Frequently Asked Questions
Q When did you first want to be a writer?
A When I was six years old, I won a writing contest with a poem explaining how much I wanted to be a writer. In my opinion, you can’t get a better origin story than that, unless personal pain and loss are involved. Ever since, I’ve wanted to be creative and tell stories, and came up with many concepts throughout the years, with only a few of them still sticking around in my head today.
Q Is writing difficult for you?
A Technically no, because it only involves a few finger muscles. In all seriousness, of course it is. Writing is arduous, exhausting, sometimes boring, and incredibly complicated, but the end result is always worth it. Planning concepts for scenes, characters, or whole ideas is a blast for me. Actually getting them down, well, that’s a bit different. But I still do it somehow.
Q What parts of writing are the hardest for you?
A Starting a story, easily. There are literally dozens of word documents in my computer’s writing folder that are one page or less, because I just give up immediately. A few stories get a bit further, but still stop at twenty pages or so. Once I’ve reached page fifty, I’m usually set, as by that point I’ve grown invested in the plot and characters enough I can move forward. Sometimes, though, I return to the concepts for these abandoned stories later, and see if I can improve whatever didn’t work for me the first time. If the idea is intriguing enough, I’m willing to give it another go.
Another difficult thing for me is writing action scenes, which is odd, considering I usually write action novels. I can only imagine how difficult choreographing a fight scene in a movie must be, because writing one with only words can be quite a handful. Film has the advantage of being a visual medium, but for books, the only visual effects are in the readers’ imaginations. The kind of kinetic energy required for decent action is challenging to convey with just words, but clearly I think is worth it, because I keep writing action-packed stories. Maybe I’m a masochist.
Q What parts of writing are easy for you, if any?
A Dialogue, especially banter, is quite enjoyable for me to write. Often I don’t plan any of it beforehand; it just comes to me on the fly as I’m writing. One of the reasons writing any of the scenes in Megazoic with groups of characters is fun is specifically due to the banter. I always enjoy dialogue-driven humor, and maybe I’m no good at it and drive people away from my stories because of it, but at least I have fun writing it!
Also, in complete contrast to my difficulty starting a story, finishing a story is incredibly easy for me, specifically the part after the climax. Once the conflict is resolved, and it’s pure resolution, I can complete the rest of the book in like a day. My excitement about finishing a draft always seems to make me write on turbo boost.
Q Where do you come up with your ideas?
A My head is a mostly vacant place. About 3% is devoted to actually important stuff like managing my finances or personal hygiene. 7% is focused on my pitiful social life and all the poor souls I’ve trapped in my web of acquaintances. The remaining 90% is a cluster-frack of taking every last concept that interests me and figuring out interesting ways to mix them together. Some ideas stick, some don’t, but all of them come from creative inspirations as I read books, watch movies, play video games, look up nerdy science junk, and pull a teeny-tiny amount of stuff from my personal life. My book Megazoic for instance? The initial idea purely came from me thinking “I like dinosaurs. I like sci-fi. Hmmm…” as my fingers started to symbolically interlock.
Q What resources help you expand or improve your ideas for your writing?
A A big one is tvtropes.org. Categorizing all the tropes, clichés, plots, characters, and beats of writing and reality has helped hone my creative skills in ways I never expected, and now half the fun is figuring out how to play with tropes and use them in ways the reader might not expect. Definitely a must for any grandmother’s grandchild calling themselves a creator. Another useful site, this one recommended to me by a friend, is springhole.net, which basically takes ideas about world-building, characters, plots, or concepts and teaches you the gist of what they’re really about and how to use them convincingly.
Also, just reading. Or watching movies or television. Or playing video games. Or walking outside. Or Googling literally anything. When you’re a naturally creative guy, you can get your inspiration from pretty much whatever is thrown at you. If you’re like me when you look out the window on a plane and imagine a dragon, a flying whale, an aerial dogfight, or a spaceship out there in the clouds, you’re probably pretty easy to inspire.
Q What’s your favorite book?
A Jurassic Park, followed closely by the Harry Potter series.
Q What’s your favorite movie?
A Marvel’s The Avengers, followed closely by Pacific Rim.
Q What's your favorite television show?
A Phineas and Ferb. No question.
Q What’s your favorite video game?
A Hard to say, but I’m currently playing a lot of Paladins and Smite. When I’m feeling more creative, I go with Roller Coaster Tycoon. Yeah, I still play Roller Coaster Tycoon. What are you gonna do about it?!
Q What do you enjoy most in other works?
A Creativity. If it’s clear the people behind a work have put a lot of effort into crafting a story, creating a world, conceptualizing a design, or choreographing an action scene, I’m all for it. I’m prone to enjoy some works other people might dislike because of this, and more easily forgive whatever other faults they might have.
Conversely, lack of creativity can really annoy me. If a work of any kind shows a lack of effort in plot, character, or visual originality, I don’t care for it at all. If you have nothing new to say or no new way to show it, you’re not creating anything; you’re just copy-pasting others’ work. However, I’m willing to let lack of originality in plot slide in a work if it’s still told well, or shows its creativity in other areas.
Q What tips do you have for other writers and creators?
A Well, you could always go to my podcast "The Writ Wit" I host with my best bud Matt David where we give writing advice in great and intricate detail, but in case you don’t want to listen to two blabbering idiots who think they’re better than you, I’ll give you a few quick, basic tips.
Firstly, write everything down, even if it’s terrible. You might need it later, plus it’s often good to get something down no matter what it is. If you want to write every day, sometimes what you write isn’t going to be great, and that’s okay. I understand wanting to strive for perfection, or want to do it the best you can the first time, but sometimes that just isn’t possible. The great thing about writing compared to other jobs is that you don’t have to get it right the first time, and in fact aren’t expected to. That’s what editing is for, whether by yourself, friends, or professionals. Editing is a glorious thing. Treat the first draft of your work like no one but yourself will ever read it, and you’ll get it done much quicker. After that, focus on improving it.
Secondly, get creative inspiration. The phrase “no man is an island” may be a cliché, but let’s face it: you’ll never come up with anything in a vacuum. Don’t just read, watch, or play what interests you, either. If every once in a while you force yourself to read or watch something you might not otherwise bother with, you’ll be surprised what ideas you could get from it.
Finally, don’t give up. You’ll want to, believe me, and you’ll repeatedly want to. However, if you keep coming back regardless of how much you want to quit, clearly the drive to create is still in you, so never let it go. You can take breaks, certainly, but if you want to succeed in a business where many, many, many have failed, you can’t just be creative: you need perseverance. Take your strengths and expand them, and take your weaknesses and conquer them. No one is ever a perfect writer, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to improve. Work at it, constantly, and you’ll be successful. You just need to keep working at it.