The Best Advice Ignored

Writers are awesome at giving other writers advice. We’re even better at ignoring it.

For no real reason whatsoever I decided to ask the folks of the Grimdark Fiction Readers and Writers facebook group what they thought the best/favourite advice they ignore was.

For me it’s ‘write every day.’ I don’t. Not even close.

Here are their responses. This is pretty much a cut and paste job.

Scott Oden “Kill your darlings.” Hell, no, I say! Instead, I find a way to make my darlings relevant to the story.

Mark Lawrence revise revise revise

Auston Habershaw Write every day, for me, too. I’d add in the whole “finish what you write.” Generally good advice, but some drafts are such a train wreck it’s best to put them out of their misery early.

Richard F. Gallipeau Exposure bucks?! Someone on the other thread said finish the first draft completely before revising. Not only do I not write in sequence, I’ll “pre-edit” a little bit as I write the other sequences. I’m going to start trying to finish the draft as completely as possible before editing anything next chapter.

Jeff Bryantwrite every day and don’t think about world building while you are writing.

Mark Turner ‘Lay down the bones of the story first. Go back and flesh it out later.’ I can’t remember where it came from, but I always think of it when I start something, then find I’m unable to do it. Gotta add some flesh as I go. Scared I’l forget something good otherwise.

Kareem Freshpots Mahfouz Sometimes the pace needs to come down so it can build back up. Oh no’s it doesn’ts precious!!!!!

Jonathan Ashman Agree. I don’t write every day either. I write when I want to, otherwise it’s shit heh

Jake Scholl Write what you know is a limiting thing I don’t follow. Also I don’t write everyday.

Wade Garret Do you, don’t Do someone else; if I wanted to read Tolkien I would…

Dick Hitchcock “Don’t quit your day job.” Granted, I don’t actually have one, and haven’t had one in almost 4 years…

Anna Smith-Spark No one’s ever given me writing advice. They know I’d either punch them or cry.

Thomas James Clews Use less words make them tighter. I struggle with this a lot as I tend to enjoy being verbose.

Wade Garret Be a Storyteller 1st and a Writer 2nd

Quint VonCanon use as many German words and names as possible.

Matthew Summers Never revise as you go… yeah… that isn’t happening.

Charles Phipps Write in other ways than the first person.

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Living the Dream: A Working Writer’s Survival Guide – Guest Post by Brandon Draga

Today I have the great pleasure of hosting a guest post by Brandon Draga, a fellow Torontonian who has fled to the ‘burbs. He’s the author of three books, the most recent of which, The Council of Tymenthia: The Four Kingdoms Saga Book 3, is to be released shortly! Links to those books can be found below.

And now…without further things and stuff…

Living the Dream: A Working Writer’s Survival Guide

*Looks at watch*

Hmm, looks like I have a book coming out soon

So a while back I told the internet that, in anticipation/promotion of said book, I would do a series of guest blog posts, and my lawyer tells me that everything you tweet is legally binding.

He also tells me that lobster is actually a sentient fruit.

I should find a new lawyer.

Anyway, I had actually planned to write this post on my own site months ago, except for the fact that, inevitably, I arrived home on the night I planned to post it and promptly deflated, not unlike Beymax in Big Hero Six once he learns that he has been a successful helper. This is more or less a nightly ritual with me, and in a way it’s largely what helped spur this blog idea.

I’ve made it clear before, in various media, that I have a full-time job that is begrudgingly not writing. Many writers will attest that hocking yarn for a living doesn’t guarantee financial security, and so I subsidize my frivolous literary career aspirations by working as a retail pharmacy technician. This means that I have staggered days off, work one day during the weekend, and frequently finish work between 7 and 10pm every day. Further, the interesting combination of having to be “on” both mentally (dealing with prescription meds = kind of a big deal) and socially (customer service) means that by the time I cross the threshold of my home each night, I usually only have the creative energy to watch the Game Grumps fruitlessly try to complete a level of Mario Maker on YouTube.

All that said, I still manage to write. Heck, in the last year I wrote one novel and four short stories, all on top of attending a bunch of events to promote the two novels and picture book I wrote the year before. I won’t lie to you, Marge, writing is tough. The brain is fickle, and there is not nearly enough time in the day to reconcile what we want to do and what we are required to do, and once you have people paying you to do what you want, but still have to do what is required, some days you can feel not unlike you’re being chased by a dire lava bear while wearing cursed pantaloons of encumbrance.

