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The Real Writing Process of Tade Thompson
Episode 30329th November 2022 • The Real Writing Process • Tom Pepperdine
00:00:00 01:09:44

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Tom Pepperdine interviews award winning author and screenwriter, Tade Thompson, about his writing process. Tade discusses the three stages of research in his work, how he plans out his revisions and how many ideas he comes with on a Sunday.

You can follow Tade on Twitter here: https://twitter.com/TadeThompson

And you can find more information on our upcoming guests on the following links:

https://twitter.com/Therealwriting1

https://www.instagram.com/realwritingpro

https://www.facebook.com/therealwritingprocesspodcast

Transcripts

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Hello and welcome to The Real Writing Process.

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I'm your host, Tom Pepperdine.

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And this week, my guest is author and screenwriter Tade Thompson.

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Now, I have to admit Tade has been one of my wishlist guests,.

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Right from the very beginning, when I came up with the concept of

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this podcast, I hoped that one day I'd be able to interview people

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of the calibre of Tade Thompson.

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The fact that I've managed to actually sit down and interview the man in less than a

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year of podcasting is a massive privilege.

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And one of my proudest moments is the fact that he really enjoyed the interview

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and the kind comments he says at the end.

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Um, I don't want to wax lyrical too much about it, but, yeah, this is just

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an absolute joy I'm so, so happy to be able to bring you this episode.

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For those who haven't read any of Tade's work, please do.

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Uh, the Rosewater trilogy is how I, I was introduced, but his latest

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science fiction called Far From The Light of Heaven is fantastic.

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Absolute great read.

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Basically, if it has his name on it, read it.

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He's a fantastic writer.

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He's a really interesting man.

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He has really interesting things to say.

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He has a very unique way of working compared to other guests I've

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had on, so a really good listen.

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There's nothing more to say.

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Here's the Episode.

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And I'm here with Tade Thompson.

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Tade, hello.

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Hello.

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How are you?

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I'm very well, thank you.

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And my first question as always, what are we drinking?

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Tonight we'll be drinking tea.

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I'm gonna have black tea, but I'm also gonna have hibiscus tea.

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I've got my special tea infuser.

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Yes.

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With, I've got this gentleman who helps me hold this special

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infuser into the cup, so.

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That is beautiful.

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So I will try and describe it for the listeners.

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It's a little stick figurine with a long body, which is the infuser, and then the

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arms just reach over the edge of the mug.

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So it's just a little man poking out on the side of the mug.

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Very endearing, very nice.

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And uh, yes, it's uh, I'm lactose intolerance, so I'm always having to get

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milk substitutes when people choose tea.

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So having black tea is an absolute joy.

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Okay.

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Excellent.

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So yes.

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Anyway, Cheers.

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Cheers.

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And where I'm speaking to you now, is this your writing room?

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Is this your office?

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This is where I write from, yes.

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Most of the time.

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This, it's a study.

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It's basically a converted garage.

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I've got a skylight.

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I've got really good illumination as you can imagine.

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I've got custom built shelves behind me, and as you can see, they're running

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out because I am a complete book addict.

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Excellent.

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Um, I read everything.

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The books seem to talk to each other and multiply.

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They get married, they get divorced, they have children, all of that.

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This is where I do most of my writing, but sometimes I go to cafes.

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Very occasionally.

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Okay.

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I do, I tend to do revisions there.

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I don't write new stuff in cafes.

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Okay.

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I go there when I don't have to concentrate so much.

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Okay.

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Just a white noise space away from household distractions?

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Yeah, sometimes.

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What happens, the way I make myself work is when I go to a

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cafe, I lie to myself that, Ha!

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Everybody else is playing, but I'm actually working.

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It's what I need to move myself along sometimes.

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So if I start thinking I'm getting stagnant and if the words are moving like

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sludge, I go to a cafe briefly just to get a charge of, Hey, look, I'm working.

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Everybody else isn't.

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And then I come back and I, and it's fine.

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Okay.

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And so how long have you had this converted garage as a study?

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Has this been for quite a long time or is this a more recent thing?

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No this is more recent.

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And by recent, I mean I did it just about a year before the

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pandemic and what is time anymore because I can't remember, you know.

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Even when the pandemic started.

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But I've had this from about a year before the pandemic.

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Prior to that I was working in my attic.

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And the attic, I mean, it was big.

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I liked it and everything, but anybody could just pop up and come

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and see me and it was convenient.

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So anybody would just pop up and, when you're writing something and someone

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just pops up and interrupts your flow.

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They don't realize you have to actually stop and then get back

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into the mood and get back into.

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They're like, oh, it's just a second or so.

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Could you tell, do you want, do you like this color or this

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color for the garden shed?

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Or whatever the hell.

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People didn't realize that, okay, look, you need to leave a guy

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alone when he is writing something.

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So I realized, okay, I need somewhere else.

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So I paid someone to fix this place up because I'm not very good with

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the you know, the, um, you know, DIY.

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I mean, when I do it, I am.

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But I have this thing where I say, Look, find the person who knows how to

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do the thing and let that person do it.

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Absolutely.

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I can paint, I can saw wood and stuff like that, but it wouldn't

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look as good as this does.

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Yeah.

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And I'd probably run into problems here and there.

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So I'm like, Look, get someone who knows how to do it.

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Let 'em do it.

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I grew up in a household where I had a very short tempered father who was very

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bad at DIY, and it really learnt me as just that's not a way to live your life.

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It was just like just save up the money.

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Find a payment plan.

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Just find it's a way to do it.

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Yes.

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Yeah.

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I think there's a problem with those of us who grew up you know, in a certain era.

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It's expected of males to be able to hammer nails.

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It is a kind of identity thing.

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Like something needs to be done now, I'll do it myself.

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And you'll be forgiven for it being slightly wonky, but they're like

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yeah, yeah, you know, You're a man.

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I'm like, Nope.

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Not doing any of that.

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Yeah.

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I'm just, I need something done.

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I pay someone do it right, you know?

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That's it.

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Stimulate the economy.

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That's what we need to do these days.

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So you know, the people who need the work and we shall support them.

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We shall support the local workers.

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Exactly.

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Although my architect did, because I got an architect just

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to be sure about everything, and he actually made a mistake.

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He made a rookie mistake that even I wouldn't have made.

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Oh, wow.

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But there you go.

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This thing happens.

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Okay.

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It, it has unique charm.

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Exactly.

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Little idiosyncrasies that just make it a home.

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And so this is far more cut off on the house.

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So, so the family understand that when you are away, or do they not respect it?

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In theory, in actual fact, they just still just turn up whatever they want to.

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It, it's different.

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It's less, I get fewer interruptions than before, so it's different.

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But I still get the interruption and all that.

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I just realized okay, either I lock the door and don't attend to anyone or,

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this is just family life and writing.

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I just roll with it.

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Yeah.

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And I wanna focus on the initial planning of your stories now.

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As you are someone who's written both short form and, and longer forms and,

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you know, well known for your novels.

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When you are getting an idea, Does it initially come to you as a sort of

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scenario based or is it a character or as you've recently done off world, is it more

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like a technology that you want to explore or a aspect of a world or an alien race?

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I don't do any of that.

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That's not how, that's not how I work at all.

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Okay.

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So basically, you have the book itself you have to write and you have the ideas.

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I actually see them as separate things.

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And I see that if you, The Way I see is if you are a working writer, and I'm not

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talking about someone who is a hobbyist, but if you're a working writer who writes

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and gets paid for writing and is expected to produce fairly regularly, then you

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have to produce ideas fairly regularly.

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And I do that on Sunday.

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So every Sunday I sit down and I come up with 20 ideas.

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Wow.

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And I.

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I basically, here's, this is my current notebook.

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Wow.

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And to my right over here are the piles of notebooks I've

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been using for a very long time.

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When I do it long hand, I don't use a computer because I get

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distracted and I basically just write out the ideas like this.

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Okay.

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Till I get to number 20, and then I stop for the day.

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And next Sunday I do the same thing.

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And I can read some of them out.

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Where it came from was, that there's someone who came up with this things

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that says if you come up with 20 iterations of the same idea, at some

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point you'll be able to find something in the 20, even if it's just one thing.

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If you want, I can read these random ones.

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If it?

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Yeah, that'd be great.

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Okay.

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Just, it will show you how silly they are.

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Okay.

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No, that's good.

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You know.

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But this is, basically this is how it comes out, okay?

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out on the piss and when vomits on the side of the

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pub, money comes out, the cost of the booze, nothing life changing.

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So however much booze you took the money, the vomit turns into that money.

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And go and recycle it if you want to.

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Two, still on on the theme of vomiting, synchronized vomiting,

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synchronized body function for all who went out on the same night.

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Three, auto intoxication from any fluid from that night onwards.

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Like anything, any kind of liquid, the person gets intoxicated from it.

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Four, heaven as a kind of personal utopia, solo utopia, individual utopia.

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Five, temporary storage of the mind in case of risky procedure or war combat.

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The mind sinks into the celiac plexus via the vagus nerve.

