A Writer’s Interview: Part Three

This is the third and final part of the ‘Writer’s Interview series’ of posts. It’s been interesting for me to answer them, even if it’s not been quite so interesting for anyone to read them.

I fully admit that writing these last couple of posts has been pure procrastination. I want to write my novel but I’m having real trouble focusing, it’s incredibly frustrating. It reminds me actually of this t-shirt I would quite like from Red Bubble. It’s titled ‘life as a writer’ and the front of the shirt says 45% procrastination, 30% coffee, 15% self-loathing and 5% writing. Obviously the person that created it was a writer, and not a mathematician, as that only adds up to 95%.

Anyway, on with the last questions, then I’ll have no more excuses about not working on the novel. Except who am I kidding? There’s always excuses, I suspect I’ll get up and start cleaning in a minute, that’s the last bastion of desperation. This really does puzzle me considering I like writing, it’s not like I hate it and want to avoid it. Oh well, I suppose if nothing else I’ll have a blog post written and a clean place to live.

1) Do you proof-read/edit all your own books or do you get someone to do that for you?
I proof-read as much as I can but I’m only human. It’s much easier to spot mistakes in work someone else has done, as it’s unfamiliar. When something is familiar, I know what should be there, so my mind automatically fixes it, without letting me know there’s a problem.

Therefore I do get someone to edit my work, it’s necessary to get another set of eyes at the very least. However, it’s not just mistakes an editor needs to find, it’s mistakes I don’t know I’ve made. I think I’m reasonable at English, but that doesn’t mean my punctuation is correct, or my sentence structure doesn’t need work. Some of it is a question of style and audience, I’m a lot more casual here than I would be in a novel for instance.

Then finally there’s the question of localisation. My books are set in America, with American characters. It’s not just the spelling that needs to be American, all the terms need to be checked, make sure I haven’t accidentally said crisps instead of potato chips for example.

An external editor is essential in my opinion. I’m fortunate in that I have someone in my family who was a professional editor, that will certainly keep my costs down. However, if I wasn’t so lucky I would hire an editor, as I think it’s necessary in order to produce a product that can be sold to the public. To try and sell something that wasn’t as good as I could make it, that would be wrong.

2) Do you let the book stew – leave it for a month and then come back to it to edit?
Absolutely! This is the corner stone of my method, I knew this question was coming up which is why I didn’t go into detail about this in the last set of questions. Yesterday I said that each book should take me two months to write and revise. However, it takes three months to turn it around, as I need to take a month in between finishing the first draft, and starting the revision.

This causes some headaches when trying to work out a release schedule, as obviously I have the free month which I need to do something with. There’s obviously planning that needs to be done, formatting, marketing, and other related activities. However, I could also work on another book. I can’t write the sequel though, I tried and found that was impossible for me, which means something else entirely.

Leaving the book for a month is essential to get distance. It’s impossible when actively working on the draft to see the truth, everything feels like it’s absolute rubbish. Letting it sit for a while, coming back with fresh eyes, helps with the analysis. I can then see that there is some good stuff, and yes there’s stuff that needs work but without that distance, I wouldn’t be able to see the truth, I would be completely lost about what really needed work.

3) Do you think book covers are important and what will you do about them?
As a reader I can state categorically that book covers are perhaps the most important part of the book, closely followed by the title. When I browse Amazon, I’ll go through pages and pages. I only click on those with covers that look good, that draw me in. I then look at the blurb, if that appeals to me I then check the reviews.

I don’t need a good review to then buy the book, sometimes it’s just as interesting to read a bad review and wonder if they were right. However, usually if I like the blurb I’ll be willing to check the book out, it’s only if the reviews are unanimously awful that I would reject it as this stage.

However, without a good book cover, the author hasn’t even got me in the door so to speak. If I’m like that as a reader, chances are there are a lot of other readers that are just the same. Therefore as a writer I think book covers are essential and I will be contracting a professional to make them for me.

4) How are you publishing and why?
I’m obviously going the indie publishing route. There’s more chance of winning the lottery than getting traditionally published. Well it might not be that bad but traditional publishing is a pipe-dream, it’s something that’s unlikely to ever happen.

That’s not necessarily because my books are bad, though they might be, it’s just because of how the system works. My only shot, at maybe making a career out of writing, is to indie publish. Everything is more immediate with indie publishing and my initial goal is simple, to make back my investment costs. After that I only want a very small amount of money, I don’t dream of getting rich, I just dream of scraping enough to pay the bills.

My friend talks about writing for itself, because she wants to tell her stories and share them with people, that the money is a bonus. I’m not going to lie, as much as I dream that people like my stories, or more people like them than hate them, I want the money. I probably wouldn’t put forth the effort to publish if there wasn’t a chance I would earn anything. I know that I might not earn anything, I know it’s a real possibility I don’t even make my costs back. However, there’s a shot at living the life I would like to lead, that’s why I want to indie publish.

5) Where can you see yourself in 5 years time?
I nearly left this question out. I seriously, seriously hate this question as envisioning I have any kind of future is hard for me. Plus, the unexpected could happen at any time, no-one knows what the future really holds. If I went back five years and told my younger self, where I am now, I would have laughed and wouldn’t have believed it.