Other days, however, work like magic. You hit your word count, you wrap a chapter, everything comes up peaches and wildebeest. The trick is to try and mitigate the lava bear days in favour of the wildebeest days, and that can be tough.

I have no doubt that some of you are in a similar position as I, whether you’re writing books, poetry, songs, or maybe you’re a freelance artist. So, I decided I wanted to bestow unto you, faithful readers, my entirely finite wisdom in the world of blue-collar professional creativity. Some of these bits of advice may be completely irrelevant to your situation, of course, or only moderately so, so please be sure to add salt to taste.

  1. Know when you are most creatively energetic

    For me, this is mid-late morning, before I’ve spent hours counting blood pressure pills and explaining people’s own insurance policies to them. I make a point of doing everything I can to get an hour or two of writing time in before I head off to work. If I’m lucky this can usually net me around 500 words or so, and if I’m really lucky it can net me my target 1000. Which leads me to my next point…

  2. Have a target

    I try my hardest to write 1000 words every day. If I’m on-point that day, I’ll usually write around 500 words before work, and another 500 on my lunch break. I can’t speak enough about how great the word count box in Kingsoft Office is for this. Some people swear by Scrivner, total masochists adore Write or Die, but for me little is quite as satisfying as looking down at the bottom of my screen and seeing the steady increase of what is essentially my high score meter.

  3. Wherever you are, be ready to write

    This was a habit I formed early on during my writing The Summerlark Elf. Summerlark was a NaNoWriMo project, and that meant 1,667 words per day or bust. Because I was young and hungry way back in the heady days of November 2013, I was able to sit down and tap out a few hundred words at a moment’s notice. As a means of augmenting this, I got an old Android tablet from my older brother, later purchasing a bluetooth keyboard for it. This eventually got upgraded to a hand-me-down iPad, and finally to the new laptop my family all pitched in to get me this past Christmas. During NaNo ’13, having a portable means of getting my ideas down was a huge help in getting me to hit, and often surpass the magic 1,667. Once I started working on The Missing Thane’s War, there were days where my tablet was the only way I was getting any writing done at all. Speaking of…

  4. Never, ever assume you have, or will later have, free time to write

    This is part “don’t procrastinate” and part “learn how to multitask”. On the one hand, in the rare instance during a workday when you find that you have an hour or two unburdened by the basic responsibilities necessary to function as a mature human, you are squandering that time if you aren’t writing, because there is a good chance that time will not be there later in the day, or even later in the week.
    Quasi parum et ad momentum quo discurrentes arripere non abscidit caput pulli, as they used to say in 2nd century BCE Rome.
    Or maybe it was just
    Carpe Diem. Rolls of the tongue a whole lot better, that.
    On the other hand, multitasking. In order to operate as a functional human, as mentioned above, you probably need to do banal chores like sweeping the floors and washing the dishes. Further, you probably have to feed yourself as a means of ensuring your survival and general well-being. Where the latter is concerned, you have in those moments between bites prime writing time. Writing on my lunch break at work has been the only way I’ve managed to meet any of my deadlines, especially now that most of them aren’t self-imposed. You’ll find that your ability to write one-handed will improve vastly, and in turn your typing speed when working with both hands will improve as well.

  5. Try your hardest to structure your schedule around your creative high points

    This one can be a little trickier, but it’s something that’s much easier the longer you commit to it, not unlike the act of writing itself. Remember way back in Point One when I mentioned that we all have our time when we’re most creatively efficient? Well as a means of maximizing that time, it helps to ensure that anything that might get in your way be otherwise taken care of beforehand, the more well in advance the better.

    As I mentioned before, I tend to work best in the mid-late morning period, so this means showers are taken the night before, as are dishes cleaned, emails sent, and food made for the next day. It also means an average wake-up time of between 7 and 8am. If you’re the type of person who writes best at night, then by all means feel free to flip all of this as best it suits you. Remember: the key to all of this is to do whatever you can to wrench those precious few extra moments from the clutches of day-to-day life, so planning is totally key.

Now of course, as with any good list, there needs to be some point that seems to completely contradict the ones I already made (my lawyer told me that, too). So here it is, as follows:

  1. Manage your expectations on a daily basis.

    Life is unpredictable. Stuff happens, and as hard as you try to avoid it, there will be days where your best efforts will be for naught. Maybe the battery on your laptop went earlier than expected, or maybe you got tied up with an unexpected chore at home during your golden writing hours. Maybe, against your will, you simply cannot make the words happen that day.

