Welcome to April’s Featured Blog, something I’ll be posting here on Lit and Scribbles most of the month to introduce all of you to perhaps some new future friends and get to know a little more about your blogging community.
Time to get to know Phil, writer of the blog Phillip M. McCollum (once known as Beatbox32). He’s another fellow aspiring writer who frequently features great writing advice. Why don’t you introduce yourself, Phil.
PM: I was hatched from the sleepy, but always interesting Mojave desert in Southern California. I currently live in Orange County and spend the majority of my day looking at network packets and plugging in cables. When I’m not working the day job, I divide my time between writing fiction, composing electronic music, playing video games and spending time with my patient and lovely wife.
J: When did you first start blogging and what is your blog about?
PM: I’ve been blogging on and off (mostly off) for about ten years. My first couple of blogs where technical in nature, mainly talking about my work in the IT field. I’ve long since abandoned those and after the urging of a good friend, started my currently blog back in November of 2011. I had been talking about wanting to write and he suggested I use a blog as a platform. Nearly one-and-a-half years later, I’m still going at. I love writing fiction, talking about writing fiction, and just meeting so many wonderful people in the process.
PM: I recently wrote about a true story from my youth, Lanes Lane, and found it to be very cathartic. It was also fun to write because the story was already formulated. I just needed to make it interesting and focus on using the right words to convey my feelings at the time.
J: What type of stories do you write?
PM: I typically write high-action epic fantasy, which some people say is YA, but others say there’s too much sexual innuendo and violence for it. I’ve been experimenting with other genres, such as horror and drama, by writing novellas.
J: Protagonist excluded, which of your characters is your favorite?
PM: On one of my aborted novels attempts, I had a character named Elio Cleft. He played a sort of sidekick role to the protagonist. They were both prisoners in a labor camp. What I liked about him was he was a big, strong guy but a gentle soul. I always enjoy characters that have some sort of opposing characteristics.
J: Who are your favorite authors?
PM: My most favorite authors would probably be Stephen King and Mark Twain. Stephen King is, well, the king of character. His plots are interesting as well as his sense of description, but his characters are tops. Mark Twain is just a genius. When I think of a person that is genuinely wise, it’s Mark Twain.
J: What are the last three books you read, and would you recommend them?
PM: Outlining Your Novel: Map Your Way to Success by K. M. Weiland — I would definitely recommend this to anyone tackling a novel. It’s not the end-all, be-all of writing books (none are), but it’s packed with good advice and some hand-holding for new writers. Assyrian by Nicholas Guild — If you are a fan of epic historical fiction, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed with this book. If not, you should probably pass. It’s one of the only pieces of fiction I’ve found focused specifically on the ancient Assyrian empire. It’s very well researched and filled with interesting characters. Education combined with entertainment is always a good thing. Elements of Fiction Writing: Scene and Structure by Jack Bickham — Yup, another writing book. Bickham was a student of Dwight V. Swain, the forefather of the “Scene and Sequel” structure. This book expands upon that subject and the idea of novel structure. Like most other writing books, there is good advice and advice you can likely ignore because it’s so specific to his style of writing. As a student of the craft though, you should always keep an open ear to what others are saying. You never know when a tool might prove useful.
J: Do you listen to music while you write?
PM: It depends. Sometimes I listen to music via last.fm. I have a playlist full of my favorite bands as well as soundtrack compositions. I enjoy the variety, but I also like to choose a certain style of music if I’m looking for just the right mood. If I’m not listening to music, I’m a fan of shutting down the outside world through pink or white noise. One of my favorite noise generators is here.
J: Aside from writing, what are your favorite things to do?
PM: A lot of things—cooking, working out, traveling, gaming, hiking, and composing music to name a few. I try to experience new things from time to time as I find it stimulates the mind and keeps life interesting.
J: Where’s the farthest away from home you’ve traveled?
PM: Luxembourg. I had a lot of travel perks with my previous job. It wasn’t the most exciting country to visit, but it’s the furthest I’ve been.
J: If you could be granted one superpower, which would it be?
PM: Time travel, no doubt. I would love to go back and see loved ones that have passed away. Of course there’s the thought of warning myself about stupid things I’ll end up doing throughout my life, but then I remember that those stupid things helped make me who I am today.
J: What’s the one thing you wish you’d known about writing earlier?
PM: I know a lot of people disagree with this one, but I’ve found that for me, writing everyday has paid off in spades. I feel its helped me improve my skills and maintain momentum. I treat it like physical exercise. The less you do it, the harder it is to get back in the game. The more you exercise your physical and mental muscles, the difficult tasks become easier over time.
J: What advice would you give to new writers getting started on their first story?
PM: Don’t be afraid to write junk. There’s no way around it. You’re gonna do it, so just get it done and fix it during the revision process. Don’t get stuck on fixing your prose the first time through. You need to get your story down before you can know how to fix it correctly.
Hmmm… I’ll have to check out those writing books you mentioned. Say what? One of them is on Kindle? Free sample here I come! I really like, too, how you said don’t be afraid to write junk. So true. And something I need to put beside my computer screen. Sometimes after a long stint of editing, when I get back to creating something new it seems like the old fears come back into play. Just do it! Right?
What do you think? Do you agree with Phil on writing “junk”? Have you ever been to Luxembourg or had a job where travel was one of the perks? Any other questions for Phil? Let him know below.