GMB Chomichuk and Jonathan Ball (interview), Part 2

GMB Chomichuk (writer, teacher, mixed media artist, graphic novelist and proud Winnipegger) agreed to an interview only if I allowed him to also interview me — so this is Part 2 of a two-part, twinned interview (the first part was posted last week).

GMBChomichuk by ThomasBartlett

Chomichuk won the Manitoba Young Writers Award when he was 15. He won the Manitoba Book Award for Best Illustrated Book in 2011, and again in 2015. His graphic novel series The Imagination Manifesto was nominated for Best Canadian Graphic Novel in the 2012 Aurora Awards. He is the founder of Alchemical Press and is always on the lookout for literary oddities. You can follow him on twitter @gmbchomichuk and see some of his work in progress at www.comicalchemy.blogspot.com.

His latest books are the picture book Cassie and Tonk (McNally) and the graphic novel Infinitum (McNally | Amazon).

Ball: One of my favourite stories is how you asked Lovern Kinderski, a local legend in the larger comics industry (having working with Neil Gaiman, among a host of others) to assess your artwork, and he basically told you that you sucked and should give up. Yet now you are illustrating a book he’s written. Tell me again how you bridged that gap.

Chomichuk: Hahaha. 

What had happened was that I was working as an art director on an ill fated science fiction project. ( Sad because it was a great property written by Steven Erikson.)  The screening was done and were sitting around having a laugh.  Lovern shows up and I think “perfect, I’ll get the insight of a true comics pro.”

Which is what I got.  I asked him what he thought and, well if you know Lovern, you know he won’t hold back if you ask for the truth. He said , “this is amateurish.  I’d think it was student work except it is so consistent.  You’ve got a long way to go to work in comics.” Which  some might think of as harsh but I asked the important follow up and listened closely.  What should I do to get better? At which time he gave serious and considered critique. Every failing he found in that work was true from his point of view and I had to learn to improve from my point of view. 

Fast forward a few years and five hundred or so finished pages of illustration and Lovern approached me to illustrate Underworld, his book with Renegade Arts Entertainment. I like to think that it had more to do with him knowing that he would be able to give honest feedback and that I could take it than anything else. Once we got to work on it I saw that it was meant to be, but that’s a much longer story. 

So, Dr. Ball: film, poetry, journalism and prose all seem to be in your wheelhouse. Are they all the same voice in different conversations or if not, how do you change your “writing mode”?

Ball: I don’t believe in developing your own “voice” and “style.” I think that’s death for serious writers, who want to have long careers — it helps make you marketable in the short term, but it dooms you to irrelevancy in the long term, since you inevitably become trapped in your style and self-parody.

I approach everything as a new project, and I work to develop a new style for that project. I work like a technician. I’m analytical and obsessive about the work, and able to emotionally dissociate from it, although I also throw myself into it as much as possible because I want it to stay visceral.

My primary concern is to master modes and then blend modes. I create a lot of work that is what I would consider a technical exercise, and then I see my main work as projects that draw on what I have learned to construct odd hybrids — that’s why I say things about my work that seem odd at first glance, like my poetry books are really fiction, and I’m really a horror writer, and so on. That’s why I have never published a collection of my poetry — most of my poetry consists of technical exercises and I publish those in journals just to prove to myself that they are of publishable quality, and then I throw them away and develop a larger project.

Things like the journalism and much of my (non-book) poetry and prose and even a film like Spoony B — while I obsessed over these projects and strived to master their forms as much as possible, I see projects like this as technical exercises, and precursors to what I consider my real work, which is to dissect and then blend these genres and modes into strange hybrid forms.

Right now, for example, I am focused on a short story collection that contains a range of works, a lot of diverse stuff, from relatively “normal” stories to stranger fare like “The War with the Dead,” which is like an essay that is also a short story (the way that “Psycho” from The Politics of Knives is a blend of an essay on the Hitchcock film Psycho and also a short story and a poem at the same time). An earlier version of “The War with the Dead” appeared in Poetry Is Dead recently. It reads like a weird Baudrillard essay:

Art, like all else, is a weapon employed by both the living and the dead. The living use art to comprehend dead objects, to imbue them with a living mystery, and in this way exorcise the demons that the dead trapped in these objects. The dead laugh. The dead use art like any other dead object. They take it from the living, draw it into the past, and cast it forward to the future, so that it ends up in the present to destroy.