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Okay, so if the brain blows up, the person can regrow their brain.

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So basically their nerves in the gut.

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So the brain can sink into those nerves.

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And if you cut the person's head off or if you shoot them in the head,

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the brain can still be regrown.

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So the person doesn't have to die.

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Six, The auditor.

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Metaphysical auditor who tries, who turns up once a year to audit your karma.

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Doesn't do anything, that's a different department.

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And so on.

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Yeah.

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So I, so every Sunday.

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It used to be Wednesday, but I realized that Wednesday wasn't working so well

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because I'd be tired maybe from work.

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So I wasn't, I was struggling to get 20 ideas.

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So Sunday was better.

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I'd start from the morning and leave my notebook open and start writing them in.

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And usually what I get from there, most of the time it's stuff that

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enriches a longer narrative.

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Sometimes it's an idea that is unique enough to stand on its own as in,

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okay, this is a book, or this is a short story, So it basically, if

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anybody were to walk up to me now, an editor, and say, Look, I'm doing an

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anthology of these kind of stories, do you want to contribute something?

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Then I'll get my notebooks and I'll flip through and see if I have any idea

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that might be strong enough for that.

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And then I might agree to that theme because I've got something for the theme.

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But I don't, if I don't have anything for the theme, I don't

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write things for the theme.

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So I have separated the idea acquisition process from the actual writing.

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When I then decide to choose a project, I will, I will then sit down, Okay, fine.

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What do I want to do next?

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I've got all of these ideas.

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Which one am I picking?

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What do I need to write next?

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Am I writing a short story or novel?

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And if I'm writing a short story, okay, which one am I writing?

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So the last short story I wrote was for an anthology, it's

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about witches and all of that.

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And I had some ideas for that already that were, let's not use unique because

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no idea is truly unique, but let's say fairly unfamiliar, you know,.

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And I did this fairly unfamiliar and everything, and I just kind of wrote

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that and I love the way it came out because I was able to then take that

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one idea, break it up into several different things, and then start writing.

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And as you write it, it morphs into other things.

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It never really resembles the old thing that you started, but you know, those

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ideas are really seeds for further thinking of the brain, you know?

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So once I've decided on an idea, I then basically sit

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down and I write it long hand.

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And my writing again is it's, I do it as a job.

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So I wake up in the morning.

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I wake up at about six o'clock, and I write till about seven

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or seven thirty every day.

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New stuff.

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When I'm revising, I tend to do that either in the afternoon or in the evening.

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But in the morning when I am fresh, when nobody has planted any seeds in my head.

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Nobody has annoyed me.

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I haven't annoyed anyone.

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There's no emotional baggage.

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It's the best time for me to write new stuff, and I do that.

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And even if all you write is a paragraph a day, by the end of the

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year, you're gonna have 360 paragraphs.

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Yeah.

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So it's, I'm more into consistency than sitting down and having a burst

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of, Oh, my, everything is coming up and I'm writing thousands and

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thousands of words and all of that.

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No, I plug way at it consistently, and that's how I get anything done at all.

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No, that's great.

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And I think that's a really nice way of doing things, having all

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these ideas that you can draw on.

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And yeah, also I think, like you were saying right at the start there you

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know, if you get different iterations of the idea that you know, Sunday

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you're writing something, go, this seems familiar, and you look back

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and go, Okay, this is definitely something that's hooked on my brain.

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I need to develop this more.

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That's a really nice way of recognizing that and identifying

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that, so that's wonderful.

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I guess you, you are quite an avid note taker.

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That's a thick notebook that you've just shown me.

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Yes.

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I, I write pretty much anything at all in this.

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I started this, cause I usually put the date on it.

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So I started this on the 6th of April.

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It's almost finished.

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Wow.

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So that is probably, is that like an inch and a half thick notebook that?

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Yes, it is.

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Yeah.

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About an inch and a half thick.

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Yes.

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I don't like lined paper.

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I like um, plain paper, you know, so I can sometimes sketch.

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I also somehow lined paper makes me feel like I'm being restricted in some ways.

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And I like everything to be free flowing.

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Sometimes I draw maps on it.

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Sometimes I add quotations from other people, that sort of thing.

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Notebooks for the win.

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But again, I have a separate process for screenplays.

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So what I'm writing currently is a screenplay.

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Although I'm doing two things, I'm writing a novel line screenplay at the same

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time, so we can talk about both of them.

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Yeah.

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So tell me about your process with screenplays.

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How, how does that sort of start out?

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Okay, so with screenplays, I like to remain low tech and largely because

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it helps me to concentrate and it helps me, it avoids distractions.

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I am interested in everything that my eyes come across.

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So for me, it is best not to be at the computer when I'm trying to plan anything

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at all or if I need to concentrate.

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Basically what I tend to do is, I have for each project, I have a notebook.

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And again, this is another notebook.

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I needed this one, if you can see, this is a bit broader than the previous one.

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The reason it's broader is because for a screenplay, I need to see

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the whole thing, sketches as well, but I need to see it in my head.

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This is a heat map.

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We'll come back to that in a minute.

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To start with, I just drop things down without thinking.

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Anything that just occurs to me at all, I just write it down.

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So for this particular one, I kind of sketched out the entire film in

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very short form, in terms of acts.

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And I just kind of then start writing what would I like to

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see, in any order in particular.

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Okay?

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Maps.

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I've sketched maps and all of that.

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Like, where is this happening?

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It's very important for me to know where everything is happening.

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The worst thing that I see in people sometimes they're books

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and sometimes movies is you have no sense of, where am I now?

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Yeah.

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What's going on?

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And you just know that the writer or director has forgotten about the viewer.

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Like, the writer probably knows, but they haven't put in the effort to place the

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reader or the viewer where things are.

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So you have that.

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Then the next thing I do is I start to, again, like I said,

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it's very low tech, right?

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I use cards.

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And basically, the entire movie, all the scenes and

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everything, I write them on cards.

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So the first thing I do is I write them out of order.

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And if I think of anything that's cool, I'll just write it down.

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If I think, Oh, this will be cool, I'll just put it down.

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So I put all of the stuff that I want in no particular order down.

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And I have, which you can't see, but, and I should have got one ready.

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I have a big a, a massive sheet of paper where I then just put like a flow diagram.

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This happens, then this happens.

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It's really no frills.

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It's just saying exactly what happens.

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This happens here, this happens here and this is the end.

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Once I have that, then I start to put the cards in order.

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I put the cards in, you know, in sequence this is how the story's going to be told.

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Once I have them in sequence, and they're cards, so I can flip around anytime I

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want to, but when I have a sequence I'm happy with, then I do the heat map thing.

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Now, what's a heat map?

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So one of problems you get from people, especially in films for

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example, is that there's what we call the lag in the middle.

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The second act lag, right?

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And it happens in novels as well.

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The person knows how the story starts, they know the ending, but the middle,

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like, there seems to be this wasteland in the middle of the narrative that

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they just don't know what to do with.

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So basically what I do is take the events in order of, the only word

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I can use is coolness, but let's just say strike, what is striking.

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And I put them in order of what is striking.

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So that every time there's an event, the next event is a step up, right?

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And the next event from that is a step up.

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You don't do events and it's even as, as mechanical as rating them from 1 to 10.

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Basically, I'll tell myself how striking is this thing on a scale of 1 to 10.

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And if you're a 5, we don't have a 10 and then come back down to a 5 anymore

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because you've already seen a 5, it will bore the reader or the viewer.

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So basically things will happen that are surprising, but the next

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surprising thing has to be more surprising than the previous thing.

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And so on, so that's what I call the heat map.

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The heat map tells me where should this incident go.

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Where does this go?

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Where does this go?

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If you put this at the end, will it feel anticlimactic?

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Because you've actually shown something really cool earlier on

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and can't come back from that.

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I determine what needs to happen, what, and even if it's not

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chronological, sometimes it leads me to fracture the narrative.

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Because, okay, actually this is cooler than this, so what I'm going to do, I'm

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gonna fracture the whole thing so that we can get this at this point in the viewing

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experience rather than at this point.

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Yeah.

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Right now I'm writing, the film I'm writing right now is a biopic.

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And as you can imagine with biopics, there's lots of boring stuff and

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there's lots of non boring stuff.

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And you have to decide, Okay, what am I going to do?

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You have to merge some characters.

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For me, what I did for this thing is I just looked at the

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person's life all the way through.

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I said, Okay, fine.

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You know what?

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What's exciting here?

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And just extracted all the exciting bits.

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And then I did my heat map and I just arranged the exciting bits so that

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they rise as the narrative goes along.

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And I realized that, okay, so this is what I need to do here.

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I need to merge these two people so that they're one person so that I

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can manipulate them better and so on.

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And of course, I don't want to write something that will be boring to me.

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So if I'm writing something and I've done the exciting stuff already and

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I'm just doing boring stuff, that's not the part of me that likes writing,

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I don't like doing that at all.

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I want to go along the journey as well, at least on the first draft.

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Cause that's what it is.

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The first draft is for you, the writer.

