How To Write Faster And Never Get Writer's Block With Michaelbrent Collings



hi everyone I'm Johanna pen from the creative pen comm and today I'm here with Michael Brent Collings hi Michael Brent hello how are you doing oh it's great to have you back on the show just a little introduction Michael Brent is an award-winning and internationally best-selling horror novelist a number one bestseller in the US and also a screenwriter and martial artist he was on the show yeah and Michael Brent was on the show last year and we talked about writing horror about religion and faith and also about depression and incredibly it we had a lot of fun the most popular episodes last year so Michael Brent is back and we're going to talk about some different things so let's start with an update and as a full time creative what has changed for you in the last year what creative projects have you been creative projects yes I thought you're asking about like my hairline which is always sort of a steadily receding thing creative projects I have written a number of books I typically write anywhere from 4 to 8 books a year so I've written since the last time we spoke I wrote the house that death built which is my newest release I wrote the sword Chronicles which is a why a fantasy and I finished off a zombie series called the the colony saga and I think I did a couple other things but I honestly they all kind of blend together I've written like 40 books in the last 5 years and they all just kind of smoosh after a certain point I know I'm struggling and I'm only on that like number seventeen or something and you you you feel like a bit of a dick when people say how many books have you written and you're like um you say I'm not sure and it's not because of how many I've written it's just because I'm a writer and I'm not good with numbers that's true but we're gonna come back to your output and talk a bit about writer's block or lack of but I wanted to ask you well first of all I wanted to say a big congratulations for your nomination for the Bram Stoker Awards – yes – I lead them out so superior achievement in a novel for the deep which I personally loved and I really want to write a scuba-diving it's a great inspiration for me and also superior achievement in a young adult novel for the ride-along so this is two indie published books alongside Stephen King Jonathan Maybury so first of all tell us how that's for how that feels it was really a surprise I mean they have a preliminary ballot where they kind of announced these are the ones that are in contention for the real ballot or I guess you're British so the real ballot and and I didn't expect to get past that I mean it was nice to get recognized on the preliminary ballot and then because i troll google for my own name periodically i pulled it up and I wasn't even looking for the bram stoker it was just completely off my radar and it pulled up that I had gotten a nomination and I thought oh probably for the ride-along because there weren't as many young adult novels and because superior achievement in a novel is really hotly contested and so I pulled it up and I honestly had just about pooped my pants I was just so surprised that's interesting so did you not enter the books yourself well you you always have I mean I'm a member of the Horror Writers Association although I have to I have to up my dues so I guess technically I'm not right now but you let people know that they're out there and then the other people kind of do what they want you're not really supposed to solicit votes and I didn't you know I didn't go around and so see social media going if you'd vote for me that you know so it was nice to see it show up but it wasn't I don't have the time or the wherewithal to put a huge marketing blitz into the Bram Stoker award I'm too busy kind of selling books on a day to day basis no absolutely it's it seems a really big thing like I read a little bit of horror you know your books and some other and stephen king and Jonathan Mayberry actually but that he's good he's really good I love the Joe Leger series yes it's so iord but I want on what I wanted to ask you was you know many people criticize indie books on quality and you're writing award-nominated you've won other awards though haven't you as well so you are an award-winning novelist so how do you write an award-winning book or what are your tips for writing books that can win awards you know for it that's a great question for Indies especially because when I'm talking about how to get independent books recognized and get them spotted amongst this vast sea of self-published stuff what I tell people is you don't want to be as good as the publisher the traditionally published books they have that space totally occupied so the space you need to create is to be better and and I really mean that so if you have a choice between a Stephen King book and a Michael Brent Collings book the first thing you're gonna see is the cover and so you need your covers to be more popping more eye-catching more interesting more innovative than the covers you'll see on a traditionally published novel and so oddly enough I think the closest kind of correlation would be sort of a civil rights movement when I loved dr. Martin Luther King and one of the things that he kind of seemed to emphasize was you don't want to go out and be militant and be nasty about stuff you want to just be quietly excellent as a human being and I think that applies in all areas of life and in particularly to indie publishing as soon as you get out there and start screaming iemon I'm just as good as you are listen to me people automatically just kind of go yeah and they're gone so you need to put out a quality product and say hey read the first five pages and if it sucks throw it away and I've got my big boy pants on and I won't be offended because that's my job as the writer is to is to listen to what you want and if I didn't achieve that it's my fault and once you have that mindset it's much easier to approach people because there is that bias but if you if you literally if you tell them look I've had bad reviews they didn't hurt poor little feelings and I'm willing to accept your criticism the same way I would accept any other business decision and as soon like I say as soon as you do that people go ok well I'll take a chance but then you really do have to knock knock their socks off and you know this you have to you can't say well I'll be good enough for a 99-cent purchase you have to say I'm going to give them a $15.00 experience and then sell it to him for 5 bucks and and that's