Today’s 3Q’s is a blast and I’m super excited for you all to give this one a read!
I connected with Paul when he joined the Kendall Reviews review team, back when I was a member and he’s written some really strong think-pieces on the current state of horror publishing, the various platforms and the various representations we see within horror itself.
Always a fun convo, I’d like to welcome Paul!
Hi Steve, and thanks for the interrogation. It’s a pleasure.
Steve: What does your process look like once you finish your first draft? Do you immediately dive back into it, or do you take some time away?
Paul: Well, I’m kind of old school, so my first draft is always handwritten. I type up whatever I wrote the day after, so that really becomes my first edit pass. I still mistype, but a lot of the embellishments are done during the typing.
The process once the manuscript is complete can vary, depending on how long I’ve spent with the project. If it’s a short story, I’ll generally jump straight into editing and embellishing before sending it to my editor to pick apart. With longer work, I’ve inevitably spent months, or sometimes even years with those characters. That means I’m a little too close to the project and will miss things that should be glaringly obvious. So, I’ll take a couple of weeks away from it and either work on my secondary project (I usually have two or three projects in varying stages of development,) or tickle away at my Wattpad project. Sometimes, I might even just take the couple of weeks away and do nothing writing related at all … unless you count reading.
Once the rest period is over, I come back to the project fresh and read through the whole manuscript from page one. I’ll pick up typos and change them, make a note of clunkiness, any plot holes or anything I might be able to do better. Then, I read through again and make the changes I made a note of. Then, when I’ve done all I think I can do, it goes to my editor, Patti. That’s where I cringe while she picks it apart and paints the file in a wonderous variety of colours.
Actually, this is the part of the process I like best. I receive the edits back from Patti and spend some time reading her comments and recommendations. She never makes any changes to the document, only highlights the section at issue and adds a comment. Then, it’s up to me to decide whether I want to act on those changes or not. There’s usually only one or two suggestions she makes that requires discussion, usually because the choices I made are subjective or questions of artistic style. At those points, we’ll have a conversation about it where I will put across what I’m doing, and she will either agree or disagree and explain why she disagrees.
Patti might go through the manuscript three or four times before we both sign off on it and agree it’s done.
And that is my process.
Steve: What’s the one thing you’d change now if you’d have known it when you started writing?
Paul: Honestly, I would probably not have released my debut novel when I did. In hindsight, it was probably too soon and caused me some issues which set me back a good few years. It’s a long story, but the cliffnotes are basically these: I released and it was moderately successful. I got a bunch of good reviews from industry reviewers, comparing me to some of my favourite writers. That was all cool, but then I put a lot of pressure on myself to follow that up … or better it. The problem was, I didn’t know how to do that. I didn’t know whether I wanted to write a sequel to the first book, or whether to go a different way. I started writing a couple of stories, but they seemed forced to me and weren’t working.
Alongside that, I got a lot of invitations to write for anthologies and didn’t know how to say no. I didn’t want to come across as a diva or unprofessional. I didn’t want to not be asked in future, so I just said yes to everything. Big mistake. I got bogged down in deadlines, then started resenting them because I wasn’t writing a follow up to my novel. Then, it all stopped. I found I couldn’t write. I’d sit for hours with a blank page in front of me, and nothing would come. That was a first for me, and it got scary. I’d committed to all these projects, and I didn’t know how to honour those commitments. For the first time in my life, I started to feel anxiety and had panic attacks. Little did I know that this was an unrelated health issue rearing its head, and the stress of trying to keep up was making it manifest. In the end, I stopped writing for around a decade, except for releasing a short story here and there.
So, that’s a longwinded way of saying that I released my debut too soon and found I couldn’t handle it when it did well. My plan had been to write short stories and hone my craft, find my voice and then write longer form stuff, learning the industry as I went. Needless to say, I ended up jumping in at the deep end and found myself drowning. So, now I’m coming back forearmed, knowing what to expect … and also knowing that it’s fine to say no.
Steve: Of the books or stories you’ve released, which is your personal favorite and why?
Paul: It’s interesting, because there are a few answers people might expect here. It could be my debut Poor Jeffrey,) because, for all the nightmares it caused, it proved that I can actually do this thing. Also, it wasn’t a half bad story and still stands up. It could be the last thing I released (Defeating The Black Worm,) which you reviewed quite favorably. It could even be the next thing, a novel called Architecture, which will be released February 28th.
In truth, it’s none of those things. The one I’m most proud of is a short story which first appeared in the Demonology anthology a few years ago, and was reprinted in the paper version of …Black Worm. It’s called Climbing Out, and is the life story of a Nephilim as he climbs out of Hell. It’s a sad little tale really, not really big on horror. I like it because it’s the one where I felt like I was writing with my true voice, writing something I would really enjoy reading. It was the first one I thought was complete, and as good as I could make it.
Of course, that opinion could change with the next one … or the one after that …
Steve: Bonus Fun Question – Would you rather be lost at sea or in the mountains?
Paul: Oh, in the mountains for certain. Just thinking about this question made me uneasy when I pictured being lost at sea, surrounded by nothing and very little in the means of sustenance for survival. The nonsense rhyme comes to mind: “Water, water everywhere and not a drop to drink…” and it is kind of anxiety inducing. I’m not sure I’d do well with no landmarks, no way to mark the distance travelled or the distance still to go.
The thing I like about mountains is that there’s bountiful food, as long as you know where to look. I like walking in the countryside, and there’s something invigorating about walking in landscape that’s largely been untouched for thousands of years. There’s always something new to explore over the next hill, around the next bend, in the next valley, and the next … and the next … and the next. I get some of my best ideas when I’m rambling around in the wilderness, alone and miles away from the city. That, my friend, is where I feel at home.
And anyway, we’re never really lost. We’re only ever waylaid for a bit (as my dear departed Dad used to say when he was clearly lost.) We always find home eventually.
Steve: Great choice!
Thank you so much for doing this, Paul!
To find more of his work – check the links!