Thus the art of the living becomes the objects of the dead, alien documents, incomprehensible. The dead imbue these things with death, and then return them to the living. The living, not understanding the nature of art, and of death, make the same mistake that they make when approaching all dead objects. They attempt to enliven them, to incorporate them into the realm of the living. They interpret, analyze, over-interpret, study, proclaim the undying, universal, classical nature of the dead’s art.

All of these actions are designed to defuse this art, to dampen its disruptive power. To cut the red wire, to stop the bomb. But the bomb has already gone off. Life crosses into its continuing explosion.

Tell me about creating your forthcoming book Infinitum (McNally | Amazon). As you know, I read it in manuscript, and was impressed at the number of narrative challenges you took on with this book. How did you approach tackling the difficult terrain of the time-travel story, and why did you choose to publish with ChiZine rather than with your own press?

Chomichuk: I love time travel stories and I’ve always been terrified by them as a writer.

They are impossible to get right. But my father always says “I didn’t know it was impossible until I had already done it.” I wanted the challenge and I had the idea so I kept at it until it had the shape I needed.

When I set out to work on Infinitum I looked at most of the tropes and rules of time-travel stories and all of them got hung up on paradox. I said to myself, I’m going to make a time-travel story that puts that out front. The machine runs on paradox, it isn’t bad, and all of spacetime doesn’t unravel if you change it. It just changes. The idea I had was this: A time-traveler would have no more affect on a culture or society than a traveller from another country has when they land in Paris. They might be able to alter localized events around themselves, but French society and culture as a whole could not be affected. It would take a society of time-travellers to really mess with things. That what the Infinitum are, a diaspora of time-travellers.

The other main thing other time-travel stories try to avoid is a character meeting themselves. This is also essential in Infinitum. 9 is able to do what he does because when the going gets tough he goes back into his past to help himself solve the problems he now has prior knowledge of. He’s his own back-up from the future.

My early draft was a mess of tangled causality diagrams. A total f**kshow of this then this then this then this before that, that before this, this cancels that and so on. At first I was caught in the mechanics of the science fiction. To bust out of that trap I remembered that the time travel alters the moves of the story, but it doesn’t change the need for moments. Stories are about the character’s interactions with each other, their moments, that’s the drama. Once I convinced myself of that, the rest was much easier.

The bigger challenge for me was making the story noir without making it totally misogynistic. Noir film has a wonderful twisted narrative structure, a dystopian bent, wonderful visual style. Noir film has a lot of good stuff in it. It also has an unhealthy in-balance of ‘woman as object,’ ‘woman as victim,’ ‘women without agency’. I didn’t want to follow that as a guideline as I had followed the other noir elements.

Technically Infinitum fails the Bechdel test, but I feel that no one can read it and feel that my main female character is just a plot device or sexual outlet. I had a scene that would have allowed me to pass the test, but I cut it for pace. Which is the hard lesson of creation verse conscience; sometimes despite your noble intentions, the story has to go it’s own way.

I wrote about whose ‘fault’ I think that Infinitum is in the foreword to the book so I won’t retread that. I will say that I chose to publish with ChiZine because they are doing great things in genre publishing and bending plenty of “rules” for Canadian publishing and I knew I’d have things to learn there. Every new project should give you new perspective, new friends and new ideas about how to do things differently or better. I pitched ChiZine two graphic novels and they took them both. Infinitum is out June 2015 and Midnight City will be out in 2016. They’ve since added Ghost Doctor Thirteen to their roster as well and the first comics short of that will be available at TCAF [Toronto Comic Arts Festival] in May.

I’ve got projects in development or placed with traditional book publishers, comic book publishers, self-published work, co-published work, work in theatre, film and television, and every new avenue or business model I try is about what is needed to get the work out there. I’ve many stories to tell and I’m always looking to collaborate. Things we can place with another publisher for mutual benefit is great, and sometimes to make something exactly as you want it, you do it yourself, which is freeing.

Some creatives need to do one project at a time. I admire that in them, that focus and self-restraint is admirable. I need to have multiple things moving to keep the momentum up. The more I work with people the more I find that it seems to be one way or the other with creatives. Which sort of creative are you and why?

Ball: It occurs to me that a lot of my stories would fail the Bechdel test simply because there are no human characters in them (often no characters at all) or only one character, which is an oddity I had not considered before.