how you get an audience you give them value for what they're giving to you yeah absolutely and I agree on that kind of quiet excellence thing again you know again we talked about religion before but you know it's pretty similar if you were a person at faith you don't want to go around preaching it you want to live it and then right people will recognize that and they'll ask you you know oh and eventually they will ask you about it rather than you having to kind of preach it so I agree with you on that side but I wondered I mean obviously you have friends in the traditional publishing arena and you know with organizations like the horror writers have you seen the attitude towards Indies has has it completely shifted now did you see some backlash no absolutely not I was actually the the horror writer is just last year agreed to accept independent authors as members of their group and and there's still a lot of pushback I was actually one of the people that drafted the new rules or they I guess I technically I provided the recommendations for new rules to the committee and there were people that said no unless you have sold to a publisher you are not a real writer which I thought was ludicrous especially based on some of the crapola I've read from tradition oh and you know it's true they have they do have gatekeepers and I and I never will mock traditional publishing as as a whole I mean there's some bad apples out there but they have a place and if I got the right offer I'd take it I have nothing against it but there definitely is a very strong probably still majority faction that says no if you just click lashauwn Kindle it's not for realsies you know and and they're not willing to even give it a chance and and again I bear them no ill will for that because there is a lot of dreck out there and after you've dated 18 weirdos you really are kind of careful about the next person you asked out on a date you know and and it's the same thing with books because you're establishing a relationship with these books and you bring them into your heart and you open up to them and then they stomp around and they they piss all over you with crappy grammar mistakes and bad spelling and and all of this stuff which is it's actually why one of the first things I say to new writers is this is a great rule to learn your first book sucks don't publish it don't think you're an exception to the rule you just wrote crap and that's okay because crap is the first thing you have to write to get good so again I don't I don't bear anyone any ill-will sometimes like I do kind of go I've worked really hard for my reputation and if I come to somebody and say would you read my book and they say no it's self pub and I'm sitting there going like I've got major award nominations and I sell more books than you ever will you know and at some point you do kind of get frustrated but there and hope that those people sometimes change their mind ya know exactly I agree okay so let's talk about actually making a living writing which you do and you mentioned there the four to eight books a year that you're writing so what does your writing process look like right now and maybe how has it changed over time has it go faster for exam well yeah when I was a kid you know all I could output was one or two Crayola stories a day and clearly I'm a little better than that now you know it's really interesting because my people asked like what do you do and the secret is I go in and I sit down and I start typing and I don't stop for eight or ten hours and some days that means I I type total crap but you know what that's what god invented the delete key for so it's okay that I write total crap and even in writing the total crap I learn how how to be better the next day a huge mistake that people make is they sit there and they write something terrible and then they use that terrible thing as an excuse to not write the next time because what if I do it again and that's fine I mean if you look at an Olympic pole-vaulter how many times does that dude hit the bar when he's trying for a world record attempt hits it all the time and and that's fine that's part of the process you've got to screw up in order to to really excel so you mentioned there that you go in the presumably the room and a specific room and you write for eight to ten hours a day so do you not plot or plan your books that you like what they call app answer no I I do outline but here here's another thing because we're kind of moving into into a writing process and how not to have writer's block and all that thing a lot of people they miss construe a critical element of writing and they think writing is he is totally equal to typing and unless I'm typing I'm not writing but the reality is writing is this whole gamut of interesting processes so if I go in and I say I'm writing for eight hours a day that means some days I'm outlining and I get three pages done and some days like today I'm brainstorming which means I'm sitting down and watching anime okay and and I'm just sitting there with like a piece of paper or a pad of paper and just writing as fast as I can these ideas that come out and that's writing I write every single day for all this time and some days when I sit down and I actually start typing yes I can hit up to fifteen sixteen thousand words a day if I'm really pushing myself but if I don't type that much I'm not beating myself up because I am either critically watching a TV show to find out how I can put to use things that they do well or how I can do better things that they suck or I'm writing or I'm reading a book I'm thinking one of the things that I very often do my wife says excuse me what are you gonna do today and I say I'm going for an H your walk there's this really beautiful nature hike near our house and I just walk for a couple hours again I have my pad so I'm I'm not just fooling around it is for a real professional purpose and I think that's another difference is there's there is a slim line between that and then just kind of putting your feet up on the porch watching the Sun go down and thinking writerly thoughts which is a huge danger because then you're not actually working but as long as you're working on your piece it's writing and it counts yeah and I think that the problem like I was reflecting on how the problems with my first novel one of the things that you thought people often do with that first novel is they read a lot of books about writing they go to a lot of workshops on writing and they yeah listen to a lot of audios about writing intentionally don't move past that point