work with that person.

Either I got lucky or this collaboration was always in the cards for me.

The relationship I have with my technical advisor just developed organically. It really does sneak up on you. Organic is a word he also uses when he talks about the creative process. He believes in allowing the process to grow and shape itself naturally. It’s beyond awesome finding someone who is like-minded. Warms my heart, I tell ya.

It’s great collaborating with someone who gets you, who is intrigued by you and doesn’t mind the fact that you might be a little more than off-the-wall.

Yes, I’m gushing. I tend to do that when I meet a super cool person with whom I have great chemistry.

He’s my kind of guy. He’s my kind of collaborator. Couldn’t ask for anything better.