My Writing Process: Cursing!

Let’s take a trip back down memory lane. I was in grade six, so I figure we’re going all the way back to 1996. To Norman’s Cove Elementary. For whatever reason, someone had turned me on to the novels of Kevin Major.

For those of you who don’t know (and this is the Internet, so I’ll wager there’s a bunch of you), Kevin Major is likely the most acclaimed Newfoundland author. He is to Newfoundland what Stephen King is to Maine. Except that Major doesn’t make Newfoundland look like a place filled with drunken hicks and apathetic parents.

Hold Fast - Kevin Major
Hold Fast – Kevin Major

Anyway, his two most notable works are Blood Red Ocre and Hold Fast. While Ocre is more popular, it was a little above me at 11, so somebody gave me Hold Fast.

And I was blown away: they were cursing in this book!

Not long after my Principal, Mr. Osborne, came in. I was big into Spider-Man at the time so he always sounded evil to me, but he was a great guy. Anyway, he was doing some kind of lecture encouraging kids to read. There was a real push for reading in schools at the time. I guess there always is, but at this point they didn’t have “reading levels”. It was just read anything. Comics? Fine. Soup labels? Fine. Whatever you wanted to read, just so long as you did.

Which I happen to agree with, but I digress.

Anyway, I (being me) wasn’t sure if I “should” be reading a book with curse words in them, so I asked.

To his credit, Mr. Osborne responded by saying: “If you can read it then you’re mature enough. But if you’re running around the class going ‘Oh look! Swear words!’ Then you aren’t mature enough.”

A fellow student and I exchanged a look, because I had done that the day previous.

So that was my first introduction to the idea that one could curse in literature. And now it is my favorite thing to do ever. I pepper curse words all throughout my stuff, but never needlessly. I like to write to way people speak, and people curse. So my characters do as well. A lot.

I think maybe the point of this post is unclear, but this is mainly for young authors who maybe sensor themselves. Don’t. It’s just not worth it.

I remember my mother stumbling across an early draft of one of my books when I was 17 and just being horrified about the subject matter an the cursing. I think it was a flashback to a main character being molested. So while I understood her outrage, she failed to understand that that was the desired response. You should feel outraged. And that should make it all the better when the character gets over that. Or all the worse when they don’t. Either way.

Off topic again. Cursing where appropriate is good. Don’t let people stifle you. If you’re that kind of author you’re that kind of author. If you’re not you’re not. It’s just that simple.

Never Look Back, Motherf***ers 😉
Matthew LeDrew

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My Writing Process: The Importance of Editing

Gang War thumbnail
Gang War, 2012. (not final cover image)

This will likely be a fairly uneven blog post. I wasn’t even sure if I should file it under “My Writing Process” or “Common Mistakes.” I decided on the former because, while it is a very common mistake to make, it’s one that I make fairly often. As such, it is a part of “my” writing process.

This is about editing. And mainly, the fact that I’m not very good at it. I’ve gotten better at it over the years through a combination of experience and classes at Memorial University, but I’ve still got a long ways to go. There are several contributing factors. The first of which is that it is very, very hard to see flaws in your own work. For anyone. The second is that I simply was never taught the right way. As awesome as my high-school and college English experiences were, there just simply wasn’t enough focus on proper grammar. If I ever become an English teacher I plan to rectify this. People are much more apt to notice your improper use of the word “it’s” in a TPS report than they are to ask you for a random dissertation of Romeo and Juliet.

But there’s this thing that happens amongst some authors where they kind of shrug off grammar issues and “a small complaint.” I remember a newspaper review of the first edition of Black Womb thank, while positive on that narrative, commented on the lack of proof reading. When I told friends in the industry about this, a surprising number of them did in fact comment that these were “minor complaints.”

That’s dangerous thinking, let me tell you.

On the one hand it reduces an author’s urgency to fix the problem. On the other, such thinking in the hands of up-and-coming authors can be damaging. I remember getting a submission to the submissions email once where the grammar was so bad it was barely even readable. The sad thing is I picked through the first few pages and discovered it was actually not a bad story. When I commented to the author about this, he revealed that he had in fact never read his story after writing it and that “that’s what editors were for.”

I’m not kidding.

He did not get picked up.