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Subsequent drafts are for whoever else is going to look at them, so I have to

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arrange it according to that heat map.

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And that's, that's what I do.

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And for this film in particular, for example, that I'm writing

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right now, I really, I'm enjoying it because of those plans.

Idea one:

Cause of how I have arranged, you know, arranged things.

Idea one:

I'm just really enjoying it.

Idea one:

So once I've done that, I tend to use Fade in.

Idea one:

I don't use Final Draft.

Idea one:

Again, I try to shrink the number of tools available.

Idea one:

If I could use a typewriter, I would.

Idea one:

I try to shrink the number of tools available because all of those blinking

Idea one:

lights, they can distract from the actual art of just doing the story.

Idea one:

I'm not saying it's not, you know, it's good for some people

Idea one:

I suppose, but not for me.

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For me, fewer is better.

Idea one:

I don't want any distractions.

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I just want them just do the thing as mechanically as I can.

Idea one:

The blinking lights will come later.

Idea one:

Yeah.

Idea one:

You don't wanna get the temptation of the internet when you are on a computer.

Idea one:

It's like, I've got the whole world's information.

Idea one:

I can just double check a thing.

Idea one:

And then before you know it, you've gone down a rabbit hole and you haven't

Idea one:

written anything for an hour and a half.

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Yes, and that's a good segue into research.

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How much research do you do?

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I was going to go onto, I was gonna actually say that as a question.

Idea one:

Yeah.

Idea one:

How do you deal with research?

Idea one:

All right.

Idea one:

So I, I do three stages of research.

Idea one:

I do preliminary research.

Idea one:

Which is, is this a viable idea at all?

Idea one:

especially if the science fiction, does the science support

Idea one:

this thing I am about to do?

Idea one:

If it does, I go ahead.

Idea one:

If it doesn't, I go back to the drawing board.

Idea one:

How much can I fracture the science for the sake of the narrative.

Idea one:

Because again, never let research get in the way of a good story.

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The important thing is that you know what it is and then deliberately break it.

Idea one:

Rather than, you don't know what it is and just write what the hell you want.

Idea one:

Because I think people can tell the difference.

Idea one:

Readers will be able to tell the difference.

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For me I believe that readers are not stupid, so I try

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to treat them with respect.

Idea one:

So even if I'm doing something that is different, I basically hint

Idea one:

that actually I know what it should be, but this is a narrative thing.

Idea one:

And then the reader should be able to pick that up from just the whole

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context and the whole experience.

Idea one:

So I do that.

Idea one:

I don't go too deep into research because again, research can get

Idea one:

in the way of actually writing.

Idea one:

You can actually decide, I'm gonna spend my time doing research and then six months

Idea one:

later you haven't even started the book.

Idea one:

Yeah.

Idea one:

I just do preliminary research and then I start.

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I just jump off a cliff and you know what?

Idea one:

The parachute will open one way or the other, so I start.

Idea one:

Okay?

Idea one:

So then the second type of research I do is ongoing research, you know cause I'm

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doing something, I'm like, will this work?

Idea one:

And I quickly check something.

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I don't get bogged down and I just quickly check.

Idea one:

And then I go back.

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If I can't find the answer so quickly, I do it anyway.

Idea one:

And I'm like, I'll come back to this.

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And I just do it, cause I don't want to slip down the mental

Idea one:

of actually writing something.

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And then the third kind of research I do is when I finished the first draft.

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When I finish the first draft, I can then go down as many rabbit

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holes as I think are necessary.

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Because I've actually done the work of at least creating a block and

Idea one:

then I can start chipping away at it.

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Defines the statue within.

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So for me, most of the research is done after the first draft.

Idea one:

Yeah.

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So to see what supports the plot.

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Yeah.

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Now that's a really, especially with science fiction, I think that's a

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really good way of dealing with it.

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It's like, find the McGuffin, find what you actually need to

Idea one:

move the plot forward, and then find if there's any equivalency

Idea one:

either existing or being developed.

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Being thought of.

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Yeah.

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Oh, that's fantastic.

Idea one:

That's really good.

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And I think you really feel that in Far From The Light Of Heaven as you

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know, the way that the sleep pods are sort of like put together and

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that sort of form of cryogenic sleep process for long term space travel.

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It feels very grounded.

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It's not just, Oh, we've found a way to stop time, it's not

Idea one:

like the Red Dwarf thing.

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That always bothered me, to be honest with you.

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It always bothered me.

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Like, come on, this is not gonna work.

Idea one:

Yeah.

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And you cannot just freeze human beings.

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That's, we're not like poptarts, you can't just freeze and they thaw us out.

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Yeah, that's not gonna work.

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So I think it's one of those things like faster than like

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travel that science fiction has just said, Okay, you know what?

Idea one:

We're just gonna leave it like yeah, they went into cryo sleep.

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Or yeah, they went suspended animation and they woke up and all that.

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Yeah.

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It is something that kind of bothers me when you have people are going

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through light speed, like back and forth and then going back to their home

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planet and people are and yeah, we saw you last week and I was like, Yeah,

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hundreds of years would've passed.

Idea one:

It's just, everyone you knew is dead.

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And this is the thing like, and this, what sometimes happens is that people

Idea one:

are writing science fiction, but they're writing science fiction from having

Idea one:

studied science fiction and not science.

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Yeah.

Idea one:

So all they've really done is they've watched a lot of science fiction TV and

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read a lot of science fiction novels, so they're replicating other people's

Idea one:

conceits rather than the actual science.

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I did not want to do that at all.

Idea one:

I studied space travel, the history of space travel.

Idea one:

I studied actual space.

Idea one:

I studied space psychology.

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I, I said, I'm gonna pretend I've never seen Star Trek or anything at all.

Idea one:

I'm just going to say, Okay, what would this be like?

Idea one:

Like Star Trek again, they were thinking of submarine warfares,

Idea one:

what they were thinking of.

Idea one:

And even the atmosphere was all about that sort of thing, And I saw the,

Idea one:

the longer version of Das Boot for the purposes of kind of understanding the

Idea one:

idea of being locked, locked tight in this small space with nowhere to escape

Idea one:

and everywhere around you is death.

Idea one:

You know, if you go out, it's death.

Idea one:

If you surface, there are allied bombers that are going to kill you.

Idea one:

In here there are people that you hate, but you have to live with them

Idea one:

or you have to make it work somehow.

Idea one:

So I study all of that, you know, because I wanted to, to have that unique feel

Idea one:

of, okay, what would it possibly be like?

Idea one:

And of course I studied hours of footage of the ISS.

Idea one:

Hours.

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Because I'm like, we have people living in space.

Idea one:

We should really be studying that in minuet detail if we wanna write

Idea one:

about people who are in space.

Idea one:

That's is, that's what I did.

Idea one:

Yeah.

Idea one:

That comes across.

Idea one:

That it, you know, does come that authentic characters with authentic

Idea one:

emotional and psychological responses.

Idea one:

Thank you.

Idea one:

I'm glad that, I'm glad that shows, at least that, that is very gratifying.

Idea one:

Good.

Idea one:

And moving on to the daily graft.

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Now we've touched on it slightly, how first thing in the morning is your

Idea one:

best sort of creative writing time.

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And, it's low tech, it might be long hand, it might be just

Idea one:

paired back computer systems.

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Are you someone who tries to write a specific passage?

Idea one:

Cause you obviously you plan out a lot.

Idea one:

You have your flow charts and you put things in sequence.

Idea one:

Once you've got your plan in place, is it right, I just want

Idea one:

to get this scene down today, or just a rough draft of this scene?

Idea one:

Or is it just, I'm gonna do a couple of words or, I'm just gonna write as

Idea one:

much as I can before someone knocks on the door and see how far I get.

Idea one:

All right.

Idea one:

Okay.

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How do you structure your writing session?

Idea one:

Okay.

Idea one:

Again, it depends on if it's screenwriting or prose.

Idea one:

So with screenwriting, usually I have a page limit.

Idea one:

Because prose is done in words, but screenwriting is done in pages.

Idea one:

Cuz a page is seen as like a minute of screen time.

Idea one:

Yeah.

Idea one:

That's just what, what they say and all that.

Idea one:

In a day I can write between three and five pages a day.

Idea one:

Recently, and by recently I mean just since last week I've been

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able to write 10 pages a day.

Idea one:

Wow.

Idea one:

Which I've never been able to do.

Idea one:

But that happened because like I told you, I really got into

Idea one:

it from the planning that I did.

Idea one:

I, I really got into the projects and I'm like, Wow, I really need to get this done.

Idea one:

I need to get this done.

Idea one:

So I was able to do 10, 10 pages a day for about four days, which is very unusual.

Idea one:

And led to my fingers aching.

Idea one:

But I don't give myself scene limits.

Idea one:

I give for screenplay, page limits and for prose, I would

Idea one:

generally write a thousand words.

Idea one:

And basically I'm sitting down, I'm like, I'm not moving

Idea one:

until I write a thousand words.

Idea one:

So I just sit down and I just do that.

Idea one:

And now it might not be a thousand good words, but there will be a thousand words.

