Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Writing and Writers and the Process - Paul Dore

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Paul Dore is a Toronto area writer whose name you might not have heard yet – but you will. I sat down with him recently to talk about writing and what has inspired him to continue to move towards publishing his first novel.

He says that it is a bit of a cliché to say that he has been writing since he was a kid, but it is nonetheless true. He explains: “One of my first stories was about mercenaries during World War II – heavy material for grade seven. Went to film school, wrote and produced a number of films. Something was lacking in the rigid screenplay format – I was often criticized that my scripts were too literary.” Paul is a man who has an amazing capacity to observe with great detail what is going on around him and to convey his experience in his writing, transporting the reader into the situation.

Always looking for ways to hone his skills, he participated in a workshop at Humber School for Writers this summer where he says he had the great privilege of working with legendary teacher and writer Wayson Choy. This proved to a turning point in his pursuit of a career as a writer to date. Paul says: “In five days with six of us in his class, he (Choy) managed to elevate our writing to new heights. For me, his class contained three very important overall lessons: 1.Ground your writing in craft, 2.When you are writing raw material, sometimes it will get uncomfortable – those are the good bits and most truthful, and 3. ‘Know thyself’: it’s important to develop an understanding of yourself and through this, you’ll discover what themes you want to explore in your work.”

It is interesting how it can sometimes be the chance discussions and connections in our lives that can have the most impact. Initially nervous about having to present his work in front of others and especially in front of someone like Wayson whose work he held in high regard, it was the teacher’s sensitivity and insight that brought out the confidence in the much younger student. “I spoke with Wayson one day after class. I was mumbling about being a writer and as if reading my mind of thoughts I’ve been thinking for years, he simply said, “Anything is possible, you can live the life you want.” I was taken aback, not the usual teacher/student talk. He went on, “I am so excited that you are here in this class and realizing the talent you have.”

As a parent, as a coach and even as a writer I am keenly aware that without knowing or meaning to what we say to one another can stay with us for a very long time and with disastrous results. Paul explains: It was a change, a flip was switched that propelled decisions, and really, years of bumbling around trying different things but never finding what I really wanted to do with my life. Everything seemed to come into focus. It wasn’t so much the compliments from someone I greatly respected as a person and a writer, more that I had secretly fallen in love with writing when working on that first novel. I didn’t want to acknowledge this out of a fear that I wasn’t good enough. But Wayson helped make me a believer. Sometimes you just need someone outside of yourself to make these things clear.
So, five days of this. It made me more focused than ever on being a writer and I learned more in five days than I would have ever thought possible. I hesitate to say it changed my life. But I look at it as though everything did change in those five days, however, it was five years in the making in order to fully accept these changes”.

Paul talks about writing a film versus writing a novel and says that they differ in one key area: in order for a film to be realized the story has to pass through many different hands whereas a book belongs to the writer from start to finish. In working on his first novel, The Walking Man, Paul has been able to adapt his process to include some of the strategies that he learned in his workshop. Paul says, “Before, my attitude was that the initial writing, whatever I put down on paper, was the most truthful. It was precious and not to be tampered with. At the workshop, Wayson asked me what I do when I edit a tv show. I looked to the pages on the table in front of me and mumbled, “Well, I take raw footage, piece it together, move it around, combine two weak ideas to form one strong one or create a new meaning, etc.” I remember clearly looking up to find him smiling at me, “That’s all you need to do.” Paul never thought that his 10 years spent as an editor would have any kind of skills that would translate. The comments from Wayson were a complete revelation to him.

I cannot believe the transformation in the man I know who is sitting across from me smiling and talking about the process of writing and not just “having written” as if the process alone was the most valuable part. The end result doesn’t matter as much anymore as how he comes to it. Paul commented on the change: “Wayson believed my work was strong but I wrote too much, explained too much. A magician never explains his tricks, he guides the audience into believing in the illusion. So, I went home, put on my film editing hat and went to work. I discovered that the words are not precious – they can be manipulated. The important sentences popped out at me, became three-dimensional. I cut, shifted, made stronger sentences, played with it. I discovered that I was learning more about the characters and the story by writing less. And it was fun.”

The fun shows.

If you want to read about Paul’s world – check out his blog at : www.blog.pauldore.com and he can be followed on Twitter @jeffreypauldore

The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book: Toronto.

Pj Kwong

Pj Kwong is a figure skating expert and writer currently working for CBC Sports. Her first book, Taking the Ice: Success Stories from the World of Canadian Figure Skating (BookLand Press), will be in stores in September 2010.

Go to Pj Kwong’s Author Page