say for example you mentioned they're watching TV shows as learning about story and quite critically watching TV shows I gave up TV at that point like five years ago but now whatever it was five years ago now I do watch more TV again because there are some great shows on Netflix and Amazon Prime and all that type of thing so I guess how do people know when to stop putting that stuff into their brain and when to stop walking and when to stop finding ideas and when to actually you know get get the work done well okay so research is a great thing but it becomes a four-letter word it becomes this tremendous crutch that we use to avoid writing and the reality is there's always more to be learned and that's wonderful but there's always more to be learned and that sucks because we use it as this excuse well I don't know enough about guns I don't know enough about submarines I don't know enough about scuba diving and what if the world's expert at scuba diving reads my book and realizes I'm a fraud and we kind of bind ourselves into this mentality but the reality is we're creating fake worlds we're lying for a living we're a conman women and so all a good con artist needs is enough facts to lie convincingly and as soon as you find yourself at that position start start typing start creating something similarly if you are watching a TV show again I'm sitting here with a pad in hand and I go oh a giant monster that spews molten lava and has parent issues that's great and so I'll write monster with oedipal complex you know and so I'm actually trying to transmute what I'm seeing into something I can do and not stealing it necessarily but saying this is a great springboard and as soon as you then sit there this is how most people watch TV yep you know because it's a very encompassing medium and so it's very easy to kind of go cold and just let it wash through us and as soon as you do that you're you're you're you should not be sitting there thinking okay I'm gonna watch TV you should be sitting there thinking I'm gonna get excited today I'm gonna watch a great show and it's gonna help me go to completely new places and as soon as you're kind of out of that mindset now you're just entertaining yourself and that's not your job if you want this for a job you can't just sit back and be entertained and this is gonna ruin television watching for you and for your spouse because my wife she knows like well watch a mystery and I'll go he did it third frame in you know and she just sits there and turns to me and goes you a-hole because she and now she's doing it she's going up he did it and she still turns and goes you a-hole because it's all my fault and so every time I'm watching a show now I really am looking for cool tidbits and it's a really fun way to live and it trains you to look for interesting moments everywhere because if you can look for cool stuff in a television show which is designed to sort out deaden you when you're driving down the street all of a sudden you're gonna start saying that is a creepy warehouse I wonder what's in that warehouse and then because you're a writer writers get to do this you walk up to the warehouse and knock on the door and they open it and you say I'm not a terrorist I'm a writer can I see inside your your warehouse and they go sure you know and so the secret really is being engaged as long as you're engaged it's great and then as long as you feel like you have enough information to get started get started because chances are the world expert is never gonna read your book and all you have to do is fake out the masses who are smart and you need to do a good job but you don't need to be the world expert you just need to be more expert than they are yeah absolutely and I think that that curiosity trusting that curiosity is something that I didn't have at the beginning you know after 13 years or whatever it was in a corporate job you know you lose your your creativity and you just I think you it's interesting I think you lose your trust in that curiosity that says I'm interested in this notice this it's almost like you have to train your brain to start noticing it don't you yeah and the older you are here's here's what I think is the real problem it's not like a corporate life but it's that the older we are the more asking questions costs us my three-year-old I say don't do that why because this why because this what go to bed you know and at some point she can outlie me because she's infinitely curious and then we get older and we get more people saying leave me alone you're asking too many questions and then we're in our 20s 30s 40s and we say what about this and they go don't you know that and now we've been taught that asking questions marks us as as fools and what we need to say is that's not true you know nobody learns more faster than these kids because they ask why and so I literally you have to be able to say I'm a child again and it's not just part saying I'm a child again isn't just like oh how wonderful the world is it's wondering stuff and I do I literally I'll pull off the side of the road my family hates traveling with me because I'll pull off to the side of the road and I'll just run up to a building and I'll say asks do you have a farm what's that like and the person looks at me like I'm an idiot until they realize I'm really interested and people gravitate to that interest because everyone wants to talk about themselves and interestingly the more fascination you can have with things and people the more people are going to be fascinated by you because they sense a person who has a deep appreciation for who they are and that comes across in your books although I would say that as a kind of chronic introvert I never liked my research process basically doesn't involve talking to people it involves reading a lot of nonfiction biography a lot of you know technical stuff or like I'm reading some stuff on war photography at the moment because I want to write a character who's a war photographer right and traveling places and you know researching that way so I think if people listening like I couldn't go up to a farmer and ask about that you don't it doesn't have to be that way but you need some way you need some way to get the input don't you let's talk a bit more about writer's block because I always feel when people email me and say I've got writer's block I'm like you just haven't put enough stuff in your head because for it to come out again you have to put it in so yeah what's your interpretation of what people call writer's block okay so first of all there's a misconception and there's