To return to my distinction above, I can work on a lot of what I would consider “technical exercises” at a time, but I can only work effectively on a single major project at once. I used to work on a lot of different projects at once, jumping to another when I was stuck on one, but I found that I was not finishing projects. I just bailed when the work became difficult, while fooling myself and thinking that I was accomplishing something.

Then I instituted a personal “rule” — I could only work on one major project at once, and in fact I had to work on the one that was closest to being completed. Or abandon it forever. After I instituted that rule, I finished three book-length projects in short order (and abandoned many others). I actually dislike this rule, but I can’t argue with results.

Imagine you could have 10 projects that were 80% complete, or one project that was 100% complete. Which is better? The one at 100%. Imagine the perspective of the world outside: nobody knows or cares about the 10 projects that are almost done. They can’t. They can only know and care about the one that they see, the one you can pass along to them. You need to have that one thing at 100%! Working on a lot of projects is better than not working on any, but it’s not as good as working on one project. We’ve seen study after study that shows multitasking doesn’t work, and I think the same is true of multi-project management.

As well, my temperament is that I have to focus and dig down on a project to take it where I want to go. Sometimes I need to rewrite a single page for two weeks. Not always, and thankfully not often, but if I allow myself to jump to another project then I will do that instead of finishing the stupid, stubborn page.

One thing I do allow myself, from time to time, is to break up large projects into smaller sections that stand alone in some way and then move from one to the other. It’s a way of jumping between projects that is more structured and allows for more flexibility while still letting me stay focused. The reality is that it’s not realistic, for a lot of reasons, to just work on one thing all the time, even though that is the best. But even then I try to stay focused on a single major project and just work on preliminary material like notes or technical exercises and so on.

For example, my main project right now is a short story collection. I am focused on the smaller part of this one story called “Judith.” Then I will finish rewriting a treatment for a forthcoming project, a screenplay called Edenbridge. Then I will work on a short story called “The Lottery,” also for that same book, while the director reviews my treatment. Right now, the treatment is a “minor” project but when I am actually in the scripting stage then Edenbridge will be a major project and I will basically just stay focused on that.

I might take a break from the major project sometimes too, maybe I will just write blogs for a week, which are sort-of how I do my class prep now. When I do stuff like that I don’t delude myself — I am taking time off from the major project, the book. I’m being unproductive on that, which is fine from time to time. Just as long as I don’t fool myself into thinking I am accomplishing something important. Sometimes you need a break, but I like to just write (relatively) unimportant stuff during my breaks, because you always have to keep writing. So my “breaks” are me writing things for money or other task-like writing, things that don’t take a lot of energy, like this interview.

I cried when I read your latest book, the picture book Cassie and Tonk (McNally), which I never do. I think the last time I cried with a book was reading The Road (McNally | Amazon). Why did you make my cry, Greg?

Chomichuk: For me, I look at the day as total possible creative output in the given circumstance.  I’m a teacher and a father and a husband as well as being a writer and and illustrator.  Each piece of the creative things I do fits into a corresponding shape of time in the day.  

I keep a writing schedule.  You must.  But the day is full moments that other fun things can fit into.  So I work on lots of things.  I use my schedule to finish things, and my moments to create them. 

I’d also like to say what an absolute creative partnership Cassie and Tonk became.  Justin and I have recently made Butterfly Collection (not for kids) and have a few other all ages projects on the horizon. Justin has a dozen creator-owned projects he’s got in various stages of development and I’m very happy to be partnered with him on a few of those.  

Cassie and Tonk was intended to make you cry.  We aimed for it, so to speak. Justin and I sat down and actually said, “How can we make the parents cry?” and tried to come up with pacing and beats that would make the emotional temperature.  

We wanted to make a story that addressed something everyone would have to go through and try to make the story have a simple but meaningful message.  Justin had an idea for Cassie and Tonk that spun up out of a drawing he had done. We shaped it into a story by working up the storyboards together and talking over the metaphors and he pacing. 

It was originally going to be a “silent” story. We were just going to do the whole thing with images. But as the story came out, the desire to add a layer to the narrative was too strong. We wanted the perspective from someone looking back on an important event in their childhood with a more mature understanding. I wanted a way to soften the ending with wisdom.  
  
What I am still grasping is how Cassie and Tonk has turned into a letter to myself when I would need it the most.  During the making of Cassie and Tonk my mother was diagnosed with cancer and within only handful of months, she was gone.  She got to see the book, which remains a comfort to me, but her decline followed Cassie and Tonk‘s premiere at the Toronto International Book Fair. 