Idea one:

And it doesn't matter if they end mid scene or if I finish several

Idea one:

scenes, I will just keep going until I have a thousand words.

Idea one:

And what that does for me, is it allows me to be able to tell an

Idea one:

editor I know when this will be done.

Idea one:

Or you know, if someone's commission something, I can say, Okay, I can

Idea one:

tell you when I'll get done with this.

Idea one:

And I can tell my agent, Okay, this book could be done by blah.

Idea one:

And I'm rarely wrong about when I can do that because I

Idea one:

literally just sit down and do it.

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I don't romanticize.

Idea one:

It's work that has to be done.

Idea one:

I sit down, I get it done.

Idea one:

Yeah.

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And are you someone that when you start your writing session, you go back and

Idea one:

reread what you wrote the day before?

Idea one:

Or do you finish a writing session and maybe write a little summary just to

Idea one:

go, This is where I need to go tomorrow?

Idea one:

No, I don't do any of that.

Idea one:

I don't look at what I've done and I don't think of where I'm going.

Idea one:

I just sit down and I stay in the moment and even if there're

Idea one:

inconsistencies, even if I know there're inconsistencies, I leave them in there.

Idea one:

I just, I don't care.

Idea one:

I'm writing a first draft.

Idea one:

Doesn't need to be perfect.

Idea one:

Doesn't need to be pretty, it just needs to be.

Idea one:

My only job in the morning is for it to be, to create something that is.

Idea one:

It can be as ugly as anything, I don't care.

Idea one:

It might be beautiful, I don't know, but all I need to do is get it done and leave.

Idea one:

That's all.

Idea one:

I don't care about consistency at that point, or spelling or how

Idea one:

pretty it is or anything like that.

Idea one:

I don't care if I wanna go into the next day.

Idea one:

I don't care about what happened yesterday.

Idea one:

None of that is important.

Idea one:

The only important thing is get a thousand words out.

Idea one:

Are they done?

Idea one:

Good?

Idea one:

I'm off to have my breakfast.

Idea one:

That's it.

Idea one:

That's actually, I was just thinking, when you write so early in the morning,

Idea one:

some people say there's that half wakefulness where, you know, the

Idea one:

dream-like brainwaves are still fogging around and it aids that creativity.

Idea one:

So it is very much, you roll out of bed, you get there and you

Idea one:

write before you have breakfast, before you have a tea or anything.

Idea one:

It's...

Idea one:

Anything at all that might stick to the imagination.

Idea one:

I don't, you know, just go do it and ignore everything until it's done.

Idea one:

And then start your day, kind of thing.

Idea one:

Yeah.

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And then I guess it really frees up your day, like you were saying

Idea one:

earlier about your afternoons, you might do revisions and research.

Idea one:

So what sometimes happens, occasionally what happens is I, if

Idea one:

I don't make my word count, then I'm gonna steal time in the day.

Idea one:

Before the end of the day I will make it.

Idea one:

But if I don't make it in the morning, because sometimes

Idea one:

your brain just does not work.

Idea one:

Yeah.

Idea one:

You just, nothing.

Idea one:

It just doesn't work at all.

Idea one:

So I stick at it until I run out of any kind of time.

Idea one:

Yeah.

Idea one:

And then I have to start the rest of the day.

Idea one:

But I will steal time the day to finish it.

Idea one:

And even if it means, you can squeeze out a paragraph somehow.

Idea one:

Yeah.

Idea one:

The trick is not to care about quality.

Idea one:

That is the trick of it.

Idea one:

The trick of first drafting is to not care about quality.

Idea one:

Just get the words out.

Idea one:

Alright?

Idea one:

Get the words out, let them be trite.

Idea one:

Let them be campy or corny or overblown or whatever.

Idea one:

Just get them out there.

Idea one:

You can fix stuff that exists, but if it doesn't actually exist,

Idea one:

then there's nothing you can do.

Idea one:

Yeah.

Idea one:

And I guess having day job.

Idea one:

It's the unspoken aspect I think for a lot of writers is just writing could

Idea one:

be great and it can be award-winning and the recognition is wonderful.

Idea one:

But in the modern economy, we need to make ends meet, there are you know,

Idea one:

multiple people working the day jobs.

Idea one:

By being able to write in that way, it allows you to

Idea one:

function around your work hours.

Idea one:

That is true.

Idea one:

Apart from very few of us, who can just write and make enough money

Idea one:

out it, which is probably like 0.1%.

Idea one:

We can't all be Joanne Harris, or we can't be Margaret Atwood.

Idea one:

Even if you're looking at it statistically, it's an

Idea one:

unrealistic expectation.

Idea one:

But what is realistic is to be, is to diversify.

Idea one:

So I know people who, they're prose writers, but they're gone

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into game writing or screenwriting like I have, for example.

Idea one:

And I personally find screenwriting, at least financially, a lot more rewarding.

Idea one:

Because they pay you whether they make the film or not.

Idea one:

You could write like a 30 minute TV episode and it pays you

Idea one:

more than your last novel did.

Idea one:

You know, why would I not do that?

Idea one:

You're still using your creativity, you're still writing.

Idea one:

You're still crafting stories, which is the thing you enjoy, and

Idea one:

they're paying you money for it.

Idea one:

Why would you not?

Idea one:

So people just diversify.

Idea one:

Some people write for, you know, they write for games.

Idea one:

They just look for something that will help them do the

Idea one:

thing that they love doing.

Idea one:

Yeah.

Idea one:

And one thing I do want to talk about, because I feel it hits every

Idea one:

writer at a certain point during the project, is imposter syndrome.

Idea one:

And that feeling of, I'm gonna get found out on this project that I'm

Idea one:

not a good writer or What am I doing?

Idea one:

It's just not coming.

Idea one:

Does that hit you on every project?

Idea one:

And if so, how do you tend to deal with that?

Idea one:

Okay.

Idea one:

So I come from very practical stock where you do the thing.

Idea one:

You can feel the feels as a separate matter, but you do the thing.

Idea one:

You have a job to do, get it done.

Idea one:

And if that job is writing, you do the writing.

Idea one:

You do it like a plumber goes to do their job every day.

Idea one:

Like a farmer has to get up and get onto the tractor and till the land and feed

Idea one:

the pigs and do whatever you need to do, regardless of how you feel about it.

Idea one:

You do the thing and then you could have the feelings when you're

Idea one:

having your coffee or whatever.

Idea one:

Like when you're having your break and all of that, or when

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you're talking about things like, ah, I wish I was in the theater.

Idea one:

But you still go and feed the pigs.

Idea one:

I don't have this.

Idea one:

Some people have a thing which I now tend to call the weight of writing, which

Idea one:

they feel like, Oh, there's this writing.

Idea one:

It's this thing, this ephemeral thing.

Idea one:

The weight of the artist and the suffering artist and all of that stuff.

Idea one:

I don't have any of that because I know what writing is.

Idea one:

From my perspective, it's a set of skills that you hold.

Idea one:

And if you're not good at some aspect of it, there are ways of

Idea one:

getting good at those things.

Idea one:

So you can do those things to get better at those things.

Idea one:

If your writing is very mechanical, you can start to read and study

Idea one:

poetry in order to change the nature of the kind of writing you do.

Idea one:

Because basically stuff has to go in for stuff to come out.

Idea one:

And I know that the stuff that needs to come in is reading.

Idea one:

If you feel like somehow your prose is anemic and it doesn't have

Idea one:

stuff like facts or knowledge and stuff, you couldn't read stuff.

Idea one:

And then it will change the prose as well.

Idea one:

I know this cuz I've done it.

Idea one:

The point is, I don't agonize over the identity of a writer.

Idea one:

I don't do that.

Idea one:

I'm not saying I never did it, it's just that I learned over

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time that it's a waste of time.

Idea one:

There is no point agonizing over it.

Idea one:

Everything else I do, I just do.

Idea one:

I get into a car and I drive.

Idea one:

I don't ask myself am I a good driver?

Idea one:

I know I just get into a car and I go where I need to go.

Idea one:

I know I'm not a good, I didn't do that three point turn very well,

Idea one:

I know that that's gonna happen.

Idea one:

I'm driving and I'm hoping that there's no camera or there's nobody watching

Idea one:

me cause I know I just made a mistake there, or I shouldn't have done that.

Idea one:

So everybody knows their own capability that, okay, I'm not really good at

Idea one:

this thing, but I'm some sort of them good and I can probably get by with it.

Idea one:

The thing that makes me more able to just get along with it is that

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I realized that, so the books shelves have been a really big part.

Idea one:

I'm not going into my origin story, but the books shelves have been

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a really big part of my decision.

Idea one:

Hang on, I could have written something better than that.

Idea one:

This is really, I can do better than this book that is on the shelf.

Idea one:

When I realized that, then I realized, okay, fine, you know what?

Idea one:

It's not just about the quality.

Idea one:

There are other things.

Idea one:

If that's the case, I can start writing too then.

Idea one:

What I can tell you is I am as good as anybody out there and

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as bad as anybody out there.