a misnomer the misconception is this so picture you've been pulled over by a police officer and you know you do that whole thing where your butt like clenches and you rise up six inches in your seat because you're terrified of what's gonna happen take a book and he says do you know how fast you were going and you do you were going 117 miles an hour in a 7 mile zone and then he starts writing and then he just closes it and says you know I'm just not feeling it today I must have block and he walks away right and so this never happens and if you're gonna be a professional writer you don't have the luxury of saying I have writer's block anymore then there can be accountants block or lawyers block or doctor block you know oh let's stop the surgery I'm having gallbladder doctor block you have to do this now that's the misconception so get over writer's block because you're not allowed the the Miss perception of writer's block is it's not that you can't write it's that everyone has this little one of my teachers called it a crap bird he actually called it something else but I'm editing for content so he calls it this crap bird and you put your hands down to write and and before you can write you have a concept you have an idea or a series of words and right as you're putting your fingers down the craft word the crap bird goes those suck and you immediately pull your fingers back off the keyboard and so writer's block it's not that we don't have words it that it's that there's something inside of us that's saying don't write these words they're terrible and sometimes that's the case but you know what terrible words are better than no words at all I would much rather have a world where people speak in elegantly and imperfectly than a world where no one speaks at all and so when we talk about writer's block part of the way of getting through it is writing gobbledygook and I do that some days and that but the thing is you're gonna as you write gobbledygook you're gonna find more and more all of a sudden you start writing wonderfully and if you're not it's not a writing issue it is a plot issue and that's where a lot of people get hung up to again if you're having a plotting problem just working through it sometimes it's the best way but another thing is again typing is not the end-all be-all of writing so if you're having a plot issue that's fine that's part of writing think about it wonder about it worry about it that again I was a lawyer and there was a lot of times where I sat in front of my computer going how am I going to explain this to a jury and it wasn't lawyers block it was part of the process of getting together a good case so if you're sitting here going how am I gonna get my hero out of this situation that's not writer's block that's pondering and that's fine now if you find you truly can't get your hero out of that situation again write crap type out and then God reach down and saved him Deus Ex boy and you know what all of a sudden you realize well God can't save him but a hell Derwood well there's no helicopter in this story page 3 he looked up and saw a helicopter and now you know you can layer in the answer so getting through writer's block really it's getting out of your own way and again I like to liken this to everything about writing is pole-vaulting it's a very good analogy and these Olympic pole-vaulter is when they're running they don't go left foot right foot left foot right foot plant the pull-up in heels you know they just do it and that's because they've practiced they've practiced and they fall in and they've made missteps and when the final moment comes they just get out of their own way and suddenly they're on the other side of the rod thing with use words good they're on the other side and they've passed the test and that's very similar for a lot of people that have writer's block just start writing any old bloody thing you feel like you know he was inside with the zombies oh crap what do I do and suddenly a cuckoo bird walked in this isn't making any sense shut up crap bird and the cuckoo bird said there's a way out okay so we're not gonna have a cuckoo bird but now we have somebody who shows up and we can layer him in earlier and the problem solved and it's all solved by just typing any old stupid thing it's the best remedy for writing black writer's block yeah it's a good point and I had Dave and Morelle on the podcast a while back who wrote first blood Rambo and 40 other books small thing yeah a couple of small things and he said he just writes a letter to himself as he's sitting there so he'll be like yeah like you say this is a stupid idea but what you know what could happen what are the 15 things that could happen next David well you know and actually just uses that letter to kind of decide so a couple of things there they lay it the layering in the kind of what some people might call foreshadowing I think that's something that early writers don't realize either as you said you come up with the idea and then you have to go back and just add a few things in like tiny little things yeah earlier on like give them a sack or something so they can take something out of the knapsack later on right yeah I do that a lot I often have flashlights as you call them out torches always getting that wrong so that was one thing I said the other thing I wanted to ask you about because you know you you enjoy a good laugh but you won't you write horror is taking everything a bit too seriously especially with the award-winning stuff so do you think that some people struggle with writing yeah because it's all just a bit too serious probably because again they're like people are saying I've got to achieve this huge result in this perfect moment and you know human existence isn't a series of perfect moments it's a series of really banal moments that are punctuated by amazing moments and I think that we put we definitely put too much pressure on ourselves certainly me I do have this I suffer this when I'm writing I'm like I've got to make this better my last book didn't do as good as I wanted it to so I've got to put it over the top and that really gets in the way of the story because huge you want to be writing something that's fun for you first of all and yeah I think one thing that I have noticed you become an award winner and and I hope this hasn't happened to me but a lot of authors become Award winners and they become panelists at big Comic Cons and they start teaching and all of a sudden they stop writing and it's because they've become so wise they can no longer learn anything and again this goes back