It’s a story that faces a hard truth: We all have someone we love who we may lose.  My mother’s death was sudden in one sense but also painfully prolonged. Working through that last draft was what I think honest writing can be; healing and resonant.  

Some of that experience also made it into Infinitum.  I could say that the parts I needed to face as an adult are in Infinitum, and the parts I need to hear as a son are in Cassie and Tonk

The experience with my mother underlined my desire to do my own thing, my way, for my own reasons.  Plenty of people don’t know how I can write scary books and serious books and books for kids and teach in a high school and do live art in gallery shows.  I don’t need anyone to “get it”. Life is too short for that.  

I’m off to TCAF this weekend and bringing Ghost Doctor Thirteen into the spotlight there along with a preview for Infinitum.  Once I get back I have a few more questions for you, Dr. Ball.

#95books for 2015 (The First 40)

Once again in 2015, I am reading #95books. As May begins, I hit book 40, so I thought I might check-in with my list-in-progress:

  1. Moby-Dick (Herman Melville)
  2. Idaho Winter (Tony Burgess)
  3. Girlwood (Jennifer Still)
  4. Infinitum (G.M.B. Chomichuk)
  5. Their Biography (kevin mcpherson eckhoff)
  6. The Troop (Nick Cutter)
  7. Thou (Aisha Sasha John)
  8. Information Doesn’t Want to Be Free (Cory Doctorow)
  9. Magpie Days (Brenda Sciberras)
  10. Galveston (Nic Pizzolatto)
  11. The King in Yellow (Robert W. Chambers)
  12. The Imagination Manifesto, vol. 3 (GMB Chomichuk & John Toone)
  13. Cassie and Tonk (Justin Currie, GMB Chomichuk, & Will Liddle)
  14. Wraith (Joe Hill & Charles Paul Wilson III)
  15. Multiple Bippies (Colin Smith)
  16. The Gun That Starts the Race (Peter Norman)
  17. Imagine: How Creativity Works (Jonah Lehrer)
  18. Through the Woods (Emily Carroll)
  19. Corked (Catriona Strang)
  20. Afterlife with Archie, Book 1 (Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa & Francesco Francavilla)
  21. Red Curls (Tracy Hamon)
  22. The Pet Radish, Shrunken (Pearl Pirie)
  23. The Damnation of Pythos (David Annandale)
  24. The Deep (Nick Cutter)
  25. The Ocean at the End of the Lane (Neil Gaiman)
  26. On Evil (Terry Eagleton)
  27. Boycott (Gregory Betts)
  28. Loitersack (Donato Mancini)
  29. A New Index for Predicting Catastrophes (Madhur Anand)
  30. Dear Leader (Damian Rogers)
  31. The Blondes (Emily Schultz)
  32. The War of Art (Steven Pressfield)
  33. Mephiston: Lord of Death (David Annandale)
  34. B (Sarah Kay)
  35. The Purpose Pitch (Kathryn Mockler)
  36. The Lake and the Library (S. M. Beiko)
  37. mcv (Melker Garay)
  38. Asbestos Heights (David McGimpsey)
  39. Asbestos Heights (David McGimpsey)
  40. Merz Structure No. 2 Burnt by Children at Play (Jake Kennedy)

Kathryn Mockler recommends CLOCKFIRE to people who don’t read poetry

All Lit Up
29 April 2015

Gratified to be included in this list, since when writing Clockfire I planned the book as “poetry for people who hate poetry,” a sort of oblique manifesto.

Mockler also summarizes my writing nicely:

Shock, awe, fear, stasis, repetition, hopelessness, and confusion are hallmarks of Ball’s poems. […] The horrors that unfold on the page, which may be impossible to produce as plays, are often not all that far off from the nightmare of our living reality — from the paradox of the so-called human condition to the pain and suffering we inflict on ourselves and others.

Next stop, Oprah!

GMB Chomichuk and Jonathan Ball (interview), Part 1

GMB Chomichuk (writer, teacher, mixed media artist, graphic novelist and proud Winnipegger) agreed to an interview only if I allowed him to also interview me — so this is Part 1 of a two-part, twinned interview (the second part will post next week).

