Monthly Archives: April 2017

Drown the Cat: the Rebel Author’s Guide to Writing Beyond the Rules

I have a nonfiction book coming out this summer from Panverse.

Drown the Cat1 is a somewhat contrarian book on writing, and one that encapsulates my understanding of the craft and my core belief that being true to oneself is the single most important thing any writer or artist needs to do.

Drown the Cat is intended for all writers, especially intermediate-level ones, who already have some grasp of craft but want more. My goal is to help authors transcend formulaic, cookie-cutter fiction. If you want to understand the limitations of all the silly rules and dogma endlessly parroted in writing books and blogs all over the web, this book is for you.

Those who believe — as much of the publishing industry does today — that there’s a template and a formula which can be applied to a novel or screenplay to make it a bestseller, and are okay applying that rigorously to their work rather than trying to be unique and different and true to themselves…well, good luck to them: hell, they might even make money. But that method doesn’t suit me, not one bit. 

My own approach, refined over fifteen years of writing, critiquing, editing, publishing, and mentoring newer authors, is to question all conventional wisdom on the subject. Because, frankly, most of it is bullshit. You do need to know the (few, useful) rules when you begin to write: but in order to become a good writer and produce work that goes beyond the ordinary, you have to see beyond the dogma. You have to put the work and the vision first, and not give a damn about the market. As multiple-Grammy winning Jazz great Branford Marsalis put it,

I don’t care who likes it or buys it. Because if you use that criterion, Mozart would never have written don Giovanni, Charlie Parker would never have played anything but swing music. There comes a point at which you have to stand up and say, this is what I have to do.

My purpose in Drown the Cat is to explore every aspect of the craft from character to critique, tone to theme, suspense to subplot, priming the pump to playing with time. I examine all these and much more from different angles and, occasionally, in greater depth than may be common2. In the process I  intend to raise questions and challenge assumptions at every turn. My point is that if you’re good enough and know what you’re about, you can do just about anything in your book. Literally. What matters is the reader experience: they, not your critique group, agent, or anyone else, are whom you should be writing for. And what readers want is very demonstrably different to what agents, publishers, and many writing book authors and writing bloggers think readers want, or every book published would be a bestseller.

So whether your interest lies in genre or literary fiction, my goal with Drown the Cat is to help you tell your story in your voice and place it before your audience; to bring out your unique vision while adhering to the few rules that actually matter. If my book goes even some small way to achieving that, we’ve succeeded.

Interested? To be informed of the release date and perhaps win a free copy (yes, there will be a free draw!) of Drown the Cat, please click here to sign up to my no-spam, guaranteed-privacy mailing list. You will not be deluged by mail, and only receive at most three or four emails a year.

Thanks, as always, for reading, friends. And please do share or link this post!

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1 For those unfamiliar with the reference, my title, Drown the Cat is a nod to the near-cult book on screenwriting, Save the Cat, which lays down rules and dogma thick as the ash that buried Pompeii. If you want to write a book with all the uniqueness of a supermarket war-porn thriller or a generic Hollywood summer mega-action movie, you’d better buy that instead of my book.

Regular readers of this blog will recognize my approach; indeed, Drown the Cat draws in part from thinking hard on the topic of questioning conventional wisdom, and includes, along with a great deal of entirely fresh content, some material previously published in different form here and elsewhere.

 

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