Idea one:

And I just get on with it.

Idea one:

I don't agonize over my identity as a writer.

Idea one:

I don't.

Idea one:

Some days it's crap, but I know that even days when I write the crap, like I, I'm

Idea one:

going to revise that crap at some point.

Idea one:

So I can turn that crap into what it should be.

Idea one:

I can, if I make the effort, if I wait long enough, if I make the

Idea one:

effort, if it's strange to me so I can make it better, I can do that.

Idea one:

And maybe I won't, it will be successful to a greater or lesser

Idea one:

extent, but, I am just a human being.

Idea one:

Yeah.

Idea one:

I am not Trollop.

Idea one:

I am not Woolf, I'm just me.

Idea one:

You mentioned there that you can make it better.

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That segues beautifully onto the third act of this interview, which is the editing.

Idea one:

The classic adage, writing is rewriting.

Idea one:

So are you someone who, once you've finished your first draft, your messy

Idea one:

vomit draft of just, got it down with all its inconsistencies, do

Idea one:

you then look to write a completely new draft and have old draft on one

Idea one:

side and new draft on the other?

Idea one:

Or do you like to read through, make annotated notes and then work

Idea one:

on individual sections and scenes?

Idea one:

Okay, so the very first thing I do when I get to the end of any draft of

Idea one:

anything at all is go to my calendar.

Idea one:

So once I finish the thing, I go to the calendar one exactly

Idea one:

one month after I finish it.

Idea one:

And I put revise X that I've just finished today.

Idea one:

Okay.

Idea one:

And I put there revise X.

Idea one:

If you look at my calendar, it's full of the names of stories

Idea one:

that need to be revised and when.

Idea one:

And in, in my head I will know that, okay, this is coming up, this

Idea one:

is coming up, this is coming up.

Idea one:

And I will have an idea how long I might need to revise it.

Idea one:

So it may not be exactly a month.

Idea one:

Cause if I see that, okay, this thing is too close to then, I'm not

Idea one:

gonna fit, I won't have finished.

Idea one:

I move it so that there will be enough time.

Idea one:

And usually the longer you can wait, the better you can actually edit something.

Idea one:

By the way, I don't like using the term edit for this.

Idea one:

I, I like the term revisions.

Idea one:

Okay.

Idea one:

Because I think editing is a different thing.

Idea one:

Editing is what your editor actually does.

Idea one:

I, I believe an edit, edits come from someone who is

Idea one:

different from the actual writer.

Idea one:

I think revisions are what writers do.

Idea one:

But I know that, the current term or the current language

Idea one:

we like to use is editing.

Idea one:

It's just the, the pedantic in me.

Idea one:

No, that's fine.

Idea one:

We can do revisions.

Idea one:

The pedant in me wants it.

Idea one:

That's good.

Idea one:

This is the different skills, but I know that that's what people say.

Idea one:

So I wait for a month.

Idea one:

So once the day has arrived for me to edit X, the first thing I do is print it out.

Idea one:

I.

Idea one:

I print it because again, I write in long hand, I transcribe it.

Idea one:

And then on the day I want to edit, I print it out.

Idea one:

And the first thing I do is just read it all the way through.

Idea one:

Alright?

Idea one:

I just read it through and reading it through tells me

Idea one:

how much work I have to do.

Idea one:

Usually by the time I've read it through I'm like, Oh crap, this is gonna take a

Idea one:

long, it's gonna take a really long time.

Idea one:

It gives me an idea because I, from reading it, I can tell, Okay, I'm

Idea one:

going to need to do this minuet stuff.

Idea one:

I need more research.

Idea one:

I really just flubbed it here or whatever.

Idea one:

I can tell from my first read.

Idea one:

Then as soon as I finish that, I do a second reading immediately afterwards.

Idea one:

On the second read, I go with a red pen.

Idea one:

And the red pen is me noting what needs to be done.

Idea one:

Once I've done that, I use a notebook.

Idea one:

I take my notebook, and then I write everything that I've written

Idea one:

in red pen into the notebook.

Idea one:

Alright?

Idea one:

And what I end up with is a document with a sequential list of things that

Idea one:

need to be done on this manuscript.

Idea one:

And I am pretty rigid about that.

Idea one:

I follow that list line by line, right?

Idea one:

So I do everything that I, Okay, fine.

Idea one:

You know what, you mixed the name of this person with this person twice,

Idea one:

and it usually has notations as in it's on this page and all of that.

Idea one:

So I literally just go back and I change all of that.

Idea one:

I'm very didactic about that.

Idea one:

I go through it all the way like that.

Idea one:

Once I've made that correction, I now have what I would call a second draft.

Idea one:

And then I print that, and then I read that.

Idea one:

And then I start to then go to broader.

Idea one:

But at this point I've got a manage group that is consistent.

Idea one:

Like it doesn't, I haven't thought terribly about the pacing

Idea one:

or anything, just consistency.

Idea one:

The names are consistent.

Idea one:

The events actually make sense and the geography is right.

Idea one:

And people are doing what they're supposed to be doing.

Idea one:

Okay, fine.

Idea one:

I have a plot that kind of vaguely makes sense.

Idea one:

I can now start reading it for refinement.

Idea one:

Is it clear where they are?

Idea one:

Is it clear what this person is feeling?

Idea one:

We are at this point and I want a reader to feel this, but then what do I need

Idea one:

to do before this point to make this be the feeling that comes into the reader.

Idea one:

So I go back and I start threading those things through the narrative

Idea one:

so that when anybody reads it, by the time they're here, they have the exact

Idea one:

emotion that I want them to have about this person's either death or killing

Idea one:

someone or breaking up or whatever.

Idea one:

You know, You need to have that.

Idea one:

And then sometimes it's the opposite thing where actually by the time you get

Idea one:

there, the reader hates this character and you're like, Okay, what do I need to do?

Idea one:

So you go back and you realize, all right, because you've had them

Idea one:

do these things you know, nobody's going to have sympathy for them.

Idea one:

So in fact, sometimes actually create a new character to do those bad things.

Idea one:

So that it takes it off the main character.

Idea one:

So I get a character that will do those bad things and I can punish

Idea one:

that character for doing it, so that there's narrative justice.

Idea one:

Because you really realize, okay, look, it doesn't need to be the main

Idea one:

character who does those things.

Idea one:

They just need to get done.

Idea one:

So if someone else does them, I can punish someone else and the main

Idea one:

character remains pristine and so on.

Idea one:

Those are the kinds of things that start going back and forth.

Idea one:

So I asked myself, Okay, they're here, but does it make sense?

Idea one:

Or things to do with battle scenes, for example.

Idea one:

And there's a thing about battle scenes that is very important.

Idea one:

And battle scenes and fight scenes, they're different in scale, but

Idea one:

they're essentially the same thing.

Idea one:

What you need to understand is who's fighting, what resources do they

Idea one:

have, and where are they fighting?

Idea one:

If those three things are not clear, the scene will not work or

Idea one:

your fight will not work, right?

Idea one:

For example, two people are fighting.

Idea one:

Are they fighting in an alleyway, in a house or something?

Idea one:

Is one of them larger and stronger, those are resources.

Idea one:

And is the other one cunning?

Idea one:

Resources.

Idea one:

The actual process, the mechanics of the fight, is a matter of the user

Idea one:

resources until one basically overcomes the other, or mutually short destruction.

Idea one:

They might both not survive cause they might be fighting and fall off a cliff

Idea one:

or a building and both die, for example.

Idea one:

And then all resources go to zero.

Idea one:

But it's the same thing if you have a large battle scene with cavalry

Idea one:

and it's resources moving from one side to the other, on a location.

Idea one:

You have to know what the location is so that you can see the battle in your head.

Idea one:

You have to know who's got what and in the process of the

Idea one:

battle, are they using resources?

Idea one:

Are the arrows running out?

Idea one:

Is this strong person's power running out?

Idea one:

Are they injured and bleeding out?

Idea one:

So what really happens in the head of someone who is either watching a

Idea one:

fight scene or reading a battle scene or whatever is there are counters

Idea one:

in their head that are winding down.

Idea one:

Okay.

Idea one:

The, The strength is winding down, or the bullets are running out and all of that.

Idea one:

People don't think about these things, but that's actually what's going on.

Idea one:

So I have to make sure that all of that is clear in the fight scenes or battles.

Idea one:

And when you have unsuccessful fight scenes or battle scenes or

Idea one:

action scenes, it's usually because people don't know where they are.

Idea one:

They don't know who has resources or it's too blurry what's going on.

Idea one:

And then you just do the ending and the person who is reading

Idea one:

it or viewing it feels cheated.

Idea one:

Was like, well how did that happen?

Idea one:

And these are often subconscious things, they're not things

Idea one:

that people think about.

Idea one:

They think, Oh, this was a really good battle scene.

Idea one:

And it's one of the reasons, like a film like Mad Max Fury Road, it's one

Idea one:

of the reasons it's very good because they keep you geographically grounded.

Idea one:

They tell you what you have, and the objective is very clear.