GMBChomichuk by ThomasBartlett

Chomichuk won the Manitoba Young Writers Award when he was 15. He won the Manitoba Book Award for Best Illustrated Book in 2011, and again in 2015. His graphic novel series The Imagination Manifesto was nominated for Best Canadian Graphic Novel in the 2012 Aurora Awards. He is the founder of Alchemical Press and is always on the lookout for literary oddities. You can follow him on twitter @gmbchomichuk and see some of his work in progress at www.comicalchemy.blogspot.com.

His latest books are the picture book Cassie and Tonk (McNally) and the graphic novel Infinitum (McNally | Amazon).

Jonathan Ball: Why did you decide to start Alchemical Press?

GMB Chomichuk: I had been getting serious about the idea of visual story telling. I had a conversation with a friend who said that a people need to sell their strengths and buy their weaknesses, and on the same day got a call from a producer asking me to come and talk about doing a comic adaptation and some set design. When I was asked to use the likenesses of the cast for the comics, I figured doing so under the umbrella of a legal entity would be prudent. It just seemed the time. All ideas have their time, and I guess this was the time for Alchemical Press. Lots of things were changing in my life, and alchemy is change.

How does a poet/horror writer make a movie and sell it to The Comedy Network?

Ball: Don’t say horror, or I’ll never get published again. I used to say something else, like my work is “struck through with Gothicism” or “darkly fantastical” (I owe Hiromi Goto for that one). Since I am what people call, redundantly, a “literary writer,” I have to feign a pretentious investment in the marketing term “literary fiction.” Although to be honest I have gotten bored with that stance and started to call myself a “horror writer” in the press recently, even when not talking about horror.

I believe in the value of always doing something. I’ve been writing seriously for about 15 years at this point, which is about how long you have to work in order to reach Square One. The film you’re referring to, Spoony B, I decided to make a number of years ago, in order to learn the basics of filmmaking. I figured if I wanted to do some screenwriting, I should learn to think like a director, and the best way to do that was to become one. So I cobbled together about $500 and thought, “What kind of film can I make with only $500?”

I knew I couldn’t afford lab fees, so I developed all the film by hand in buckets and transferred it from my kitchen wall with a digicam. I put my friends in it and shot it as a silent film, like an old Keaton or Chaplin film, so that I didn’t have to record sound, because I couldn’t afford to record the sound well.

It turns out I have a small bit of talent for being a director (very small!), because The Comedy Network bought it almost immediately. Really, it was a happy accident that the film ended up being any good, and then Matthew Etches, who was the distribution coordinator for the Winnipeg Film Group managed to sell it, it was one of the last things he did before he quit that job. In many respects, I don’t know how it was sold, basically it sold because the Winnipeg Film Group sold it for me. The rights are available again now, if somebody wants to license it from the WFG!

What are your goals for Alchemical Press, and how do you see it as different from other presses?

Chomichuk: Alchemical Press is not a traditional press, it’s a story engine. We are a mercenary strike force of creative people that use art and words to fight our battles. We are a collective of innovative storytellers. We publisher the work of others, and we publish our own in collaboration with Absurd Machine Films and Vagabond Brigade, and Electric Monk Media web services, which allows us to be peer-reviewed while retaining creative control.

Too often peer review means “Give someone else the rights and revenue potential but keep the credit.” Don’t get me wrong, I love the book industry, but they do their thing, we do ours. Alchemical Press is a hybrid model that works with the direct sales market of the comic stores and the returnable market of the book seller, and the online make-it-up-as-you-like markets of the Internet.

Poetry, Prose, Pictures, Collage, Video, Digital Art. We aren’t interested in you doing things our way, we’re interested in getting things done.  If people have an idea worth sharing, we want to help.

Our goals are to get talented people the exposure they deserve. To allow those who are working with the medium of story for the medium of story, (Guys like Dave Ryan and his War of the Independents) to get their ideas out there and inspire people.

What’s your creative process, from idea to gestalt? Concept to page? Tell me your secrets I’ll tell you mine.

Ball: I never go out in search of ideas, because I have so many, a huge backlog of projects I will never have time to complete. Some of them are great projects too. But when I get an idea I stop whatever I’m doing and roll the idea around for a while. I make a note or two if I’m concerned about forgetting something, just a good sentence or two. Then I just let the idea retreat and go back to whatever I was doing.

The idea has to compete for survival amongst the thousand other ideas. If I find myself sticking with it, turning my mind to it over and over again, making more notes, and not letting it go, then eventually I’ll schedule some writing time to work on it. It might be years from when I think of an idea to when I write word one.