to the curiosity because you know if you're the world expert on writing and you're a teacher and you're amazing you can't run up to the guy on the side of the on the side of the road and go like what's it like to sell fruit because that does not fit with the gravitas of your current station and so yes no matter what you're just a writer and and something that helps me with that is I I don't have you know people talk about killing your babies and letting go and all this stuff and I don't ascribe to that theory I'm making Big Macs I am making hammers and hopefully they bring a bit of joy to whoever is consumed and then hopefully they come back and buy another one but I'm just doing something that's a product that I want to be proud of but it is not world peace it's a freaking book and hopefully with that book you can change somebody's life for the better but that doesn't mean you have to change them momentously you just have to be an improving and improving factor on their lives and that's sufficient and you'll know if you're doing that and if you have the capacity to look at a child and smile and play with him or her or if you have the capacity to visit your parents if you have the capacity to smile at coworkers you can do that don't stress about it you will accomplish it and you don't have to be this crazed freak of goal-oriented weirdness while you're writing that's part of your business model but while you're writing it's very different and you should you should be able to enjoy yourself and sit back and laugh and say I can't believe I do this yeah and I think that gets easier the more books you have right because at the beginning you do care like newer writers often do compare the having a book to having a baby now you have kids your wife had them I'm not the same I'm child free happily child free but when people say that I'm like I think that metaphor works for maybe the first three or four books but when you get to 40 books it is not that you're looking at these as your children is it you know you're actually looking at the more as kind of employees who work for you yeah and hopefully that's that's great and they're hopefully really good employees that are fun to be around because if they're not you fire them and you don't get you go don't get to the end of the book before you fire them you fire them as soon as they're unpleasant but yeah that's really great you want to create a good work environment and part of that is a fun book but but you really you can't take yourself Susu it's like these these professional ball players they that always kill me they get up afterwards they go yeah this was the most grueling game we've ever encountered and we trained for it I'm going you're playing a freaking game dude for a living for a living paid a lot of money right and and it's the same with an even if you're not getting paid a lot I mean you're doing something you love of your own free will and you get to derive pleasure from it and that's such a rarity in today's world so just bask in it a little bit and I do want to come back on the sports metaphor as well actually because do you think I mean when when someone says like Stephen King people think generally I guess of the shining would probably be like if people say oh what did he write that might come up but me mainly because it was a film I think yeah you know and I think of the stand he's written a lot of books I can't say how many and that's the one I would say you know I've read a few of your books but the one that sticks in my head is is the deep the one that's up for the award yeah is it it's an awesome but so do you think that and this is just a recognition of the number of shots you take at the goal so whatever the goal is you know the pinnacle of the hit book like The Shining for example how many shots do you have to take because there is the JK Rowling side but of course she tried a lot and got rejected a lot but do you think it's more a case of writing a lot of books and something might stick out and you never know what that's gonna be yeah definitely because you know people want to be that that first out of the gate they want to be the debut writer who who changes history like JK Rowling Suzanne Collins people like that but the reality is can anybody tell me really what they've done is a follow up I mean Cuckoo's calling was kind of middle-of-the-road and people thought it was okay until they found out it was JK Rowling and then like holy crap does the best thing ever and generally speaking when you just jump right out of the gate you don't know how to repeat it and you don't want a one hit career because those people end up living in shacks and planning how to bomb places you know like they end up really miserable and unhappy and what you want to do is practice practice practice practice write book book book so that when you do start making money it's on kind of a gradual climb and you know how to repeat the process you don't want to make a bunch of money start living like a king and then next year have nothing you're you know there's too many artists that suffer that fate achieve the same result time and again again like the pole-vaulter the person who wins the gold medal isn't necessarily the best in the world it is the person who can do it right the most regularly and that's a very different thing so you don't want to be JK Rowling necessarily you want to be a person who takes five ten years and then after that ten years has a career that will last them for their life and will be able to find happiness in the thing in doing for a living the thing that you love and so yeah I'm a big proponent of practice practice practice practice and you'll have big hits and you'll have small hits but you'll be able to make money on all of them and that's a much more stable and pleasant space to occupy yeah and I that gradual climb that's my experience I haven't had the very couch you know I say yet you never know but it doesn't really matter because the steady income climb with each book is what actually gives you that steady base I will come back on JK Rowling and say I love her new stuff I didn't like how he Fossett her right now both books are excellent and the Casual Vacancy was brilliant to be British because it's basically it takes that quintessential British village and just rips it to shreds is brilliant so anyway that's one JK Rowling but I wanted to just change at a quick I mean we're coming to getting out of time but I did want to ask you about screenwriting because you also sell screenplays and I think I've been talking about this for probably 18 months