So the reason, then, that this is a part of “My Writing Process” is because there are times, stylistically, when an author does “break the rules.” Jessica Grant doesn’t use quotation marks. Neither does Jeff Lindsey. I do. Both methods are equally correct. There are times when I will violate good grammar to make a scene’s mood more what I want it to be. I will forgo periods and make a paragraph or sometimes even a page one long sentence. It makes the reader out of breath. If this happens during, say, a chase scene, it can result in your reader being just as out of breath as your character. These are cool tricks you’ll discover along the way, and differ wildly from writer to writer.

Here’s the point: if you have bad grammar or are prone to typos, you’ll never get to use these “breaking the rules” tricks to their full potential. After slogging through ten pages of your mistakes and misuses, when your reader reaches a point where you have intentionally played with structure and rules, it will be dismissed as another mistake and the effect will be lost. I’ve even tried to defend some of my intentional changes to structure before only to have people not believe me. They didn’t believe the author about the intent of his own novel. That’s how deep-seeded the mistrust from bad grammar can get.

So learn from my mistakes and I’ll try to as well.

But Never Look Back
Matthew LeDrew

The latest from Engen Books!

engenbooks

April 2012 sees the release of two new publications from Engen Books, both of them to be launched and available for the first time at the sixth annual Sci-Fi on the Rock convention, April 20th, 21st and 22nd.

The first is light|dark, an anthology of short stories all taking place within the canon of the Engen Universe. Following the lead of Ellen Curtis’s 2009 collection Compendium, light|dark will feature stories from a variety of authors making their mark on the greater world of Engen Books.

According to Matthew LeDrew’s blog, the collection will include: “me [Matthew LeDrew], Jay Paulin, Andrea Edwards, Ellen Curtis, Sarah Thompson and Larry Gent all in the same book.”

“Avoiding spoilers, the story is a day in the life of a sister and brother,” commented Jay Paulin. “[Gristle While You Work is] more humorous than scary (the title should make that very obvious)…

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My Writing Process: I’m not crazy, I’m a writer (reprise)

Crazy WriterOkay, so someone finally commented a post in such a way that I can respond to it effectively. Good. Thank you. I like questions, they feed ideas for posts. And that person was… Jay Paulin. Of course it was, why wouldn’t it be? -Sigh-

Let’s get this over with.

In my last Virtual Writing Seminar I said that “I’ll never believe that you can get that kind of divine spark from role playing games.” I’ve gone on rants about gaming and gamers with regard to writing before, and I guess Mr. Paulin finally had enough.

He asks: I’m curious why you would discount the notion that a person could never find inspiration playing a game — one that involves imagination and story-spinning — and then admit mirror-gazing works for you.

The answer is that I find the sort of story-spinning involved in role playing games to just be working the wrong storytelling muscle. These games are fun, but the storytelling in them… see, I don’t want to say it’s bad because then I’ll have a million people freaking out at me. It’s not bad. How do I put this? Let’s put it this way: the type of stories I’d like to read, even fantasy and sci-fi ones, can’t be generated from a game. So much of great literature exists in the quiet, reflective moments that don’t come from games. Also, there’s a tendency in games to try and make your character as powerful as you can. Which makes sense, you’re bringing him into battle. But making-ultra unbeatable and infallible characters makes for boring literature. It’s the Superman problem.

Beyond those reasons, there’s the big one: I’ve seen it not work. This is the biggest one. It’s not that I have a bias against games. It’s that i have a bias against gamers who write, especially ones that write in the same genre that their RPG gameworld exists in. This is a bias formed from many, many tiresome experiences. Games have a different narrative than movies, and the gap is even greater with novels. Ever see a movie in recent years where it seems like the characters just advance from room to room killing bad guys? People comment that these movies “feel like watching a video game,” negatively. The TMNT CGI movie had that complaint a lot. And I can see it. Now, imagine that without even the benefit of visuals… it gets tiresome.

Another issues is that “The Gamer” already has a support structure. They have 5-10 people they play with that all agree that the writer’s story is awesome, either because they have similar interests or because their characters are also featured. Or they’re just Yes-Men, that’s always an option too. Because they have these people telling them it’s awesome, they have no room in their minds for even the slightest criticism.

So, that’s my issue in a nutshell.

Then Jay writes:

My comment may come across as critical but I am legitimately curious. I believe inspiration can come from anywhere so what makes one avenue impossible and another acceptable?
Could you go into a bit more detail in your methods? Do you act scenes out in the mirror, using physical motions and/or facial expressions as starting points for emotion? What negative experiences do you have (first-hand or otherwise) regarding role-playing on a table compared to the success you’ve had role-playing in your mind?
This could lead to an interesting discussion! Hopefully other writers post their opinions on this matter as well.