After I have a first draft, I produce a summary/outline based on that draft. Then I make all my major editing decisions based on this outline. I’ll cut pages, note where to add things, restructure, and so on, based on the outline. Then I’ll retype the entire document, rewriting as I go. I don’t go back and edit the original computer file, I type a new one so that I don’t feel bound to the first draft in any way and feel freer to rewrite rather than merely revise.

I hope to abandon this practice soon, because it is so time-consuming, but it works great so I can’t. I’m getting close to where I think I can let go of the practice, however. I started using Scrivener (Mac | Windows), and it separates the formatting from the text in a sense (because you have to output and finalize the formatting in Word, since the publishing industry uses Word). So far, I feel like mentally I’m not bound to the text when I play around in Scrivener, so maybe it will finally let me kill off this unproductive but useful practice.

After the second draft every draft is a revision unless there are some major issues. A structural edit might also entail changing things entirely, like turning it from a poem into a short story, or cutting out whole scenes and chapters and characters or whatever. Unless somebody has requested the manuscript, I think about where to send it when I start the revision process (usually with draft three, although I often complete up to eight or ten substantial drafts). Then it’s just a matter of finishing it, sending it wherever, and getting started on the next thing.

I used to work on a lot of projects at once but wasn’t accomplishing much. Now I try to stick to no more than two, switching when I get stuck on one.

What about your process? If I remember correctly, The Imagination Manifesto was at one point a novel called Strangeseed. So how did the idea develop, and go from being a prose work to a graphic novel?

Chomichuk: The Imagination Manifesto (McNally | Amazon) began as a prose novel that was just too visual to remain as text alone. Because my writing style often references allusion and mythology as a literary device, but sometimes I’m talking about figures from mythology, I realized that the book contained too many things that seemed like metaphors, and too many things that seemed like descriptions which the reader can misattribute.

If someone is described as like a snake, but they look human, you know it’s just an adjective, but here the women who looks like a snake is a snake-woman. I had started getting a bit of work in film, and the storyboard needs of some projects really solidified, at least for me, that this part of the tale had to be illustrative. There are many chapters of the tale that will contain long bits of prose, but only when words say it better than pictures and vice versa.

It sounds a bit silly as I write it, but most of my ideas come from dreams. I believe firmly that we can go looking for things when we sleep. Our memory is built up from patterns, but dreaming really lets one experience their own lives in a unique way. If something follows me back from a dream, I take notice, and try to give it somewhere to live. Sometimes as a character, sometimes as a setting, sometimes as a line of dialogue. I do my best to give my dreams a good home.

Ball: I’d like to hear about your process also insofar as how you choose or develop projects. I know you’ve turned down work in favour of edgier fare, and have often turned offers to “work” into offers to be a creative contributor — what’s your attraction to edgier, unconventional work, and why does having some degree of creative control mean so much to you, even when you’re working as a gun-for-hire?

Chomichuk: Collaboration is the point for me. The whole idea of alchemy is the process of mixing strange ingredients and intents and creating something new and vibrant.

When I do work-for-hire art I offer different pricing. One price is for the work I do with the understanding that I keep and control the original art and the right to remix the original images into new work as I see fit. The other price (much higher) gives the client control of the original art. What this usually does is open a dialogue about what art should be and the strengths of collaboration versus outright control.

When everyone is invested in a project, both creatively and financially, the discussion orders itself around the work, and the story, rather than who is in charge. There is a lot of ego floating around in this business, and I find that if/when I set the terms like this, then people I would not enjoy working with for the long haul aren’t the ones interested in working with me anyway.

A person’s portfolio should reflect the work they want, not just the work they’ve done. We all start somewhere, but you need to be assertive about what you want for yourself from any creative endeavour. I want creative autonomy when I work with someone, and I’m interested in working with people who want the same things.

Read Part 2 of my interview with GMB Chomichuk!

