Home Book news Interview with American penmonkey Chuck Wendig, by Louisa Klein

Interview with American penmonkey Chuck Wendig, by Louisa Klein

by Louisa Klein

This is the first of a series of interviews with professional writers. I’m not talking of J.K. Rowling or Dan Brown, but of those many  professionals who might not make the headlines but are nevertheless
talented and worth reading.
Our first ‘victim’is Chuck Wendig, a writer of many talents, armed with a newborn son, a VERY patient wife, Michelle, and an awful lot of twisted creativity.
He has a website, terribleminds, where, while swearing a lot, he dispenses his writing wisdom to aspiring writers and colleagues penmonkeys.
From the ‘about’ page on his blog, terribleminds:
“Chuck writes because he can do nothing else.
Chuck is a 30-something freelance penmonkey.
He is a novelist:
His novel, Blackbirds,  is repped by Stacia Decker, super-agent of the Donald Maass Literary  Agency.
He is a screenwriter:
He mentored with Stephen Susco (The  Grudge, Grudge 2, Red). He’s written a handful of spec screenplays  both alone and with writing partner Lance Weiler. Their most recent film  effort, HiM, won the Arte France Cinema Award at  CineMart and was recently selected for the Sundance Screenwriters Lab in  January 2010. Together, Weiler and Wendig are also helping to develop  an as-yet-unannounced television property.
He is a short story writer:
He’s had a number of short stories  published across a small array of journals and zines (Not One of  Us, 69 Flavors of Paranoia, Whispers from the Shatterered Forum, The  Town Drunk, etc.).
He is a game designer:
He’s been working in the pen-and-paper  RPG industry for a third of his life (over a decade), and has  contributed to over 85 game books during this time, serving as writer,  developer, or both. He developed, for instance, the entire Hunter:  The Vigil game line for White Wolf Game Studios. He’s done  some work on video game properties, which at present he cannot mention.  He’s contributed script work for web content, which at present he cannot  identify. Don’t even ask him about the Android app.
He is all over the map:
Chuck is considering branching out into  comic books, take-out menus, religious pamphlets, or witty doormats.  Give him a wide berth, as he might be drunk and untrustworthy.
He is on the East Coast:
Wendig currently lives in the wilds of  Pennsyltucky with a wonderful wife and two very cute-but-stupid dogs.”
If I may add: Wendig is completely out of his mind and might sound a little insensitive from time to time, but then you read an entire post about his cute baby-son or his beloved old dog recently diagnosed with cancer, and you realize that, well, it’s just totally f***up. But good f****up, if you know what I mean.
1) When did you decide to be a writer? Was it your dream since you were a
child, or it happened ‘by accident’?

My first dream was to be a cartoonist. Endless books of Far Side, Calvin & Hobbes,
Bloom County, even Garfield seemed to put me in that direction. First problem: I was
a pretty shitty artist. Which is fixable, but I didn’t have the patience for it
(visual artists still astound me). Second problem: I didn’t like being kept to
single or triple panel storytelling. What I responded to where those comic strips
that had story arcs — Garfield used to actually be more than just a single-serving
piece-of-quippage per day. The stories would continue on and on — and so I got it
in my head to write stories more than draw them.
“Cartoonist” morphed into plain ol’ “writer.”
But really, even there, I like to think of myself as a storyteller, a thing that
lives maybe outside the act of writing.
2) Tell us a bit about your agent, Stacia: when did you find her and how?
Was it a long and painful process or was it easy?

Stacia is a machine. I mean that. She’s actually half-human. The other half is a
whirring amalgam of flywheels and gewgaws.
She’s a great agent. She’s a book-selling ninja these days, which is nice because,
y’know, she was partly responsible for getting me a two-book deal. (Huzzah!)
Finding her was part of the agent search, but even in reading the description of
things she was looking for — including, if I recall, “creative violence” — I
thought I had a pretty good shot. Turns out, I did. I had other agents interested,
but they were being real pokey. She was fast. We had a conversation about some
potential changes to the manuscript and like that, we were pronounced “agent” and
“writer.” It was not a long process.
3)Would you like to tell us a bit about your job as a freelance writer for
White Wolf and others? In general, how does it work? Did you get those
jobs through your agent? How is one supposed to submit? You work with a ready-made outline or are you free to invent whatever you want?

I’ve been freelancing in the game industry for… I think about 13 years, now? I got
the gig with White Wolf when they put out a “writer’s all-call” for one of their
gamelines, and I wrote this pretentious 1000-word essay about the internal and
external loci of fear and how it relates to monster-hunting.
From there, I’ve written millions (not an exaggeration) of words for those goodly
folks. On each book you get an outline for the work. It’s a skeleton, and the
writer’s job is to pack meat onto those bones.
I’ve also developed work for them where I hire writers. In fact, I’m doing that now.
4) Tell us about your two self-published books: what are they about (I
read them both, but other people might want to know:)) and why did you
choose this route? Did you edit everything by yourself or someone else
helped? How did you choose your cover artist?

Three self-pubbed books, actually!
Irregular Creatures, a short story collection whose nine stories feature in some way
one of the titular (heehee, titular) “irregular creatures.”
Confessions Of a Freelance Penmonkey, which is a mammoth tome of writing advice
culled from my blog (a blog listed by Writer’s Digest as one of the Top 101 Websites
For Writers) and given a fresh coat of paint and additional commentary.
And finally,250 Things You Should Know About Writing, which is a series of essays,
each based on the concept, “25 Things You Should Know About…” it covers things
like plot, dialogue, description, screenplays, getting published, writing a
sentence, etc.
Self-publishing — or DIY pubbing, or micro-pubbing — offers a writer the advantage
to put work out there that is a little more niche, that publishing companies won’t
necessarily touch. Short story collections? Not huge. Books of writing advice? Big
if you’re a big name, but I’m not a big name. I’m just a penmonkey wriggling around
the trenches.
I’m a fairly clean writer who doesn’t need deep editing, but I let my wife — who
has a keen and laser-beam eye — go over my work with a scalpel and magnifying
5) Recently, best-selling self-published author Amanda Hocking explained in
her blog that she decided to sign with St. Martins because she had become
‘a corporation’ and was so busy marketing her books, that she didn’t have
any time left to write: what about you? Do you still have time to write
after having bein on Twitter, written your blog, and marketed your books?

I do still have time to write, but that is one of the dangers of going big with DIY
publishing — you spend a lot of time on the actual *publishing* part, so much so
that it becomes harder to continue to write original content. So, writers are best
finding a balance there. After all, the job of a writer is to… drum roll please,
So that’s all folks, we hope you enjoyed it! Just one more thing: as Wendig would say: don’t be a f**** d**k and his books, they’re awesome! We will review them all in the very near future, so stay tuned!

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