Moonlake: Hi, I’m Moonlake Ku and welcome to the Writer’s Awakenings interviews. Today, we have author Murray Taylor with us. Firstly, tell us about yourself and your journey into writing, Murray.
Murray: Well I’m a student studying education and English from a rural-suburban background. I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember, from silly stories as a kid to screenplays or video game role-plays in high-school. I guess what made me take up more serious writing was a difficult change in my life that I needed a distraction from. What started as a revision of an old novel idea has turned into a serious project.
Moonlake: Well, you pre-empted the questions that leads us into the next part of the interview, which is about when you first took up writing as a serious pursuit and the circumstances associated with it. So what’s this old novel idea about and what about it drew you so much that you took it up again?
Murray: I have always loved world building and the fantasy genre and the novel idea started simply as an idea for a city. More specifically, a city in Minecraft. It was divided into three by a sibling rivalry. That idea turned into stories of life in this city, the three siblings grew personalities, adopted philosophies etc. When I stopped playing Minecraft, these characters stuck with me. I started outlining a novel and wrote inconsistently for years on it.
Moonlake: Ah, world building games like Minecraft are a great inspiration. So what happened next?
Murray: I had my life planned out for the next four-five years and things were smooth when a lot of ruptures around relationships, family, friends and mental health threw me off. I grew nostalgic, looking to the past for comfort. Even after so many years, I still envisioned these characters talking to each other, pursuing their goals, overcoming adversity so while I struggled to rebuild my life, I started rebuilding theirs. I joined writing groups to learn to become a better writer and friends who read the first few chapters thought I was on to something good, so I kept at it.
My goal is to publish, whether it is successful or not. I want to know I accomplished my four year dream.
Moonlake: That sounds very positive and publishing is a dream worth pursuing. Now how far along are you now in terms of this novel?
Murray: So as it stands I am aiming for between 60-80 chapters and am sitting on 21. Though, I’m considering releasing the story in three parts as ebooks and then combining them for a final edition for both ebooks and print. Each block of around 20 chapters are self-contained and can be considered a story on their own, and sit at around 90k words so I believe this method will allow readers to sink into the world early, give me a better understanding of the industry before printing a novel and be a low-cost low-risk investment to an unknown author.
Though truth be told, I have not worked on the story for a couple of weeks nor plan to until late August. I have started writing short stories for submission, the first called ‘Admissions of an Addict’ which I’m entering in a local writing competition and one called ‘Cruel Odds’ for an anthology series. As it stands the first has been sent to an editor and the second is preparing for its first beta-reading phase.
Moonlake: Well, it’s okay to do what I call some side projects while keeping the long-term goal in mind. So looking back, would you have done things differently along your writer’s journey and if so, what?
Murray: I think the two major things I would have changed are consistency and scale of project.
When I say I have worked on it for four years, out of those four years I perhaps only put between 6-12 months worth of work into it. Although I don’t believe in the literal interpretation of ‘write X words a day’ I feel developing a habit rather than burning myself out in bursts would have kept me writing.
The second was the scale of the project. At the time I was a nineteen year old with little writing experience wanting to self-publish a best-selling novel. It was also more than writing, it was designing maps, forms of government, covers etc. I wish I just focused on learning how to write good stories rather than how to be a one-man creative machine.
Moonlake: Well, as it happens, I do subscribe to this “write X words a day” mantra, it’s about consistency of effort and self-discipline for me. But I also give myself leeways, like if I don’t meet the set daily goal, then I would put down the reason why in the notes column on the document where I track my daily progress. As for scale of the project, I think you gotta follow your heart. For me, my one true love will always be LOTR and my mind naturally conceives of stories that take on a series form. I think I will just roll with that. But I get what you mean, it’s perhaps a bit ambitious for a 19 year old. But well, I’m thinking that you learnt a lot from such experiences of poring over the meta aspects of a world.
Murray: I agree with what the ‘X words’ intention is, but I don’t take it literally. Like if I spent a day editing a 2500 word story I may have only physically typed 200ish words but I have put conscious effort into the work. If I spend a day pulling all the dialogue and role-playing a scene with a friend to see if the dialogue is convincing and interesting, I’d consider that conscious effort into the story without typing a word
Moonlake: Yeah, that’s what I mean with this notes column, it’s a means of to track down why you haven’t met your daily wordcount goals so it’s not just a numbers game, the goals. You set a wordcount goal to motivate yourself but you also recognise that progress on a story isn’t just about the word count. But think we detracted a bit off the theme for this interview. Overall, how far do you think you have progressed from your initial point, as a writer?
Murray: When I started I had a rough 10 chapter novel which I constantly kept editing without further progress being made. It has been a few months since I have taken writing seriously and that story is now 21 chapters long, a lot tighter, and I have 2 short stories nearing completion. I feel the progress I have made is promising and everything is happening so fast. Though it is more than just the physical work, I have made many great productive friendships through writing and I feel really connected to the evolving community. I feel I have grown more as a writer in these months than I have for years and I find my work constantly improving. I constantly reread my old work and think ‘Ugh that sentence is terrible, what was I thinking?’ and although it can be disheartening, it shows that I am learning more and more what good writing is. That progress is hard to measure.
Moonlake: I agree on the hard to measure bit but you’ve made an adept summary. Well, all the best to the your current works. Now, if we want to follow you, how can we do that?
Murray: My website mmataylor.com has links to my social media accounts and blog. I am most active on Facebook, Twitter and Youtube.
Moonlake: Okay, thank you. That concludes our interview for today and I thank you for your time.
Murray: *thumb up*