    This is perfectly okay.

    Lots of burgeoning writers I’ve seen will take a bad day or two as a sign that they maybe aren’t cut out for this writing thing, or that maybe the time isn’t right. This kind of self-doubt (and believe me when I say that every author struggles with self-doubt) is especially poisonous, and so the best thing you can do in this situation is to step back, take a deep breath, and remember that this is just one day.

I mean, at the end of the day, writing is a tough gig – no one ever really said that it would be easy, though. Except of course for the countless people who pledge daily the age-old mantra “I should write a book.” and then proceed to never do so. Hopefully these tips will help you not be one of those people, because when all is said and done, the most important thing is that the writing gets done, regardless of what odd hour you need to bathe to do so.

Brandon Draga – The Bio

Brandon Draga was born in 1986, just outside Toronto, Ontario. His love of all things fantasy began at an early age with games like The Legend of Zelda, Heroquest, and Dungeons and Dragons. This affinity for the arcane and archaic led to his studying history at York University from 2005 to 2011. In late 2012, he began writing a D&D campaign setting that would lay the groundwork for the world of Olhean, the setting for his “Four Kingdoms Saga” novel series, compared by critics to the works of Terry Brooks, Michael J. Sullivan, and R.A. Salvatore. Brandon has also proven that SF/F can be made accessible at any age, writing the lauded picture book “Dragon in the Doghouse”. Brandon still lives just outside Toronto, and when he is not writing enjoys skateboarding, playing guitar, and playing tabletop games.

Brandon’s Books

The Summerlark Elf:
The Missing Thane’s War:
The Council of Tymenthia (pre-order):

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The word is BEYOND REDEMPTION will be released in German in January of 2017 and I’ve just received permission to share the cover!

For you German folks who tried to read my mad little book and were put off by my horrendous abuse of your language, I’m hoping you’ll give this a chance. Mirka Uhrmacher, my editor at Bastei Lübbe, has put a crazy amount of work into fixing the names and I’m really excited to see how folks react. Early feedback (thanks Kitvaria!) has been that this is an excellent translation.


In other news: I am putting the finishing touches on a plot outline for the first book in a new series. Just gotta wrap up the final cataclysmic scene.

I can’t wait to write this beast!

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I Have a Web Page?

I keep meaning to write and post stuff here but real life and things that aren’t real life but can totally trick you into thinking they are keep getting in the way. Well….things are happening. Exciting things. And I can’t tell you about any of them because, much like my life, they ain’t real. Yet.

The mirror has been broken and my Reflections set free. My Doppels have shed their chains and left the basement and no longer fear my wrath. On the high side this means I am increasingly able to bend reality to my will. On the low side I am no longer capable of making good decisions. Some interesting shit shall manifest over the next few weeks.

Such exciting stuff going on….nope. Can’t share it yet.

What I can share: My editor, Mirka, at Bastei Lübbeis freaking amazing. We’ve talked about how to handle the names and I’m really excited about how cool the translation is coming along. I’ve heard some early feedback from people who can actually read German that it is looking like a very true translation.

Otherwise I’m working on a new fantasy series which will be very different from Beyond Redemption. As I am once again working a full time job things are going much slower than I’d like, but they are going. If you’d like to support me so I can write full time, that would be excellent.

Quint VonCanon recently shared another piece. This one was inspired by Richard Anderson’s cover art and was done before Quint had even read the book!


You can find more of Quint’s work at Deviant Art!

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Intellectual Property at StarShip Sofa

Back in 2011 I sold my second short story, Intellectual Property, to Interzone. Though my second sale, it was the first to appear in print.

Well, you can now hear that story narrated by the awesome Austin Learned over at StarShip Sofa. Hearing one of your own stories narrated is a real trip. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. Give ‘er a listen and then drop back to let me know what you thought.


No, seriously, I need a drink.

StarStarShip No 427 Michael R. Fletcher and Mark Zastrow


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For the last while I’ve been working, looking for work, and writing whenever I can sneak in a few moments. I grab the guitar any time my brain needs a breather and noodle away at whatever riff is on my brain. Lately I’ve been making some funky jazz-type noises. It took a while to track this stuff as there is diddley time left in the day after the other stuff and family, but here it is. The drums are pretty simplistic and you’ll hear a few flubbed notes because I don’t have time to edit it or do multiple takes, but here it is in it’s nasty glory.

