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What does a fox, an author and spooky stories have in common? Find out in this first Q&A article where I interview an emerging author about his inspiration for writing.
Every artist struggles with inspiration at times. Procrastination more often I would think. Even when inspired there are distractions, fears and chores that beckon. To my mind authors must have the worst of this. Writing is fearfully solitary and minimalist. At least a painter has tubes of paint, brushes and many colorful things to entice and lure one to the canvas. An author has a keyboard or typewriter (there are a few left). The most hardcore only have a few pencils and writing pads.
How about an author that is writing one short story a day for three hundred and sixty five days? That must take commitment and discipline. Let’s meet this young author and find out more.
Enter the Author (Spiritual animal: The Fox)
Matthew Dewey, aka The Penned Sleuth, is an author working full time creating novels and short stories. He also teaches aspiring writers how to find their own writing voice. On top of that Matthew is writing a short story a day for a year. He also produces unique work for his Patreon account for fans who want a little more. Safe to say that this writer has no trouble getting to work each day.
I decided to ask Matthew about his writing practice and his tips for creating.
With my books I definitely lean more towards adventure than any other genre. I find adventure stories more enjoyable to write as I get to challenge my characters constantly. As for my daily stories, it really depends on certain inspirations that day offers. Some are even based on dreams I had the night before. There are many ideas that come to mind, but I often try to write about something or include something in the story that is completely surreal or absurd. It’s challenging that way and it adds variety into the day-to-day writing.
2. You studied computer programming before starting to write full time. What is the connection, if any? Which discipline do you prefer and why?
Programming was something I truly enjoyed in the beginning, the potential was limitless. At least, it seemed that way at first. I believe the most enjoyment I got from programming were those days of the week where I would stay after school and write text adventures. I would say that influenced the change to writing, but it was really after writing my first book. After my first book was finished a long time passed without writing, but the desire never left. I would say I prefer writing stories more than programs. Programming certainly has its limits, but imagination doesn’t.
3. Who is your favorite writer and why?
It’s hard to say which books I enjoyed most, but certainly my favourite and most inspirational to me is Derek Landy. His books went from off-putting to shocking and I loved that. You could tell that he was writing what he wanted to read and that is probably why he did so well.
On top of that, he had the opportunity to accept a movie, but turned it down when he saw the proposed script; it just didn’t do his work justice. That is love for your work in bold letters and I plan on offering the same level of respect to my own writing.
4. Writing must take discipline and focus to succeed. Do you see yourself as particularly disciplined?
There are certainly many distractions when it comes to writing, so absolutely it requires some willpower to work at it. I wouldn’t say I’ve mastered the human emotions that sway me into doing something else, but ensure that I spend ample time writing everyday.
5. You are writing a short story a day for a year and have already written over two hundred. Why this project?
It first began as simple blogging. Writing stories on my website at leisure. Certainly not everyday, nor as long as the ones I write now. After this many reasons banded together in my mind and formed into a challenge. Write a short story, every day of a thousand words minimum. By writing everyday I challenged my imagination and developed a habit of writing. Having a word limit has pushed me to write something with more effort and if I ever found myself writing far more than that limit, I knew I was onto something. Many of the novels I have planned and are currently writing are inspired by those short stories that I couldn’t leave alone.
I wanted to see how far I would get before I would say, ‘enough is enough’, but it turned into an enjoyable habit. I eventually decided to make it a year long project, but I do not see myself stopping there. I think once I pass the anniversary of this challenge I will shoot for ten thousand.
6. What is the biggest challenge(s) you face to completing this goal?
The biggest obstacle I face is falling behind. There are plenty of things that take priority over writing the daily short story. However, in the beginning of this challenge I told myself that if I miss a day I would catch up and not give that day a skip. If I miss one day, I write stories the next day. After this long into the challenge, I find myself dedicated to this project, making it a lot easier to make time for it.
7. What advice do you have for anyone struggling to get into writing regularly?
The first golden piece of advice I can give is to write one sentence every day, even if the sentence you write is absolute rubbish. An absurdly simple challenge - who can’t write a single sentence? However, in doing so, you have taken the hardest step and started writing. I believe any writer will find it much harder to leave their writing once they have started.
8. What is your biggest distraction and how do you overcome this?
My biggest distraction is almost every other activity I enjoy. Watching a movie or a YouTube video etc, are always desires that cross the mind. On working days I push these activities to the evening where I will do only that and no writing. As much as I love to write, I still need to take a break from it and by giving myself that break I will be inspired when I’m working the next day. It is simply another habit I got into.
9. You Favorite quote?
“A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity, an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty” - Winston Churchill
10. You also teach writing. How has teaching helped you develop as a writer, if at all.
Teaching has helped solidify some rules that I always followed. How to create a character, how to develop a character, how to build a world and so on. All while doing this I knew I explored different ways of improving my writing. I would say it has improved my writing in making it more organized, but it all comes down to imagination and the avid desire to write something exciting.
11. Three favourite books you would gift to a friend.
The Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole, Sherlock Holmes: A Study in Scarlet and Jules Verne's Journey to the Centre of the Earth
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