Getting into writing – an interview with Richard Webb (@RaW_writing)

Richard Webb @RaW_writing

A bit about me: I’m a UK-based writer of fantasy and SF fiction and short stories. I’ve written several novels and I’m in the submission stage. I’ve had short stories accepted by SF publications and my story ‘A God’s Mercy’ won the 2016 Remastered Words audio anthology competition.

I also co-write screenplays with my best mate. Our short film ‘Snug as a Bug’ was produced by Cue Pictures earlier this year and another script ‘Time of the Month’ is in production with Random Clock Productions in Scotland. One of our feature-length screenplays made it to the semi-final stage of BBC Writer’s Room (Comedy) 2016.

In addition, I was Events Coordinator of the British Fantasy Society for 2 years and panel programmer for FantasyCon 2015 in the UK. I write fiction reviews for the BFS and judge a couple of categories for the British Fantasy Awards. I also co-wrote/co-hosted a weekly indie radio music show for 2 years.

What got you interested in writing?

My dad was a literature academic so I grew up in a house full of books, though there was very little genre fiction. I found my way to SFF via reading a lot of mythology and folklore—tales of heroes, gods and monsters, but also the weird and the supernatural. There was an imaginative wildness in many of these stories I wasn’t finding in other types of fiction. Before long I wanted to write my own versions.

I’ve been writing on-and-off for about three decades, everything from novels and short stories, to screenplays, attempts at radio plays, TV shows, (including a terrible game-show concept, never pitched) and comedy sketches. For a long time, most of my work in all of these formats was half-formed ideas that petered out, but I’ve been writing with much more purpose and a better completion rate in the last 10 years or so. Finding a writing community has really helped—it has given me a lot in terms of education, inspiration and motivation. I wish it had been available to me earlier in life!

Tell us a little about your chosen genre.

My tastes pretty much cover everything weird, wonderful and other-worldly, from sci-fi to horror to sword-and-sorcery and all points in between. In terms of what I’m writing I’ve completed the first two novels in a fantasy series set in an ancient North African/Middle Eastern secondary world, and a high-fantasy trilogy with a comic tone—it feels like people are ready for some light-hearted escapism at the moment. My short stories tend to be much more speculative than fitting any specific genre—it is where I do a lot of experimentation with ideas and styles.

On the screenwriting front, my writing partner and I hop from genre to genre with each script. We’ve written modern-day and historical, comedies and dramas, ‘cerebral’ and silly, crime, horror and some that even we don’t quite know how to define. . . keeps things interesting!

What are your happiest memories in your writing career?

My writing career to date is modest, but the successes are happy memories of course: story acceptances by publications, winning a story competition and having my entry recorded as a podcast, getting a screenplay into the BBC and being interviewed by producers and, more recently, being on the film set of a short film my writing partner and I had scripted. We even had a screening at the British Film Institute which was memorable.

But mostly, my happiest memories are around the people I have met, either to work with or hanging out at writing events and conventions. (Well, 99% of them. . . there are always a few purveyors of bad-vibes). But for the most part, being part of a writing community is a happy thing.

How do you handle success and failure?

Hopefully, with equanimity, in both cases. My writing successes—if one judges ‘success’ in terms of publication acceptances—have filled me with a sense of relief as much as anything, a feeling that ‘at least something worked.’ As a writer still making my way, I’ve needed that validation to give me the self-belief to continue. You need that in order to overcome the inevitable rejections. I try to consider rejections as stories that are ‘not yet successful’ rather than failures.

Rejection is a part of life: in relationships, in the workplace, in social situations and so on. Having writing pieces rejected—though crushing in its way—is not on the same scale. It’s not personal. For every writing rejection, I allow myself one single day of self-pity, (crisps, wine, movies), and then move on. Similarly, for every writing success I allow myself one single day of self-approval, (crisps, wine, movies), and then move on.

What makes you write when you’re exhausted and your fingers ache?

Deadlines! Sometimes self-imposed, sometimes because I owe a few scenes to my writing partner and sometimes for actual deadlines. That, and the knowledge that my next available slot of writing time might not come along for another few days. (I’m married with children, a 45-hour-a-week job plus other commitments so time to write is not a daily occurrence).

But also, I like to juggle several projects—scriptwriting and prose, short and long forms, across different genres—which means when time is available I’m always in the mood to write something. If my epic fantasy novel has hit a road-bump, then I can work on a screenplay instead. If I’m in the mood to write something comic rather than something weightier I can return to a comedy script in progress or a light short story. . . and so on. It means I have projects at different stages of completion so I’m always drafting something, editing something else and brainstorming the next idea. . .

In truth, when I’m writing I never really feel exhausted or feel my fingers ache, because I always turn to the project I’m in the mood to write at that given moment. Tuning into when I am in the right frame of mind for a certain writing activity, style, genre or medium has been the key to keeping things fresh, staying motivated and being productive.

What is your advice to young and new writers?

Find a way to fit in into your life. Don’t make excuses. Time slips past faster than you think.

Don’t worry about being good enough, just write. Read, listen to other writers and learn from them but ALWAYS WRITE. You’ll get better. Keep working and you’ll improve, probably quite quickly. Make mistakes; they are all part of making progress. Keep going.

Don’t wait for the BIG IDEA to come around—chances are, it won’t. GET WRITING. It is the single best way I know of getting ideas to flow. Ask questions of your characters and your story and interesting things will happen. . . but it only happens once you’re working.

Finally, don’t try to imitate other writers—admire them and think about what they do well but ultimately look for your own voice and what you want to say. After all, no-one can be you as well as you can!

Are you a traditionalist or a digital? (paper or eBook)

Both. I love the eBook apps on my tablet and phone. I can impulse-buy, store loads of content and read anywhere, anytime.

But I love print too and have half a dozen floor-to-ceiling shelves in my house testifying to that. I love books as objects, (though, oddly perhaps, I’m not a big collector of author signatures) and appreciate their sensory qualities. But above all, I love to read in the bath and don’t trust myself not to drop an electronic device in the water!

Do you blog?

Yes, sporadically, on the site my screenwriting partner and I use to talk about films, screenwriting and our adventures in film-making (www.richteasers.com). The site is undergoing some redevelopment at the moment but there are blog-posts, photos from the set of our latest film and the loglines/synopses of our available feature-length and short films scripts. We tweet @RTscripts.

For my SFF fiction, I tweet @RaW_writing.

Do you self-publish?

No, though it remains a possible option for the future.

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