Author: Ken MacGregor

Being part of a Writing Group
Being part of a Writing Group

Ken MacGregor’s Unsolicited Advice on Doing Shows

Ken MacGregor’s Unsolicited Advice on Doing Shows

So you want to sell books to real people, in the real world, for real money. Okay. Cool. Let’s talk about that.

First things first, I know a lot of writers are, shall we say, not the most socially comfortable people in the world. I mean, I’m not one of those, but many are. To misquote the Tick, I’ve…heard of social anxiety. Before I was a writer, I was an actor. I did sketch comedy. I was a jury foreperson (not because I was necessarily the most qualified, but because I wasn’t afraid to express my opinion in the juror’s room). I have always been outgoing. Always loved being the center of attention. So, yeah. I have some tips.

(more…)

Brain Babies: Pigeonholes

Pigeonholes

Ken MacGregor

 

The word “pigeonhole” was originally coined, obviously, to describe the small recess for a domestic pigeon to nest in. It was also used to describe a small cubby, open at the front, into which messages could be left for people. The final definition is to force a person into a specific category, frequently a restrictive one, from which they have a very hard time escaping.
(more…)

The Ten Commandments of How Not to be an Asshole (Writer’s Edition)

The Ten Commandments of How Not to be an Asshole

(Writer’s Edition)

 

  1. Thou shalt read the guidelines and having read them, thou shalt follow them.
  2. Thou shalt seek out thine editor’s name(s), and thou shalt spell it correctly. If thine editor’s name is unknown to thee, thou shalt refer to them as “Dear Editor,” as this is accepted throughout the land.
  3. Thou shalt not begrudge others’ successes but shall instead celebrate them.
  4. Thou shalt patiently await statuses, edits, contracts, and publication dates, no matter how damn long they might be taking. This doth not apply to pay. Get that shit ASAP.
  5. Thou shalt not, immediately upon meeting someone, attempt to sell thine book. This applies to social media and meatspace. Just don’t.
  6. Thou shalt not ever promote your own work on another’s platform unless they hath specifically invited it.
  7. Thou shalt not cultivate friendships with professionals to further your own career. Seek them instead because most of those people are freaking awesome.
  8. Thou shalt not leave bad reviews on another writer’s work. Good reviews are wonderful. If thou dost not like a thing, keep thine damn opinion to thineself.
  9. Thou shalt not respond to bad reviews. Do not engage. It will not endeth well.
  10. Thou shalt do thine level best to remember that editors, publishers, and other authors are all real people, and not just a cluster of words in thine inbox. They have feelings and should be treated with respect and kindness.

Will Authors Be Replaced By Robots?

Will Authors Be Replaced By Robots?

I am Not a Robot

Ken MacGregor 2021

 

We’ve all seen those clickbait links where someone feeds a thousand types of a script or story to an AI and then asks it to produce one of its own. Robots writing romantic comedies. Robots writing obituaries (hilarious!). Robots writing superhero movies.

What if it was real though? What if an artificial intelligence could actually create something so good that you couldn’t tell it wasn’t written by a human?
(more…)

How Do Writers Come Up With Ideas?

Where do You Get Your Ideas?

As a writer, I get asked a lot of questions. The most common one, aside from “Why are you like this?” or “What’s wrong with you?” is “Where do you get your ideas?” I’m sure most of you have heard this time and again too.

I mean though… where the heck do they come from?

I like to imagine they come from a colossal warehouse located in another dimension. Endless aisles of file boxes stacked infinitely high, sorted by type. Scurrying, gnome-like creatures with glasses bustle about, pulling down the correct box, extracting the exact file needed, and rushing to the pneumatic tubes that connect to writers’ brains.

There’s a command center where larger, more intelligent goblins track incoming requests for ideas, sent either directly from the writer, or their muse. They operate a massive switchboard, like something out of an Earth-circa-1960s telephone company, scrambling to fill as many idea orders as possible at breakneck speed.