now but I I recently went to an adaptation workshop I've bought final draft I actually yeah exactly it's real it's real and I also tried I started with one of my books I started trying to adapt it and it was fun like I really enjoyed using final draft technically I think it's right awesome so I'm really keen to do this so I wanted to ask is it better to try and adapt an existing book in the hope really I guess that would get made or get bought and in some way help the sales of that book or write something from scratch that is more suited to a screenplay that you probably have no chance of necessarily making any money on but it might be better well to start with you have almost no chance of making money whether you do the adaptation or you do the regular one book if with an annotation you're making money on the book yeah so so I have just to give people a horrible horrible intro to screenwriting I have I'm a member of the Writers Guild of America which is kind of the most prestigious writing group in the world and to get into it you have to have sold some scripts you have to have made some movies first of all it is harder statistically for real it's harder to get into that group than to be a major league baseball player and then when I first went there we had like an introductory meeting and they said look to your right and we did and they said that person isn't going to be here in five years look to your left and we did and they said that person will be gone in ten and so one out of three people who are the best of the best continue to make money in this business it's really hard that being said personally I do a bit of both I mean most of my books I either adapt to a screenplay or some of my books start out as a screenplay and then I adapt them to a book so they sort of grow up together and then in between I also write standalone screenplays because screenplays they have a very different sort of feel to them not just technical writing but they they do different things they have different purposes the the three basic kinds of storytelling are prose screenplay and stage play and they all have different strengths the strengths of a stage play is man-on-man it's two people interacting the strengths of a book of prose is man to himself and I'm sorry I'm being sexist so I'm just using it for shorthand a person to him or herself and internally talking about what's happening and the strength of a screenplay is a person to the outside and that's why you don't have twister the stage-play you know because they have different strengths and so sometimes you don't want to add adapt your book because you're gonna find out it's a big talking head show and that is the kiss of death for a screenplay similarly again you have twister and it makes kind of a poor novel adaptation because it's not about a guy who's thinking about the realities of what's happening even in an adventure book it's like usually comes down to how does this affect me internally the struggle I have the morality of it the personal questions oh and then I'm gonna shoot a terrorist whereas in a screenplay it's just boom boom boom and the terrorist is down and I save my daughter and everybody's good and so you're gonna work in different kind of fields with different subject matter so if you come up with a great idea for a book that you can turn into a screenplay do it monetize it all the avenues of a possible money-making you can get it's a good thing if you have a great idea that you realize can only be a screenplay and you love this idea right the freaking screenplay because it's gonna be wonderful you know it's gonna be something that's great and so you do want to have for me personally I found it very helpful to have variable income income streams so I do write screenplays I do write books I show up in short story anthologies again I'm making a Big Mac I'm making a junior Big Mac I'm making the quarter pounder thing you know they're different products they're different products out of the same kind of milieu the same kind of production house and I love screenwriting but it is also very different than book writing and just because you know how to put a book together and you have a three-act structure don't say that I can do a screenplay now because it is communicating with a completely different language set I like in book writing to surgery if you screw up too badly your patient dies or in other words your reader goes away and you don't get their money anymore screenwriting is laser surgery there is much less margin and that makes sense because a book you hand someone four or five hundred pages and say give me five bucks and a screenplay you hand someone a hundred loosely written pages and say give me enough to buy a house and that's why it's more of it's a bigger gamble but the and the odds are so tiny but if it pays off it can super super pay off and yes I have been more of a genre question then because what I'm struggling with now is I want to now adapt all of my books this is what I'm struggling with so I have for example one day in Budapest which can be a standalone political thriller about the rise of the far-right in Eastern Europe very now very immigrant you know racism and Eastern Europe's it can be completely standalone no supernatural mainstream action adventure thriller right big-budget they were blow stuff up then on the other side of the kind of the end I've got risen gods which is a horror book well dark fantasy thriller that I wrote with Jay thorne who you've been who you've worked with before awesome guy yeah awesome guy and this has demons and like a lot of supernatural stuff and it's set in New Zealand and and so I'm like okay these are two very different things so I pretty much understand how I would write a political thriller in a screenplay because you know I just take the Bourne Ultimatum and and have a look at how that's done you know is that which is a wonderful screenplay by the way read that script yeah well I've got that and I understand that and I've got something else that could be like gone girl and I've got that script and that's great but the written gods with this kind of supernatural side and giving you right horror with demons and stuff – how do you I mean do you just literally write demon rises from the ground or do you have to do a lot more work around that supernatural side well okay so in in movies it's actually tough because as soon as you show the demon the movies over really because everyone goes oh it's a guy in a suit or even worse oh yeah yeah and so I mean if you're doing like a horror comedy that's fine because