Idea one:

It's very easy to keep track of the number of bullets in the, you

Idea one:

know, like they make it very clear.

Idea one:

So one of the things I do is to make sure that happens, for example.

Idea one:

Once I've done all of these broader things, pacing matters, and all of that.

Idea one:

Once all of that is done, then I go back to the beginning and I do what

Idea one:

is the most tedious aspect of it.

Idea one:

The line by line, checking each sentence.

Idea one:

Does this convey what you want it to convey?

Idea one:

Every single sentence, from the beginning to the end, which is, it's really

Idea one:

tedious, but it has to be done, obviously.

Idea one:

And so you do that.

Idea one:

Once that is done, then I have the first draft that I can

Idea one:

send to my agent or my editor.

Idea one:

Like, Okay, look, book's done here it is.

Idea one:

That's usually what I do.

Idea one:

That actually just answers the next question I had lined up, which is

Idea one:

once you've done all your revisions, who is the next person to read it?

Idea one:

It is either your agent or your editor, but you don't

Idea one:

have any kind of beta readers.

Idea one:

Your wife doesn't read it, it goes straight to the agent or the editor?

Idea one:

Okay.

Idea one:

It depends because it's, again, it's a very big thing to give someone 400 pages

Idea one:

of prose and say, Can you read this?

Idea one:

One of the things that I found very useful, because, I do have someone

Idea one:

who has dyslexia, who reads my work before as a kind of be to reader.

Idea one:

Sometimes.

Idea one:

And I find that works very well because if I've written it and someone with

Idea one:

dyslexia can understand it, then I feel like, okay, I've done my job

Idea one:

because it's now understandable.

Idea one:

So it's got all the complexity I want, but it's also understandable by most people.

Idea one:

So that kind of works out for me in that way.

Idea one:

I don't always use beta readers.

Idea one:

No.

Idea one:

It is a burden.

Idea one:

It's work.

Idea one:

It's work to say, Look, unless I just want a lay person to read it to

Idea one:

see does this make any sense at all?

Idea one:

Can you just read this?

Idea one:

The first 20,000 words of a novel are the most difficult for me, because I

Idea one:

don't know if this thing has legs or not.

Idea one:

So I will often write 20,000 words and send it to writer friends and

Idea one:

say, Well look, can you just read this to see does it have legs?

Idea one:

Would you want to know what's happening next?

Idea one:

Is it interesting?

Idea one:

Do you want to know more or is this boring?

Idea one:

And I have some friends who I know will tell me like, this is rubbish.

Idea one:

What are you doing?

Idea one:

You know, I have friends who will tell, I'm usually a lot less confident in the

Idea one:

first 20,000 words because I don't know.

Idea one:

It's interesting to me, but will it be interesting to just about anybody?

Idea one:

So at that point I often, I would just say, you know what, here's 20,000 words.

Idea one:

What do you think?

Idea one:

To a few people.

Idea one:

And if enough thumbs ups come back and then just continue, but I don't,

Idea one:

the whole book itself, I often don't.

Idea one:

Because I read obsessively myself, I feel like I can tell if it's horrible.

Idea one:

Far From The Lights Of Heaven was a bit of a different beast there.

Idea one:

But because I wrote it during the pandemic, and one thing that

Idea one:

happened to me in the Pandemic is that my normal meter was off.

Idea one:

Like a lot of things were off, but my meter of what am I doing,

Idea one:

what's good, what's bad, it was off.

Idea one:

That the book that got published was a lot shorter than what I'd already written.

Idea one:

I went off on a tangent.

Idea one:

Not necessarily a tangent.

Idea one:

It was related, but not related enough to the main storyline.

Idea one:

It was really big and everything, because I was interested in lots of stuff.

Idea one:

There was stuff about the origin of flight, not the space flight,

Idea one:

actual just airplanes and all that.

Idea one:

There was all kinds of stuff in there, which I found interesting.

Idea one:

But I'm like, really?

Idea one:

I lost my way.

Idea one:

And I knew, but the thing about it is I knew I lost my way.

Idea one:

So I, I spoke to a friend.

Idea one:

I was like, Look, I know the story is in here, but I'm lost.

Idea one:

I'm too close to the coal face.

Idea one:

I'm staring at this thing.

Idea one:

I'm snow blind.

Idea one:

Help.

Idea one:

And the person just came back and said, Just stick to everything that

Idea one:

relates to the Ragtime and to this.

Idea one:

And that kind of just immediately, I didn't even need detailed notes.

Idea one:

Once the person said that, I was like, Yeah, good.

Idea one:

And I just cut ruthlessly.

Idea one:

It's like the lights went on again, so the fog cleared and I just,

Idea one:

I was able to then, okay, yeah, this is what needs to be in it.

Idea one:

This doesn't need to be all that.

Idea one:

And that was fine.

Idea one:

That is actually the first time that has ever happened to

Idea one:

me, but I blame the pandemic.

Idea one:

Yeah.

Idea one:

I blame the pandemic because it just changed too many things.

Idea one:

Even my editor was not on point because it took a long time to get any notes

Idea one:

back from the editor and all of that.

Idea one:

So it was, it was, yeah.

Idea one:

It was difficult from that perspective, but...

Idea one:

We were surviving.

Idea one:

It was a survival mode.

Idea one:

So yeah, a lot of.

Idea one:

extra additional things and trying to be creative in a time when you are

Idea one:

reacting to things and you just don't know what's gonna happen tomorrow or what's

Idea one:

gonna happen next week or next month.

Idea one:

So yeah.

Idea one:

It was tough.

Idea one:

Yeah.

Idea one:

And yeah, across the industry, like you're saying, like even

Idea one:

with your editor it was tricky.

Idea one:

I do wanna talk about editors, cause obviously you've mentioned

Idea one:

how editing's what an editor does and revisions is what you do.

Idea one:

Yes.

Idea one:

So your experience with editors and what you like about, you know,

Idea one:

receiving feedback from editors and maybe what's more challenging.

Idea one:

Certainly that's evolved over time.

Idea one:

Now you've had several anthologies that you've been in, several novels out.

Idea one:

How do you view the editing process and do you have the same reaction

Idea one:

every time you get edits back?

Idea one:

No, it's different.

Idea one:

Okay, first of all, editing has not remained static, so what editors used

Idea one:

to do is not what they can do anymore.

Idea one:

So editors are becoming themselves overworked and therefore are not,

Idea one:

in my opinion, able to do the kind of things that they used to do.

Idea one:

That I used to experience from them.

Idea one:

They're not, it's not that they're not willing, but when your workload

Idea one:

increases, something has to give.

Idea one:

It's not, I'm not of saying it's their fault.

Idea one:

Philosophically how I view editors is this.

Idea one:

So the first draft is for me, subsequent drafts that I write are

Idea one:

usually for my imagined reader.

Idea one:

I see editors as people who are optimizing it for an audience.

Idea one:

So I may have a reader.

Idea one:

Like a vague theoretical reader in my head, but editors know an audience.

Idea one:

Because I actually believe, if you're publishing, they have an audience

Idea one:

in mind when they're publishing and they know what their audience

Idea one:

needs or what they usually buy.

Idea one:

And let's not fool ourselves.

Idea one:

This is a business, it's a business.

Idea one:

Because if I wanted to, I would just self-publish stuff and I

Idea one:

would not have anybody do anything.

Idea one:

I would just self-publish and I will be the boss of all bosses

Idea one:

and say, Yeah, this is my book.

Idea one:

You buy it or don't buy it.

Idea one:

I like it as it is.

Idea one:

But if you're going to be publishing in the marketplace, then you have to do what

Idea one:

the people who buy books want you to do.

Idea one:

You know, to an extent.

Idea one:

Editors in my mind represent, they represent the needs of the

Idea one:

audience, the needs of the market, the book buying audience, basically.

Idea one:

And of course, they pick up all the blind spots and all of that.

Idea one:

I think my early experiences of editors was, was a short story for an anthology.

Idea one:

And I was so excited at getting published that I didn't bother to look at the edit.

Idea one:

I just said I accepted all the edits without even thinking.

Idea one:

And I then saw the published story and I hated it because

Idea one:

of changes that were made.

Idea one:

But I couldn't complain about it cause I accepted them.

Idea one:

And I knew from the start that, okay, it's my prerogative to decide, Okay,

Idea one:

you know what, I don't like this, or I like this edit and everything.

Idea one:

So I accepted them without thinking and I hated the stories.

Idea one:

I'm like, okay, lesson number one: always look at the, yeah,

Idea one:

always look at the edits.

Idea one:

Don't get too excited about the actual sale.

Idea one:

The editing is part of the work.

Idea one:

Looking at the editing is part of the work and all of that.

Idea one:

So subsequently I would look at the editor carefully before going on and all that.

Idea one:

There aren't in a lot the anthology markets, for example, there are some

Idea one:

editors who are good and then some who just don't really do anything at all.

Idea one:

And it's really disappointing, but they don't really do anything at all.

Idea one:

When you get a good editor, it's nice cause you get, you know, you get all these

Idea one:

questions is this what you wanna say here?

