Being a Ship With No Flag: How to Ignore the Rules (A Micro-Musing)

Ennis Drake’s short fiction has appeared in various publications online and in print, including: “Love: The Breath of Eagleray”, at Underland Press (publisher of Jeff VanderMeer’s “Finch”, John Shirley’s “In Extremis”, Brian Evenson’s “Last Days”, among others); “The Dark That Keeps Her”, published in Twisted Legends, an anthology from Pill Hill Press (honorably mentioned in Ellen Datlow’s Best Horror of the Year, Vol. 2); and “The Fishing of Dahlia”, published in the Bram Stoker-nominated and Black Quill Award winning +Horror Library+ Volume 4. “The Fishing of Dahlia” also received an honorable mention in Ellen Datlow’s Best Horror of the Year, Vol. 3. Forthcoming from Word Horde (summer 2013), “The Butcher, The Baker, The Candlestick-Maker”, will appear in the anthology, Tales of Jack the Ripper, edited by Ross Lockhart. His debut novel, “Twenty-Eight Teeth of Rage”, was released May 31st, 2012, from Omnium Gatherum Media, and was a finalist for The Shirley Jackson Award. Most recently, his collected novelettes, “The Day and the Hour” and “Drone”, were released by Omnium Gatherum Media (Feb. 2013).

Write what you know. Write what you love. Write every day. Catch an adverb, kill it. Write longhand. Write as fast as you can. Edit line by line, page by page. Let it cool. Write it while it’s fresh and hot and screaming. The Oxford Comma. Strike unnecessary punctuation. Network. You must have a “Platform”. Create a Facebook, and a Twitter, and a blog, and an author website. No, none of us knows why we create massive networks of other writers and market to them (because all readers are writers?), but it’s what we do, so you should, too. Go to conventions. Wear adverts in your hat. Do everything I tell you. I’m a writer, after all. I know THE SECRET. Thousands upon thousands of my books are in circulation, I’ve been nominated for a Shirley Jackson Award, so, naturally, whatever I say must be true, and it must be true for me, and you, and you, and yes, you, too.


The only truth is there are no hard truths.

I do not write what I know (unless you count crazy). I do not write what I love (I detest both my fiction and my subject-matter). I do not write every day (and don’t plan to). I don’t count words (and I sure as shit don’t waste time posting word counts to, well, anywhere). I happen to use a great many adverbs. Sometimes I over-punctuate. Sometimes I strip it out. Sometimes I don’t (the key, if there is a key, is consistency—your editor will have the say later, anyway). I do have a Facebook. I shit around on it with a handful of friends in the industry and occasionally post about my writing projects. I have a Twitter. I almost never use it. I don’t have a blog (chances are? I hate your blog), and I don’t have an author website (and unless a publisher requires me to have one in-future, foots the bill, and maintains it, I probably never will). I take every bit of advice I’m given, consider it, keep what I like, and ignore the rest. And yes, I’m aware I’ve stolen that bit (I can’t be bothered to remember exactly who from, but there you go)…so far as writing advice goes, it’s the best I’ve ever seen.

So what are we really talking about, then, I sense you asking (if you’ve not folded interest and decamped already)? Individuality. Individuality will make or break you. You can maintain it, or you cannot. If you cannot, you will surely disappear. You will learn your own unique Voice, you will learn what works for you, or you will not. You will (to paraphrase Bruner) learn to discover “the internalization of your personal novel. . .itself the search for identity”. It was once written of Gertrude Stein: “She is a ship that flies no flag and she is outside the law of art, but she descends on every port and a leaves a memory of her visits.” This is the advice I give to you. Be like Stein. Fly no flag and live outside the law of art, because there are no laws of art. True art pushes, bends, breaks rules.

So, these are the rules:




Good luck.