people don't mind a bit cheese but yeah when I'm writing a supernatural thriller or a supernatural horror you definitely have to write that very carefully and you can't describe the demon head-to-toe because that's the special effects guy's job but again because screenwriting is laser surgery what you're gonna say is you know a demon rises from the ground dripping with a car and looking like he just killed Satan himself and so there you've got kind of a really peppy piffy one-liner and it should set up an image in the other person's head and they're gonna run with it but yeah as soon as you get to Supernatural it's really kind of hinky it's it's difficult to work with because you're gonna have this very clear image and no matter what that's something that is hard to get used to is you write a book and it's you and an editor and a cover designer write a movie and it's all thousand of those people whose names crawl past at the end and every single one of them has a complete and utter power to screw up your movie and so you have to be really careful how you describe things and how you build them in because otherwise they're just gonna get tossed out or replaced with something else and that's a reality of the collaborative affective movies so yeah writing demons writing monsters is very tough because again unless you keep them in the shadows it's gonna be a terrible movie and every single genre has its pitfalls I will say if you're gonna start writing screenplays horror is a great place to start because people are always looking for it it's got a built-in audience it's cheap with a witch they love like your political your political thriller the first thing I would do with it is make sure it's set in downtown Idaho because like going too fast right and people are gonna look at a first script buy a first screen right first-time screenwriter and they're gonna say do we really want to spend a hundred million dollars on this unknown quantity but if you write a horror story that said in the woods the person you know the producer looks and goes it's gonna cost 65 cents to make we can risk that so be cognizant of your budget for sure ya know it's interesting okay last question and because not that I'm ambitious at all none of us are but my ideal director and studios and everything for risen gods would be Peter Jackson and wetter in New Zealand because you know he does that kind of stuff oh okay yeah they do okay plus he's done kind of he's done horror stuff he's done these are supernatural he does he does grisly creatures and he does New Zealand so this is kind of what I was thinking so if you have someone in mind I'm not saying it has to be so Jackson but do you ever recommend trying to pitch directly or do you recommend going through an agent who might have relationships well if you okay the answer to that is good luck pitching directly they're never gonna talk to you the way Hollywood works it's on relationships so the way I sold my first script was I spent 10 years fooling around with people until I finally met the right one at the right time who was willing to make my movie but the reality is even him I I was I stayed on top of his radar for four or five years so that he would keep my screenplay on his desk and when his boss finally walked in and said I want to make you ghost story he was like oh Michael Brent just emailed the other day I just thought of him here take this one so you're probably not gonna get to pitch to your wish yeah dream director or cinematographer or anybody what you're gonna do is you're gonna meet somebody who's hairdresser also knows the hairdresser you know and you're gonna give him to your screenplay and hope it winds up over there I was just really funny story I was how to put this I was in a room where you do a lot of thinking and maybe some reading yes okay I was trying not to be a crass American so I was on the toilet and my wife knocks on the door and I was like yeah and she goes i someone's on the phone and I said can it wait I'm occupied at the moment and she said it's jean-claude Van Damme and I said slide the phone under the door and so me and Jacey had this really interesting conversation where you know I'm just not in a position to normally talk to this guy but you do what you have to and the reason he had it was because I knew the tutor of his children and I handed this tutor one of my scripts and the tutor handed it to his wife and his wife handed it to Jean Claude and he called up and said I love this movie you know and and I didn't know him and I wasn't going to meet him but you make all of these connections leading to more connections and getting a screenplay made is like coral growing it's an accretive process it's one little bit at a time you know the Great Barrier Reef is this enormous structure but it is made out of the bones of micro mono cellular creatures and so you're gonna meet somebody who doesn't know anybody but he knows somebody who might know somebody and so you meet that person and you meet another person and after 10 years yes you finally meet somebody who knows your director or a manager who knows the director if you can get an agent early on or a manager they do slightly different things you probably want to because they're gonna be out they're gonna be able to whore for you better than you can but definitely start making these introductions to people who know people who know people because down the line it's gonna bear fruit and that's the way Hollywood works you even when they love your script you always have what I call the a-hole meeting which is where they they bring you in and sit down and talk to you about nothing at all because they're trying to decide if you're a tool or if they like you so Hollywood is really it's very relationship oriented and the more relationships you can accrue the better off you'll be mmm fantastic advice okay I could carry on talking to you for ages but we'll have to stop there so where can people find you and your books and everything online easiest way is just to type in my name my first name is Michael Brent and if you type it in Google you I'm the only Michael Brent in the world and you'll get my website and you'll get my Amazon page and my burns and Noble page and all that stuff or obviously you can go to Amazon or Barnes & Noble and type that in and my website is Michael Brent Collings comm and again if you type that into Google and butcher it completely nobody else has that name and Google will get you there fantastic thanks so much for your time I confront that with so much fun thank you I always enjoy hanging out with you