And me being me I couldn’t just leave it jazzy. Somehow the metal snuck out.


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The Artist as a Mystery

My daughter is home sick and we’re all but snowed in and what I really want to do is eat grilled cheese sandwiches and drink whiskey but whatever the hell is going on in my GI tract is not a fan of grains or fat or whiskey and so I’m eating salad and fruit and writing a rambling run-on sentence about it. I have been completely sober for four days and I must say, I’m not a fan.

I’ve been thinking about how the interaction between authors and readers has changed in the last decade or more. When I first got into fantasy (back before Jesus rode dinosaurs, when the world was still flat) there was virtually no way to interact with a writer beyond going to conventions. As I lived out in the boonies of Ontario that was pretty damned unlikely to happen.

Writers were a mystery to me. All I knew about them was the little ‘about the author’ blurbs sometimes found in the backs of books.  That’s what I was accustomed to and so that seems normal. But times have changed. With internet and social media being so entwined with society, there is a lot of pressure on writers to be accessible in a way there never was.

Mick Farren was a Bacchanalian Dionysian god. He wrote about drugs and booze and rampant gods and devastated realities and he was his books. I never met the man, I have no idea what the truth is.

Is that mystery better than the truth? I have no idea. Would I have liked Mick even more if I’d had the chance to chat with him on Twitter? Maybe.

I’m torn. As a reader I love that I can interact with my favourite authors and that writers like Mark Lawrence, Kameron HurleyDjango Wexler, Teresa Frohock, Marc Turner, Brian Staveley, and so many others are so approachable.

As a writer I wonder if I’d be better off to remain mysterious.

The Mirrorist's EyeCome to think of it, I’ve had folks send me fan mail and share their Beyond Redemption-inspired art (look left) and I am so grateful for these amazing gestures. I think that wins it for me. Having the chance to hear what so many folks think about my books is an opportunity the writers of the previous age did not get to enjoy.

Okay. Screw the mystery.

Well mostly. Maybe I’ll lie about a few things now and then just to keep folks guessing.



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Gimme Fantasy

Recently an ‘internet friend’ – a guy I’ve met only once in person—made a genuine offer of assistance at a time when I needed it and that got me thinking.

As always I’m going to ramble around the topic and hopefully get there in the end.


Does he look lonely?

Many years ago I had a conversation with my father about friendship and what it was to have real friends. I think I was in my early twenties. I said something along the lines of My friends will help me bury bodies and go to war with me should the need arise. His response was that this was juvenile and romantic and that real life wasn’t like that.

And I realized he was correct.

But I too was correct.

I lived in London, Ontario at that time with several friends from high-school who were there attending university while I tried to figure out what the fuck I was going to do with my life. At one point there were five of us: Two friends from high-school, two others my friends had met while in university, and myself. My high-school friends were the same dudes I’d been role-playing with for years. One of the other two didn’t role-play and (gently) mocked us as nerds when we did. We’ll call that guy Pete.

One day three of us—myself, Pete, and Rich—were standing around the kitchen making fun of Pete’s habit of eating cereal from a pot when his car alarm suddenly began screaming. Pete was in love with his shitty late-eighties VW Golf and took off after whoever was messing with his baby. Rich and I shared a look (Should we? Yeah.) and followed after him.

Pete caught the culprits first and had launched into a tirade of dire threats when he realized there were three of them and they were no longer running away. In fact, realizing they vastly outnumbered their pursuer, they’d turned to face him.

Oh shit, thought Pete, his stream of profanity dying a quick death.

And then Rich and I arrived on the scene to flank our friend. There was some silly posturing but (thankfully) no one really wanted a fight and they soon fucked off. I might add that I had hair hanging to my ass which I’d died black, a month of stubble, and looked like a sleep-deprived psychotic. Truth is I was and am a teddy-bear; looks can be deceiving.

VW GolfThat day changed our relationship with Pete. Never before had he had friends who would stand at his side for no reason other than he needed us. Prior to that day he had no idea we were that kind of people.

Why did we do it, why did we rush to back up our friend?

Legend. David Gemmell. If you’ve read it you know what I’m talking about. If you haven’t, go read it.

Twenty years later Pete joins us every Monday to role-play. His understanding of what friends are changed that day. In recent years Pete has saved my bacon in more ways than I’d care to share.

My understanding of friendship may be juvenile and romantic but I’ll take that over reality any day.


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