I absolutely act out scenes in front of the mirror, usually when I’m alone in the house. Typically it’ll be a tense verbal discussion / debate among several characters. It lets me hear what they’re saying out loud so that I can make sure to give each of them different voices and make sure the dialog sounds legitimate. Doesn’t matter that they’re talking about an evil organization bent of the genetic overthrow of the human race, as long as the dialog sounds genuine.

But you’re right, inspiration can come from anywhere. My problem is when people stay too close to the “source material.” It’s like the Watchmen movie. That’s what happens when you stay too close to the source and don’t remember that movies are different from comics. Hear that, gamers? i bet your game is awesome (but stop asking me to play), but a novel is different from a game. You need to realize that before putting pen to page.

Satisfied? (He’s never satisfied).

Never Look Back
Matthew LeDrew

(PS: Does Jay have the writing chops? Judge for yourself this April, when his story Gristle While you Work is released in the Engen anthology Light|Dark.)

April 2012 Releases

light|dark
light|dark

April 2012 sees the release of two new publications from Engen Books, both of them to be launched and available for the first time at the sixth annual Sci-Fi on the Rock convention, April 20th, 21st and 22nd.

The first is light|dark, an anthology of short stories all taking place within the canon of the Engen Universe. Following the lead of Ellen Curtis’s 2009 collection Compendium , light|dark will feature stories from a variety of authors making their mark on the greater world of Engen Books.

According to Matthew LeDrew’s blog, the collection will include: “me [Matthew LeDrew], Jay Paulin, Andrea Edwards, Ellen Curtis, and Sarah Thompson all in the same book.”

“Avoiding spoilers, the story is a day in the life of a sister and brother,” commented Jay Paulin. “[ Gristle While You Work is] more humorous than scary (the title should make that very obvious) and could probably be defined as slapstick-light.”

Both LeDrew and the rest of the Engen staff are keeping tight-lipped as to the content of the stories, but has said that it will be both accessible to new readers as well as containing links to the Black Womb and Infinity series.

The book will also be available internationally on April 20th, as well as on Amazon and Indigo.

The second release is Gang War, the ninth book in LeDrew’s Black Womb series of novels.

The book sees an escalation in the ongoing war between Xander and the villainous Tee gang, as well as the return of a old threat from Xander’s past.

“We’re really going to start seeing the way the series is going to pan out in this story, I think,” LeDrew said. “I think readers will be surprised. I’m looking forward to feedback and reactions.”

LeDrew also hinted at choices being made regarding the Black Womb series at the quarterly Engen conference this month that will affect the future of the series drastically, but would not elaborate as to how.

Gang War also goes on sale April 20, 2012, everywhere.

Gluten Free Pancake Muffins

As promised, today I’m bringing you guys another one of my food diaries. Pancake day was a couple weeks back, so with a little left over pancake mix I concocted a breakfast treat for Matt and I. Not so nutritious, but definitely delicious. I hate cooking pancakes normally, because my stovetop is very old and very finicky, leaving them burnt on a low setting within seconds. This will definitely be a favourite from now on though. Should work with any pancake mix, or recipe. I used a generic Bulk Barn gluten-free pancake mix and followed the recipe, but it could easily be modified to suit your favourite pancakes. On top of the normal mix, I added in maple syrup to the mix (only a drizzle on top of each muffin once they were in the liners) and baked them at 300 degrees until I could poke a toothpick in the centres and come away clean. The pros of this pancake method left me with fluffy pancakes that absorbed the syrup easily and did not burn or brown (just how I like them). Cons? One pan just wasn’t enough! They were so easy to make, cooked really well and didn’t require the constant attention of standing over a stove that pancakes take, and they were portable! The perfect breakfast snack on the go.

The Gluten Free Noms

Growing up gluten-free, my family constantly experimented with cooking and baking. With little on the grocery shelves in the way of gluten-free options when we were diagnosed with Celiac, I was eager to cook whatever I could, try whatever new foods were available that I wasn’t allergic to. Over the years, I began to love cooking, so this will be the start of a new blog feature where I discuss what I’ve been cooking and post some of my favourite recipes. To start, this is a slideshow of some recipes I’ve made in the past! Hope you all enjoy.

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