Write By Hand with Brad McNaughton
Brad is a very talented writer (seriously, check out Chase, it's really good and only a buck!) and has given valuable beta feedback on some of my work in the past. He's a rockstar, so I'm really excited about this interview!
I’m a writer of Spec Fic/SciFi, crime, and dark comedy. Often a mashup of all three. I’ve written a lot of short stories, sold a few, and finished a couple of manuscripts about time travel, and giant marsupials, which I’m hoping to publish. I’m also a husband and a puppy daddy to my dog, Muse. (Okay, she’s not really called Muse). My day job is in Software Development.
I am an introvert. I grew up reading. RL Stine, Christopher Pike, Discworld, Stephen King, Star Wars novels and everything in between. I started blogging and writing all the way back in 2001. I used my optional credits at university to take creative writing topics. This definitely improved the quality of the comments in my code. For my prose, we’ll see...
What inspires you and/or why do you write?
I read a lot as a kid and an adult. My biggest influences include Terry Pratchett, Douglas Coupland, and Mitchell Hurwitz. Add in Lee Child, Asimov, Bill Bryson, Tana French, David Mitchell (both of them).
I don’t talk a lot, but I have a narrative voice in my head. Writing things down is the way I express myself, and a chance for me to explore how I think the world could or should be.
Describe your process as best you can:
One of the most enlightening pieces of critical feedback I received for a story was that “the beginning didn’t match with the end.”
So, when I have an idea, I make sure I know the beginning and the end. And then I start jotting notes. I work out who my characters are, and what they want, as well as what’s stopping them. I’m a big believer in the shape of stories.
Once I’m happy with a plot, I start writing. Of course, it’s not uncommon for the characters, motivations, beginning and/or end to change by the time the story is done!
I’ve never looked back since switching to writing every first draft by hand. Usually, this involves liberal use of placeholders, notes in margins and in the headers of the following pages. Handwriting does take its toll on the fingers after a while, but it makes the words flow, and it is nice to turn to the next page and see a scribbled plot point already waiting.
When the time comes to type up the story, I now have the chance to fill in placeholders, perform revisions and fix up sections. Once I’ve typed it, I’ll let it sit, then come back a few days/weeks later and revise again. Then I read it out loud, then read it to my dog, then my wife, then I'll read it to my writer’s group. I’ll incorporate all their feedback, find some beta readers if I need more thoughts, or start submitting or querying the piece.
What is your favorite tool or resource? (Like Scrivener, Grammarly, a blog, etc?)
I write with a black Uni Signo 207 biro. It’s thin tipped, so not heavy against the paper, and easy to write in between lines. I buy refills for it on eBay. I have emptied it probably close to twenty times. I love that pen.
I use Scrivener for creating longer works, and Google Docs for short pieces. I also use Google Sheets to track my submissions.
What do you consider your biggest strength? (Don’t be shy!)
When it comes to writing, I’m very disciplined, which is both a strength and a curse. I don’t suffer from procrastination, I just write and write and write.
That’s great, but then I have to deal with all these words - typing them up, editing them, marketing them, having them rejected and resubmitted and revised over and over.
But I’d much rather this world than one where I can’t find the time or opportunities to write.
Biggest challenge for you, and how have you overcome it? (Or how are you working to overcome it!)
For the past three years, I have suffered from chronic, incurable pain in my hamstring tendon origin. In non-medical terms, it hurts whenever I sit down. Because of this, I have had to severely limit my writing time, particularly on a computer as sitting upright compresses it worse than anything. It’s a huge pain in the butt.
This makes typing up stories, editing them, and all other online activities a constant race against pain. I use a standing desk plus standing mat to give myself extra time, but I have to take regular breaks.
Perhaps a silver lining from this issue has been me improving the efficiency in which I work, and it helps with the discipline. I’ve also been forced to uncover new ways of writing and working that I might not have otherwise, like dictation. My phone, which I can use lying down, is heavily used for drafting, some editing, and even image processing. So now I find myself writing anywhere and everywhere, and posting image-rich blog entries from my phone all over the place.
Any other advice for authors, based on your unique experience?
Join a writing group, not just for perspective on your own writing, but to give feedback to others. Giving good feedback requires you to understand the art of writing and the structure of a story which can only improve your own work in the long run.
Second, answer your questions about writing by reading books. Want to know if you can have multiple POVs? Find books with multiple POVs and see how it's done. Want to know if have to explain the technology behind your spaceship? Read hard SF and space opera and observe the differences. Read critically. Everything’s been done before, authors need to identify who has done it well and learn. And in doing so, you’re reading the work of your peers which supports them too.
Where can other authors or readers connect with you and find your work?
My most recently published short stories can be found in Issue 4 of Breach, and The Worlds of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Volume III. Both reasonably priced on Amazon.
My Time Travel Rom-Com novella Chase is also available on Amazon really cheap, or free on bradism.com if you sign up to my mailing list.
If you want to be awesome like Brad and use Scrivener, I have a special deal for you! AfterWords readers and authors can get 20% Scrivener by visiting getscrivener.com and using the promo code AFTERWORDS. How cool is that?
Don't forget to check out Chase on Amazon. Seriously. It's awesome.