42 thoughts on “How To Write Faster And Never Get Writer's Block With Michaelbrent Collings

  1. I know this is a couple of years old now but I just want to point out that anyone who wants to adapt their book, should try. It's part of the craft. PLUS, with all the new avenues of tv viewing coming out; netflix, hulu, Amz prime, etc. Who's to say the market won't explode just like the indie market did in 2010. Personally, I'd rather be prepared with a few screenplays along with my novels to show I'm someone who can produce. Go for it!

  2. highly iteresting and inspirational interview. immediately followed MC on Twitter. i especially loved the idea of working yourself through the writer's block. i don't believe such a block exists. just keep writing
    also – building a network and how connections work
    a very valuable video with practical advice

  3. "You have to give readers a $15 dollar experience and sell it to them for $5."

    Love it! I couldn't imagine not writing my best regardless of the price. Just saw this video and learned a lot. I always enjoy The Creative Penn interviews πŸ™‚

  4. His recommende curse for writer's block are spot on, and should be taken on board by any writer suffering from the dreaded block.

  5. A "great springboard" is a very good way to describe how you can get inspiration from scenarios in movies and TV.

  6. Studying plots of TV shows – and even movies – is a very good step for a writer to take, as you can learn a lot from character study, sub plots etc. This only further bears out the often-quoted suggestion that a writer should be like a sponge, meaning that he should absorb things all the time, whether from TV, movies, or real life.

  7. Have considered joing the Horror Writers' Association myself, although it would have to be the FREE option at the moment, as I try to build up my income as a struggling horror writer.

  8. As a horror writer myself, I take my hat off to any fellow author who gains success with his work, something by no means easy in the highly competitive world of fiction writing.

  9. Wonderful interview. Some inspiring thoughts and expressed so simply. Loved it. I agree that being a writer makes all entertainment a critical thinking exercise. Dale E. Manolakas, Legal Thriller Author http://www.dalemanolakas.com/

  10. I have always thought good writing was good lying. Maybe that's why my favorite characters are liars and rogues

  11. As far as writer's block, its not like a job block, its that writing is self generated and writing requires a lot of energy. I agree about the plot issue…getting stuck is the block. I have computer fatigue and solve that by writing by hand. Indie authoring is too much computer for me. when you include marketing and all the other stuff,

  12. Always enjoyable to watch Joanna. Her optimism is contagious, and her guests are excellent and provide a wealth of information for nascent writers.

  13. Hi Joanna. I write screenplays and I highly recommend you write the book and let Hollywood come after you. It takes millions and millions of dollars to make a movie -very few get through. But books do! Write the book!!!

  14. Does anyone know what the thing is around Michaelbrent's neck, is it a throat microphone? And if so, what the brand is? I'm thinking they are just fancy bluetooth headphones, but wasn't sure.

  15. Your interview with Michaelbrent Collings is incredible. His knowledge has secured my idea of being a writer. Thanks, Johanna and Michaelbrent!

  16. When he writes his comedy, ' How to write a novel' I'll buy it. Why isn't he writing comedy? Layering in is my favorite ploy. I had a jacket and 3 $20 bills to seed in prior chapters.

  17. I am so glad he mentioned television and movies being ruined. I wondered if other writers felt that way. I find myself identifying the formula they're using to tell their story instead of simply sitting back and enjoying the ride. And yes, I think once you figure out their formula, the ending is usually ruined lol.

  18. I love this interview, might even end up watching it again. Funny thing too, I live in New Zealand, and I actually grew up with and am still friends with one of Peter Jacksons top guys, no name dropping here πŸ˜‰ thats kind of the 2 degrees of connection thing right there.

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