Idea one:

Do you wanna say this?

Idea one:

And all of that.

Idea one:

I can be argumentative.

Idea one:

On one of the rosewater books I had an elevator that was moving sideways.

Idea one:

And the editor that had just put a question mark in a kind of almost

Idea one:

sarcastic way, sideways elevator?

Idea one:

And stuff like that.

Idea one:

When you respond, you respond in comments.

Idea one:

You're like, use the comment function.

Idea one:

So in the comments function, I put in this really long, like I'm talking

Idea one:

about almost a thousand words, of comments of citations and questions

Idea one:

like this is already happening.

Idea one:

Yeah.

Idea one:

And what I tend to use in my books is science that already exists.

Idea one:

Yeah.

Idea one:

Maybe I'll extrapolate slightly, but they already exist.

Idea one:

So I just went into my research folder, grabbed that thing, and

Idea one:

of course I was angry, so I put all of it in, copy and paste.

Idea one:

In the last book that I just did, an editor said something about, Oh, I

Idea one:

put the word, something to do with the word flank and all of that.

Idea one:

And she either misread it or thought it had to do with the

Idea one:

butcher or anything like that.

Idea one:

And, it just irritated me because the person, in fact, this person is trying

Idea one:

to say that I don't know my English and everything, so I just basically

Idea one:

copied the entire entry of the Oxford Dictionary and put it in the comments.

Idea one:

Look, they're human.

Idea one:

Editors are human, but when I'm going to edit, I'm waiting for stuff

Idea one:

that I actually need to change.

Idea one:

And when I come across something like that, it's like, what do you think I

Idea one:

don't, think I can't speak the language?

Idea one:

Like that just irritates me.

Idea one:

Because I use words very carefully.

Idea one:

Yeah, and I use them deliberately.

Idea one:

So sometimes I get irritable and when I'm irritable, I just

Idea one:

throw in all the citations.

Idea one:

No, this is why I'm doing this, and all of that.

Idea one:

Sometimes, you know, obviously they pick up things that I, you know,

Idea one:

I've hadn't thought of before.

Idea one:

An example is something like using terms that's in language

Idea one:

rather than out language.

Idea one:

For example, in boxing there's a move called a slip.

Idea one:

And it's basically someone who's trying to punch you and you just basically move into

Idea one:

the punch rather than dodging or blocking.

Idea one:

You move into the punch and then you counter, you hit back.

Idea one:

And anybody who does boxing, anybody who's ever been in a ring or sparred or

Idea one:

anything like that, if you've been into a gym, you will have heard that term.

Idea one:

But generally people have not.

Idea one:

I'd use that term in there as if, because I, you know, I box sometimes.

Idea one:

Like none of the general reading public will know that, and it was a fair point.

Idea one:

For me, that was just the most accurate way to describe what happened.

Idea one:

But I realized, Okay, yeah, fair point.

Idea one:

Okay, fine.

Idea one:

So I just, actually described it all.

Idea one:

So it's things like that.

Idea one:

Yeah.

Idea one:

And sometimes they're in a hurry, sometimes they're not.

Idea one:

I like and respect the role of the editor.

Idea one:

I think this is what we need to do for it to get to a general

Idea one:

audience and all of that.

Idea one:

Sometimes I wish there was more rigor, that's all.

Idea one:

Yeah.

Idea one:

if I've written something and I have to start explaining to you why it's

Idea one:

correct, I see that as wasting my time.

Idea one:

I'm like, I should not be spending my time explaining to you why this is correct.

Idea one:

You should have looked it up.

Idea one:

You're the editor.

Idea one:

Yeah.

Idea one:

I think sometimes when it is so well researched, you have that burden of

Idea one:

knowledge where you know all the industry specific jargon for that specific

Idea one:

area that that's being referenced.

Idea one:

And yeah, the editors just going Okay, we want mainstream audiences who aren't

Idea one:

professional boxers, haven't boxed at all.

Idea one:

Exactly.

Idea one:

Aren't NASA engineers and haven't got an understanding.

Idea one:

So yeah.

Idea one:

I can see both sides of the argument with that.

Idea one:

And it's, yeah.

Idea one:

You mentioned there about, with short stories and different anthologies and

Idea one:

different editors and varying degrees of how much they edit, as well as

Idea one:

finding the marketplace for your novels.

Idea one:

Yes.

Idea one:

Now screenplays are far more collaborative.

Idea one:

Yes.

Idea one:

And it's, yeah, it's the old joke of, as much as a novelist may be

Idea one:

lauded as the author of a piece, the screenwriter on a film or a TV

Idea one:

show, maybe not tv, TV's slightly elevated, but lower in the pecking

Idea one:

order and having the actors interpret and having, the producers wanting...

Idea one:

And the director's vision.

Idea one:

Yeah, the director's vision.

Idea one:

Exactly.

Idea one:

All of that.

Idea one:

How do you find that process and of seeing your story being

Idea one:

interpreted multiple different ways?

Idea one:

Easy.

Idea one:

They pay me, I don't care.

Idea one:

I don't care.

Idea one:

They pay me to do a job.

Idea one:

I do the job.

Idea one:

The first draft of a screenplay that I submit, that's the arts,

Idea one:

that's where I do all the art.

Idea one:

Everything else is going to change and all of that.

Idea one:

And I honestly, I'm fine with that.

Idea one:

Yeah.

Idea one:

Because they paid me for it.

Idea one:

And here's a funny, it's a strange thing because for example, if you, if a

Idea one:

movie gets made and it gets critically panned, it'll usually go, usually the

Idea one:

director is the one who has to face the flack, the director and the actors

Idea one:

generally have to face the flack.

Idea one:

I'm interested in the screenplay.

Idea one:

So if a film fails, I always wanna know who wrote it.

Idea one:

And I wanna know what else they written it.

Idea one:

But generally speaking, since they're gonna catch the flack, they have to

Idea one:

have the right you know, to change the things to suit their vision.

Idea one:

I'm completely in support of that.

Idea one:

You can't give someone responsibility without giving them control.

Idea one:

Yeah.

Idea one:

If you say, here's a film and people often don't understand what a film is.

Idea one:

They think it's just this piece of art that you watch.

Idea one:

That's not what a film is.

Idea one:

That piece of art is the end product of a business.

Idea one:

Each film that you ever see is a business with so many different

Idea one:

aspects and multiple moving parts and it employs so many people.

Idea one:

It is a business that has to function from the beginning of a screenplay all the way

Idea one:

to, to beyond the publicity, basically.

Idea one:

Okay.

Idea one:

It's a business, right?

Idea one:

I mean it's a temporary business.

Idea one:

Cause they finish that business and everybody packs up and they

Idea one:

go and do another business.

Idea one:

But it's a business.

Idea one:

What we see on the screen is a really tiny part of the whole of,

Idea one:

of all the labor that goes into it.

Idea one:

Who the hell am I to say that I can control that just

Idea one:

because I wrote the script?

Idea one:

Yeah.

Idea one:

I am part of the business.

Idea one:

I do my part and they pay me for my part.

Idea one:

Yeah.

Idea one:

It's very important.

Idea one:

Not, they don't just pay me, they pay me well.

Idea one:

They pay me and they put my name on it.

Idea one:

What else?

Idea one:

You know, I'm also a minor business cause I pay my agent, I pay my

Idea one:

entertainment lawyer, I pay my WGA fees.

Idea one:

You know, so I'm part of a business, in that sense.

Idea one:

If I want control over something, and that has actually happened with

Idea one:

this current screenplay project.

Idea one:

So what happened while I was doing the research is that I

Idea one:

got an idea for a novel, while I was writing the screen play.

Idea one:

And I realized that, okay, you know what?

Idea one:

I want to control how this story comes out.

Idea one:

It has to be a novel.

Idea one:

It can't be a screenplay.

Idea one:

I can't have anybody fiddle with how I want this story to be told.

Idea one:

So as soon as I finish the screenplay.

Idea one:

Well actually, I've already started the novel in, you know, I'm writing

Idea one:

a concurrent, But it, but I know that, okay, the screenplay, I

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can't control how it turns out.

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The book, I can.

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And with so many different projects that you work on, like you were

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saying earlier, with your calendar.

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You've got all these different marks of when you go back and

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revise different projects.

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Yes.

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Once a project's finished, do you have any kind of celebrate, like it signed

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off either you've been paid for this screenplay, the anthology's coming out,

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the proof copies for your novels are out.

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Is there any point where you actually, have a ritual ending

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of that to sign off that project?

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Is it just like a big sigh of relief and moving on?

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Or is there like a grieving period of I've spent all this time with these characters

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and I'm not going be with them anymore.

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Or is it just, I'm just gonna have a drink.

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One project down, onto the next one.

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How, how do they end?

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I don't get romantic about it.

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Okay.

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I don't get romantic about it.

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I, I had to do the work.

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This happens.

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I finish this tomorrow morning, I write the next thing.

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It's not to say that I don't see the romance and the art of writing itself.

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I do.

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But I suppose like, I feel like sometimes the romance of it can slow

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you down from actually doing stuff.

