Brain Babies: An Introduction And Writing Advice From The Broken Mind Of Ken MacGregor
I’m new here, so I guess introductions are in order.
Hi. I’m Ken.
I was first introduced to HorrorTree by my friend and some-time collaborator Kerry G.S. Lipp. Those of you who come here a lot probably know who he is. I first ran into Kerry by eerily showing up in the same anthologies again and again. I liked his writing style, and how he never pulled any punches. He seemed fearless. I thought that was pretty cool.
So, anyway, long story short, I asked Kerry if he’d like to work on a story with me. I’d never written with another person, and neither had he, but we gave it a shot. I had something I’d started, but didn’t know what to do with, and sent it to him.
He liked it, wrote some more on the story and sent it back. Pretty soon, we had a pretty good finished piece. It was weird, original, pretty gross and quite funny. We went back through the thing, editing it and making sure it didn’t suck. Then, well, we sold it. Sweet.
So, I asked Kerry, “Hey, that was cool. You want to do it again?”
He said he did, and I sent him another thing I’d started, but didn’t know what to do with. He liked this one, too, and we started banging out words, roughly 2,000 at a time each.
At one point, we noticed it had gone beyond most normal short story length, but we were having fun, so we didn’t really worry about it. Then, it passed novella length, and we were like, “hey, that’s cool. We wrote a novella.”.
Then, somehow, we broke 50,000 words.
We had written a novel. A short one, but still. We went through the whole beta reader/editing process, tightening the book up as much as we could, and then, boom, we sold that one, too.
We’ve done another short since then, and are a bunch of words into the sequel to the novel. It’s very cool. I don’t know if I could work with another writer or not, but Kerry and I just seem to gel.
So, back to the point of the whole thing: Kerry introduced me to this site, and I’ve found some great markets here (some of which have turned into pretty lucrative opportunities). I’ve decided to give something back by tossing some words out for the HorrorTree readers.
Judging by the length of my introduction, a hell of a lot of words.
Here are some things I’ve learned in the last five years of submitting my stuff to publishers, in no particular order:
- Be patient. Publishers sometimes take a really long time to get back to you. They’re busy people. Just wait. Seriously. This business will drive you nuts if you can’t cultivate some patience.
- Speaking of publishers, they all know one another. It’s kinda creepy actually. So, be nice. Be polite. You may not be remembered for being polite, but you will definitely be remembered for being a dick.
- You’re never good enough. I don’t mean you suck. I mean you should always try to improve. Read books about writing. Read good books. Read bad books (so you know what not to do). Read in and out of your preferred genre. Really, just read. A writer who doesn’t read exists in a vacuum. Creativity dies a horrible, imploding, messy death in a vacuum.
- Write as much as you can. For some people, this is 10,000 words a day. I hate those people. For some, it’s 300 words a day. Some days, you won’t write. That’s okay. Don’t beat yourself up. Some days, putting down the words is like pulling teeth. It happens. Try to do it anyway. If you get too frustrated, do something else for a while. Read a little. Go for a walk. Rub yourself on your partner’s leg like a dog. Don’t tell them I suggested it. You’re on your own.
- Get into it. If you’re writing something gruesome (and most of you write horror, right?), embrace the shudder of revulsion. If you’re writing sex, that shit should turn you on. If someone walks in on you writing sex, you should turn bright red and have to adjust your pants (or whatever women do that is the equivalent of that move. Wriggle in their seats? Cross their legs? I honestly don’t know. The only time I see women turned on is when we’re both naked, and frankly, I’m not paying attention to anything but getting her off in spectacular fashion).
- Which brings us to the next topic. Be honest when you write. I don’t mean display your dirty little secrets to the world. But, kind of I do. Real moments in your life should bleed into your fiction. Things that actually happen make great story fodder. Don’t use real names though. You can get sued. Not cool.
- Ask other writers for help. Say, “I’m floundering and I have no idea what I’m doing!” We’ve all been there. When I started doing this, I was amazed at how many other (seriously experienced) writers were happy to help me. I’ve tried to pass it on as best I can, too. It’s like the circle of life, only with less lion shit on the ground.
All right. That’s enough for my first time. Stuart’s probably gonna be pissed that I rambled on this much. I’ll come back and yak at you some more if you want. If you don’t, that’s cool, too. I have a fuckin’ novel to write, man. I’d be happy to be doing that instead.
Get the words out. Later.
- About the Author
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Ken MacGregor writes stuff. Sometimes, he edits stuff too.
He has two story collections: AN ABERRANT MIND, and SEX, GORE & MILLIPEDES, a young adult novella: DEVIL’S BANE (YA winner of the 23rd annual Critters Readers Poll), a co-written (with Kerry Lipp) novel: HEADCASE (available in serialized form), and is a member of the Great Lakes Association of Horror Writers (GLAHW). He is a somewhat regular contributor to HorrorTree with his column Brain Babies. He has also written TV commercials, sketch comedy, a music video, some mediocre poetry, and a zombie movie. Ken is the Managing Editor of Collections and Anthologies for LVP Publications. He’s curated two anthologies: BURNT FUR for Blood Bound Books, and STITCHED LIPS for Dragon Roost Press..
When not writing, Ken drives the bookmobile for his local library. He lives with his kids, two cats, and the ashes of his wife.
Ken can be found at the staggeringly egocentric-named website kenmacgregor.com.