Directed by Jonathan Ball

Written by Jonathan Ball and Patrick Short
Music by Patrick Keenan and Theme by Spoony B & Ugly D

Starring:

Aleksander Rzeszowski as Spoony B
Ken Freund as Snidely S. Cracker
Melissa Best as Loshandra

Proving once again that no Winnipeg Film Group premiere would be complete without a reference to prostitution, Spoony B features the titular pimp (Aleksander Rzeszowski) rescuing his favourite employee from evil villains. Filmmaker Jonathan Ball avoids the usual WFG clichés, though, with the sneaky, inspired notion to combine silent-film melodrama and ’70s pimp-sploitation subject matter, Chaplinesque physical comedy and jive-talking inter-titles.
— Winnipeg Free Press

Focus on Today, Not on the Book: Using Scrivener’s Project Targets

I do all my writing in Scrivener (Mac | Windows) now. It’s a powerful, wonderful program, but it also has a steep learning curve, and so I want to show you one of my favourite features.

Screenshot 2015-04-20 09.30.04

A very simple thing, but incredibly useful, especially if you are working on a long project, something that is overwhelming and that you need to break down into small, manageable chunks you can work on day by day.

It’s very easy to worry about the whole project and lose focus on what you have to do today, right now. Scrivener has a great function that helps you do this, which is called Project Targets.

In this screenshot video, you can see me (over)explain this simple but powerful feature:

I hope you can see the power of this … Scrivener is calculating my work for the day!

I actually went and dumped all my critical writings into that file, and I already have almost 150,000 words of decent stuff (not counting a bunch of other stuff). I would never have known that I already have enough for a book of critical writing if it wasn’t for this feature. You can just drag and drop stuff into a project, whereas before I really had to do some math or suture stuff in a Word file, to figure this kind of thing out.

Am I going to pare it down to a book of critical writing? I don’t know. Publishing a book of critical writing seems somehow too egotistical. But I could! I set a new goal of 250,000 words. When I have around 3-4 books worth of good material, then maybe I will trim it down to a single decent book.

Me and Scrivener: A Love Story (Coda)

I love Scrivener (Mac | Windows). For many, many, many reasons. I recommend it to everyone.

But it is NOT easy to learn.

I found that, while I could use it right away and it was useful immediately, even in the trial version, it was frustrating to feel like it could do WAY more for me, if I could just master its ins and outs.

I then thought of a great business idea, for once in my life … I would invest my time in learning Scrivener, and make a series of videos (like the one above, but way better) and then create a whole online course about how to use Scrivener! I would sell it and make some serious money and become a Scrivener king!

As soon as I had this idea, I discovered that someone else already did it, in a course called Learn Scrivener Fast. I purchased his course (since it had a money-back guarantee), thinking I would scope out the competition and then outdo the sucker.

Unfortunately, the course is great. So I’m not rich. And I didn’t ask for my money back, so I am actually poorer. But I know how to use Scrivener!

If you are a serious writer, I recommend Scrivener (Mac | Windows). I recommend Learn Scrivener Fast. I love them both. I became an affiliate of both, so if you want to support this site and you intend to purchase either, please do so through the links on this page.

Yes, both are investments in time and money, but if you are serious about writing then you should already be in the habit of investing your time and money to become a better writer. The software is powerful and has amazing potential to revolutionize your way of working.

Maybe you don’t care about that, because what you do already works for you. If that’s the case, then don’t worry about Scrivener. You might want to play around with it, but if you are happy with what you’re doing then you should focus your writing time on writing.

I wasn’t. I needed, among other things, software that would let me work on massive writing projects, and non-linearly. Scrivener is that software.

But I was wasting my time learning it. As pricey as the Learn Scrivener Fast course seemed, it was ultimately money WELL spent. I tried the books about the software, but they weren’t for me. It is just so much easier to grasp software, for me, from videos than from pages. Normally, I prefer learning from books, but not for software training, and I figured with a money-back guarantee it was safe to give it a shot.

However, if you DO buy the course, I wouldn’t worry about the “bonus” thing about “using Scrivener with an editor.” It’s useless. Yes, it works, but the fact is that it is pointless. If you are going to be a publishing, professional writer, then you MUST shift to Microsoft Word once you are in the editing/publishing process, and dealing with an editor in any professional context.

Do you, like me, hate Word? Tough. Word is where you will edit your book. I am sorry. It’s not my fault, or Scrivener’s fault. You can never escape Word. But with Scrivener, you can blissfully forget about Word for as long as possible.

If you already use Scrivener and have other cool tips about it, then let me know! I want to stab myself when I think that I wrote five books without Scrivener. Gah. It would have saved me years of my life.

Here We Are In The Night

My favourite album at the moment is the debut EP from Ghost Twin. “Mystic Sabbath” and “Here We Are In The Night” are necessary listening. Vampire Sex Music!