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And I realized that actually it is in the doing of it, that the art comes out.

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It is in the actual doing of it.

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I'm a very, I'm a big fan of uh, Michael Jordan, and you can see his

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artistry in the way he plays, but how he gets there is really mechanical.

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He goes and he practices things.

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So he practices and he practices.

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Early Tiger Woods was the same, he would take the ball to a very awkward

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angle, and he would practice that hundreds of times so that if he's

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playing and the ball falls into a really awkward position, he's not bothered.

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It doesn't faze him, it's fine..

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He just goes there and does it because he's practiced it so many times.

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Yeah.

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And it looks like art to us because we are seeing the final product of lots

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and lots of shots that he's taken.

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Yeah, hundreds, maybe thousands of shots that he's taken.

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And for me, what I want to have done is to have taken those shots metaphorically

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thousands of times for my writing.

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And finish, get back into the gym, you know, start practicing again.

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That's what I want to do.

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And for me what that looks like is continuing the writing, doing reading,

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reading critical theory, reading other people's books, reading old

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books, new books, reading lots of poetry, checking sentence structures.

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What do I like about this particular person?

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Okay, break down the sentence.

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Why do I like this person's sentence?

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Why is this book moving fast when I'm reading it?

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And this other book is not moving fast compared to two of them?

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Ah, this is what's going on.

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That's what I do because I'm actually a fan of writing, of all kinds of writing.

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I love screenplays, I love novels.

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I love the art that goes into a poem.

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It's strange, cause I find poems to be the most artistic of the writing forms.

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The most difficult and yet the least appreciated form.

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I think the reason it's not really appeared so much is because

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so many people do it badly.

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It's like writing humor, it's like writing jokes.

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Humour writing is the most difficult of, in my opinion, it's the most

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difficult kind of writing there is to do because it's so easy to get it wrong.

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Which is one of the reasons Terry Pratchett was a genius,

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it's so easy to get it wrong.

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It's hard to do.

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It is very hard to do.

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But you read it and you can just read it and it just flows like that.

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That flow, that easy reading is hard writing.

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It's very hard to get that happen.

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I do what artist do, I studied the masters, and I, but I enjoy that.

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The reason I can do it is because I enjoy it.

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I like reading critical theory.

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I like reading, obscure things or the origins of words and all of that.

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But then again, that's what makes me lose patience when people try to argue with me.

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But, and it's like, Dude, sorry.

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I know what I'm talking about, I don't have time to teach you.

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That's sometimes what irritates me when some random person comes and

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says, oh, you did this and all that.

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I say, yeah, I know I studied it.

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That's why I did it.

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And I am correct.

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And how is it when you've got all these projects and you finish

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one and go onto the next one?

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When it comes to promotion of a project, like it's actually on the shelves.

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That's quite some time after you've finished writing it.

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Yes.

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And you may be several projects on.

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How do you re-familiarize yourself to promote it?

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. I think that, so I don't

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I think that because I have, look, a novel is like a child.

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You live with that novel forever, at least a year and a half.

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So you've become so familiar with it that it comes back.

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You might not remember every single sentence, but if someone mentions a

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sentence from it, you know what it is and you know, the context of everything.

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So I, what I'm saying is, as long as I've done the work before, if you ask

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me a question about any of our projects, I can tell you why that is there,

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why this is there, and all of that.

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And I can tell you why I did pretty much everything and

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everything I've ever written.

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Because it was all done with intentionality.

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I didn't randomly scribble them.

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I knew why I did this and, and that's actually what led to the

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arguments that I told you about.

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All of it is intentional.

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Yeah.

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So usually I don't do, I don't do any preparation for, for that kind of work.

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And I tried to lean more into questions or at least answers that, that have more

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to do with writing or science fiction.

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I try to, when I'm doing the publicity, I try and it's odd because I'm supposed

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to be drawing attention to myself, but I find it really difficult to do.

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Yeah.

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I really, I would rather just try and turn into discussion about science

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fiction and the works, people's works that have come before that might

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be similar to it and all of that.

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I try not get into the work itself as in, what happened here and all of that.

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But if the interviewer wants to do that, I can do it.

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And the other thing that you must know about is that people tend

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to ask the same questions, so you get bored of it after a while.

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So at some point you have to have, you have to find a way to have fun with it.

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But I don't prepare for it.

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I just go for it.

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Yeah.

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That's why I set up this this whole podcast is ask something new.

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Yeah, exactly.

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And this is very interesting to me.

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You've gone a really good job here.

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This really,

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Thank you.

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Yes.

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I really feel it's, yeah.

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I really enjoying this interview.

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I have two questions left and ironically as regular listeners all know, I ask

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the same two questions at the end.

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And now it's my belief that writers continue to grow and develop their

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writing with each story that they write.

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And you've mentioned how with your research, you really go into learn

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the mechanics of things and you really learn the things that you need to

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serve the story as well as read the masters, read the greats, read

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poetry, read various forms of writing to expand and enhance your ability.

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Is there anything in a recent project that you finished where you'd learn something

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new that you can consciously go, Oh I'm gonna apply this to my next project.

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Yes.

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All I can tell you is this, I did a piece of research and from that

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research, I'm gonna get a novel and a short story, and they're

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radically different from each other.

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Nice.

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It's a historical thing, It's a part of, it's a part of history that I

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didn't really know a lot about before.

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So studying it has been interesting to me.

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It's been very interesting.

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I just, things I just didn't know.

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Yeah.

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Anything But I can't talk about it because spoilers and all that.

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But yeah, what I can say is that from the research has

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come a book and a short story.

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I've actually finished first draft of the short story.

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And like I said, I've started the book and all of that.

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Yeah.

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And is it a certain piece of history?

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So it's not a person from history.

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It's a, an event in history or a period?

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It's an era.

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It's an era in history that I wasn't well versed in that I just knew

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vaguely and I'm doing the research.

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I found a lots of things that I didn't know before, but I also found that this

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could be a metaphor for the present time.

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Like I found, basically what I found is a way of linking these things that

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happened way, way, way back to actually what that's exactly what's happening now.

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So the book in particular, I want to use it to talk about the present times, while

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writing something that's historical.

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That's great.

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Yeah.

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Cause I, that's a very common thread in science fiction is, it's

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always a commentary on the now.

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Yes.

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And it's nice to see that with historical fiction of, you know, if

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you wanna be pessimistic about humanity destined to repeat its failures.

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But that, that sounds really interesting.

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I'm not gonna pry anymore.

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But again, what I love about these interviews is that they're a snapshot

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in history and that in a few years,

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We go back.

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Exactly.

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And we'll be like, Oh, these things were all linked and this happened in 2022

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and we understand what was going on in the world at the time you're writing.

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Exactly.

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That's very cool.

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And a, a generic question to, to finish this off.

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Is there one piece of advice you find yourself returning to, to

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get you through your writing?

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Is there one thing that you've been told or you've read that really resonated

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and you apply to your own writing?

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Read a lot, and write a lot.

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Everything boils down to that in the end.

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Now what it means to read, you know what a lot means is very individual and people

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can define what they mean by a lot.

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That's okay.

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That's individually defined.

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For me it means writing every day, and it also means reading every day.

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I have several books on the go at the same time.

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I read a lot.

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I'm very promiscuous with books.

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I read everything.

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So it's, yeah, I read a lot, write a lot.

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That's the one piece of advice that can be universal regardless of what

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your technique, what your method is, how you approach craft or anything.

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If you read a lot, you'll know what works and what doesn't work.

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So when you're writing a lot, you have something in your brain

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to compare your own writing to.

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It's study.

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Yes.

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And I'll tell you something else.

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Mike Tyson when I was younger, I thought Mike Tyson was just a brute.

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Did you talk to him about any of the classical boxers, he

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knows everything about them.

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He can talk to you about every Jack Dempsey match.

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He can tell you how they did the fight, how they particular punches go.

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He is that expert on boxing.

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Yeah.

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And I don't know why that surprised me.

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Cause of course he's halfway, he was the halfway chap of the world.

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He studied other boxers.

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Yeah.

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And it's, that's the thing.

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It's not just practice.

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It is study what was great before.

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And, what are the through lines?

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What are the consistent things to pick up and apply to yourself?

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That's all the time we have uh, Tade.

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It's been an absolute pleasure and some really interesting, unique takes on things

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that I haven't heard before in interviews.

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So really good for my listeners as well that not just hearing consistent things.

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Absolutely.

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Fantastic.

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Thank you very much for being on the show.

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Thank you for having me and listening to me waffle.

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That's alright.

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And that was the real writing process of Tade Thompson.

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Wasn't he lovely.

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I did really enjoy that.

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I hope you really enjoyed that.

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I really want to know which historical era and as soon as I

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find out, I'll let you guys know.

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We're still in a, was it a liminal space of social media at the moment?

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So I will put links to Tade's Twitter as it exists at time of recording.

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And, uh, yes, we'll just see how things go, but I hope you're all well.

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And look after yourselves.

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And as always, please keep writing.

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Until.

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