Picture this – not the Blondie song – no, I invite you to imagine a scene. You are a leading occultist. You’ve written several books, climbed a few mountains, sacrificed a few cats and even designed your own Tarot deck. Then, one night, you are visited by a high order emissary from the beyond. His name is Aiwass and he instructs you to write his words down but not to publish them. He tells you the secrets of life, the universe and everything and informs you that a new age is dawning. No, it’s not Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon – and I know I’m paraphrasing a bit (well, a lot) – but it’s actually Aleister Crowley and the Book of the Law, or Liber AL vel Legis.
Apparently, he wrote the book in three, one-hour sittings and is, to all intents and purposes, an example of automatic writing. Those claiming to have had this experience talk of a hand guiding their pen as they wrote. Hell, even Robert Plant of Led Zeppelin fame, spoke of the words flowing as if someone else was writing when he penned Stairway to heaven.
Now this week, I received a message in my inbox via Bryan Cohen’s website about a chap called Chris Fox. He is the author of 5,000 words in an hour and has set himself the challenge of writing a 70,000 word novel in 21 days – then publishing it on Amazon. He’s going to video the whole thing and post daily so we can look and see if he achieves his goal or falls flat on his face. After digging into his book, I’ve learned the importance of building yourself a tortoise house (see John Cleese’s great video on creativity here) and setting yourself writing ‘sprints’. All the conditions seem to be there for the conduction of an automatic writing experiment. The question is: will said experiment produce anything worth reading? I’ve read the Book of the Law, which many claim is unreadable gobbledygook, and believe me, it made a lot more sense than what I wrote down in five minutes. I managed 102 words. If this is scaled up, and I wrote at the same rate, Fox’s app says I would have accomplished 3060 words in an hour. He, apparently, gets an average of over 4,000 and sometimes spikes a 5,000 – hence the title of the book.
I looked back at my 102 words today and managed to weave them into a story called Mr Crimson which you can read here. This was a Chuck Wendig challenge where he posted ten first line openers, and we had to choose one, then run with it. Readers of my previous post, Story starts – more refreshing than a freshly ironed and folded handkerchief, will know that first lines are a favourite of mine. To be fair, I’ve got to work at my automatic writing and get it up to scratch, but I think I’ll certainly be able to up my output as a result.
By the way, Crowley went against Aiwass’ wishes and published his work anyway. Did he suffer a cursed life because of this misdeed? You would need to judge for yourself. You can read a biography on Wikipedia.
Interview of the week – Michael Brent-Collings
The highlight of this week’s post is an interview with celebrated author, Michael Brent-Collings. He has a phenomenal output and tells a superb horror tale. The book that first caught my eye was Strangers and contains, to my mind, one of the best openers of any horror book you could care to read. He was gracious enough to answer some juicy questions I posed and expanded at length on them. Fasten your seatbelts, here it comes:
Believer or non-believer?
Believer. My work is informed by a belief that there is more to life than life itself; that there is a morality to the universe, that evil is ultimately punished and good ultimately rewarded – though perhaps not solely in this life. Bad things DO happen, but that doesn’t mean the scales won’t be balanced eventually.
Anne Rice or Stephanie Meyer?
Weird to say, perhaps, buy Meyer. Part of that is because Rice writes so much stuff that I personally find nihilistic and hedonistic to a distasteful extreme. But a larger part is simply that Meyer introduced tens of millions of girls to horror, and to reading in general – maybe not the best “literary” quality, but a great gateway drug to a larger world.
Stephen King or Clive Barker?
King. In addition to the fact that my dad is one of the primo maximo (that’s a word!) experts on King, so I have a soft spot for him, he’s ultimately more hopeful, his stories have a melancholy triumph to them that echoes the real world more powerfully than Barker’s much more depressing prose (though that’s not to say I don’t like Barker – several of his works are fantastically done).
Outliner or pantser?
Self publish or traditionally publish?
Self. But I don’t have any disdain for trad-pub work, nor would I avoid it if the deal was right. I think both have their place, and I’m glad both are out there serving an ever-growing audience of readers.
Psychological suspense or Blood and gore?
The first, mostly because the great majority of writers using the second are incorporating it not because it’s necessary to the story, but because they don’t have a firm grasp on how to create a riveting experience without throwing in things that we are hardwired to react to – my law of “if you can’t make ‘em feel, stick in blood, boobs, or poop, and at least they won’t go away thinking nothing happened.”
Will Self purple prose or Mark Twain simplicity?
Twain. Though I have a lot of lyricism in the passages of my books – another holdover from my father, who’s published something like three thousand poems and is an extraordinary influence in my writing.
Literary rule breaking or stylistic conformity?
Conformity first. Learn the rules before breaking them. Practice until you can be technically flawless, then run rampant… in a controlled sort of way.
DC comics or Marvel?
DC – No contest.
The Conjuring or The Evil Dead?
I love Evil Dead. That said, I’ve returned to The Conjuring about twenty times, and I see something new every time – the story is great, and the directing is a master class on emoting terror without resorting to the above-mentioned blood and gore.
First or third person pov?
Third, unless a) you really know what you’re doing, b) it is necessary to the story.
Physical books or e-books?
Both. I like the feel of books, I think better when I read ‘em. But it’s nice to always have close to a thousand books in my pocket.
Self publicist or literary recluse?
Gotta be the first nowadays. The trick isn’t getting published anymore, it’s getting read.
Writing group or online critiques?
Neither. Usually they’re worthless circles of self-congratulatory smugness/ignorance. Some good ones out there, just I don’t know of one.
Facebook or Twitter?
Find me at http://facebook.com/MichaelbrentCollings(see what I did there?!).
Michaelbrent Collings is an internationally-bestselling novelist, multiple Bram Stoker Award-nominee, and one of the top indie horror writers in the United States. He’s also a produced screenwriter and (most importantly) a husband and father. Find him at michaelbrentcollings.com, or sign up for his mailing list (and get a free ebook!) at http://eepurl.com/VHuvX.
Website – http://michaelbrentcollings.com (it also has an entire section on writing advice!)
Facebook – http://facebook.com/MichaelbrentCollings
Twitter – http://twitter.com/mbcollings
Mailing list – http://eepurl.com/VHuvX
Free audio short story
Final treat (if you can call it that) is an audio version of my short story, Head, which features in the collection you’ve all downloaded, Defiled Earth. It’s very much a first attempt and, as such, has a few rough edges e.g. I forgot to chuck our cat out of the recording area, so that’s his bell you can hear in the background. I was able to use my experience as a music sound engineer to doctor the recording somewhat, but I wasn’t able to completely remove the sound of my creaky chair. Saying all that, I’m quite pleased with the result and have received some good feedback so far. So, do have a listen, tell me what you think and post it in the comments below or on my Facebook page. Be as critical as you like – I have a tough scaly hide.
Until next time,