(more…)

How Do Writers Use Pathos?

Pathos: a Greek word meaning both ‘suffer’ and ‘experience.’

Interestingly, one of your goals as a writer is to make your characters experience suffering. Because happy characters make for pretty dull fiction.

When people say you should make your readers feel something, they’re talking about pathos.

There are a number of ways to do this—some more efficient than others. Some will, undoubtedly, work better for you than for someone else. Writing is one of the most personal and subjective things there is. It’s important, as with all aspects of your craft, to employ this tool with caution. Too much pathos and you risk overwhelming, and subsequently emotionally deadening, your reader. Too little and they’re not engaged at all.

The key is to strike a balance—make ‘em feel but don’t beat them over the head with it.

(more…)

Brain Babies: The Horror of Genre

The Horror of Genre

So, I have this friend, also one of my editors, who classifies what he writes as “dark Speculative Fiction.” I like that. Rolls off the tongue. Sounds classy. I use it myself sometimes. Mostly when I’m talking to someone who likely sees horror as something vile, repulsive, grotesque.

Now, I have no problem with those adjectives, and I know most of you probably don’t either. Horror, as a genre (I know it’s an emotion, but for the purposes of this discussion, I’m going to refer to it as a genre), is supposed to evoke a reaction of fear, revulsion, and/or shock. Horror is supposed to make you uncomfortable. That’s a big part of its draw, I think.

Now, for me, writing as well as reading, I care far more for the quality of the story than for whatever’s happening on the page. I can take or leave gore, but I need solid writing.

I think that what a lot of people fail to understand is that horror is so incredibly diverse. That it is layered, nuanced, and encompasses a vast spectrum of styles.

If you want to get readers interested in your wonderfully diverse genre, you might have to cleverly spin the whole thing. “Oh, this isn’t horror,” you might say. “It’s dark, Speculative Fiction.” Of course, it is horror. We know that. And that’s wonderful. Horror is great! It’s my favorite genre.
(more…)

Stitched Lips: How An Anthology Came To Be

I want to talk a little about my dead wife. That’s a good opener, right? Grabs your attention right out of the gate. Liz Dahl MacGregor and I were together for 21 years. Married for 17 of those. She was brilliant, funny, quick-witted, and sassy AF. She also had the biggest heart of almost anyone I’ve ever known. And she was tough. Liz fought hard for what she believed in. She went to law school with the goal of someday getting into politics and making some real positive change in the world. I bet she would have pulled it off, too. She was that kind of person.

I’ll give you an example: we were hanging out in a park, by the river, a short walk from our house. Our kids were throwing rocks in the water and my older asked why there wasn’t a playground in this park. Liz said, “You know what? That’s an excellent question.” She then went on to help organize a committee to petition the city to build one. She helped raise money for it, and was instrumental in ensuring that it was accessible to all sorts of children. That playground exists today because of my dead wife. A plaque dedicating it to her memory is prominently displayed next to it.

This is who she was. She would see a need that had to be filled, and she would do what it took to fill it. She knew hundreds of people, and she was constantly making connections. Someone would comment that they wanted to start a bakery; Liz would say, “Oh, hey. You should totally meet up with [name]. They are looking to back a small business, and the love donuts!” Then, the two people would meet, introduced by her, and within a year, we’d have a new bakery. It was kind of amazing.

When she died, we held three memorials for her: the first was small, close friends and family. We told stories about her, songs were sung, and a lot of tears were shed. That was where the mayor told me she was going to make sure they dedicated the playground to her. The second was her family’s memorial. That was cathartic for them, and, to a lesser degree, myself. The third was held in a large public building (donated by the organization that ran it), catered (mostly donated as well), where a band played for free, and a lot of us got up to speak (and sing again). The hall was packed, with over 300 people in a cavernous space with no A/C in 90+ degree heat. This is how much she was loved.
(more…)