That being said I suppose it doesn’t hurt to dream, or to have some kind of forward plan. In five years I will be thirty, aside from that I really am going to limit this question to writing, as I really don’t know nor wish to theorize about the rest of my life. In five years I hope I have close to twenty books on the market, that’s certainly well within possibilities. I hope that those books will be selling enough to make back my costs, and enough to pay the bills on top of that.

I very much hope that they will have been earning that much for some time. I know that it takes time to gain traction, but if I’m operating at a steep loss for more than a year or so, that will be near impossible to continue to support. As I said I really don’t dream of the impossible, I don’t dream of being rich, or my books being turned into films or anything ridiculous.

I think I worked out that at a reasonable low price point, I would have to sell 500 books a month to realize my dream. That seems like a huge amount of books but it’s not outside the realms of possibility, especially with the more books I have on the market. That’s the position I hope I’m in within five years.

6) What advice would you give to your younger self?
This is another really difficult question. For instance what age is my younger self? As my advice would be different depending on that variable. Indie publishing didn’t really take off until a few years ago, with the explosion of Amazon KDP and the advent of Kindle like devices. Therefore going back to my eleven year old self, and telling myself to hold onto the dream, that was a decade before it even started to become possible.

Although I suppose telling myself not to crush my own dreams, isn’t exactly bad advice. I would certainly tell my eighteen year old self not to go to university, that was a huge waste of time and money. I don’t know exactly what I would have done instead but anything would have been better.

I suppose perhaps it all goes back to my eleven year old self, that decided that practicality was more important than my own wishes and desires. I’m not saying I was wrong, as writing isn’t a stable career and I still have no clue whether it’ll be financially viable. Hell I still have no clue whether I can actually write. However, trying to live a life that you don’t want, trying to force yourself into some kind of mold, to follow someone else’s path, that’s far worse than uncertainty.

If I could back and do it all over again, I would put what I wanted first, I would have at least agreed to give it a chance before giving up.

7) What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
Don’t give up, it’s that simple. Having self-faith and believing in one’s self is incredibly difficult, especially for someone like me. Writing is not an easy path, keeping motivated and keeping focused sometimes feels impossible. I can’t even state with any certainty, not yet anyway, whether it’s even worth it.

There’s a lot of myths about writing. For a long time I didn’t feel like a real writer, I knew where all my inspiration came from. All those tales about writers who were walking around one day, and suddenly there was lightning in their mind and an idea came to them, I felt like a fraud as that had never happened to me.

There’s a quote from a film which says “If when you wake up in the morning, you can think of nothing but writing, then you’re a writer.” and I don’t agree with that. When I wake up in the morning my mind is on my nightmares, or on the fact I have to get out of bed, or on the first task I have to do that morning. It’s almost never on writing but that doesn’t mean I’m not a writer.

My friend believes that in order to be a writer, or to write well, that a writer should read a lot. I don’t agree, as I haven’t read much in the last few years and I can still write. I do think reading is important but it isn’t a barrier, if you want to write but don’t read much, that doesn’t matter.

Basically, don’t believe the myths. If you have a story to tell, and you want to write it down, then do so no matter what. Don’t worry about all the things a writer should be, or a writer should do. Don’t worry about all the rules of writing that you don’t know, rules are made to be broken and a good story transcends boundaries.

Above all else, the only thing a writer really needs is discipline, dedication and a firm deadline. I don’t believe in waiting for inspiration, for the muse to play nice, I just believe in knuckling down and getting on with it whether I feel like it or not. As I’ve freely admitted I’m not always successful. However, I barely ever feel really in the mood to write, I barely ever feel like words are eagerly waiting to be let loose, yet I write anyway.

Focus on finishing, get the first draft done, it won’t be until the end and some distance that you really know the truth about what you have created. My favorite writing quote is “I can fix a bad page, I can’t fix a blank page.” Write something, as anything is better than nothing.

This last bit I edited into the post a few hours after publishing it. I thought of it afterwards and wanted to include it. Don’t, if you can possibly avoid it, ever, ever, ever take a break from a first draft in progress. It’s a nightmare to go back and try and finish it later, it’s possible of course but it makes the writing process that much harder.

Try and work on it regularly, just touch base so you don’t forget what you are doing. Don’t leave it for months and then come back. I just did that and it’s really not a good plan. Yes I was very ill but now I have a mess to clean up. This is why I think it’s best to condense the writing process into a short space of time. 1) It actually gets completed. 2) Don’t have this nightmare of trying to pick something up later.

Ok, edit over.

8) Do you read much and if so who are your favorite authors.
I don’t read that much but I am trying to read more. I have instituted a reading hour, where 5x a week I try and find an hour a day to read. I’m not always successful with this but I’m doing my best.

If I like a book, then I will usually try other books that author has written, as it’s likely that I will like those books as well. However, I wouldn’t exactly call myself a fan of any specific author, not like I’m a fan of TV shows. I don’t follow any author in eager anticipation of their next release for example.

My preferred books are not exactly very high brow. My favorite set of books is by Lee Goldberg, it’s the Diagnosis Murder TV tie-in novels. I found them probably the most enjoyable books to read, out of all books I have ever read. I highly recommend them. Actually I read a lot of TV tie-in books, I enjoy them, which probably doesn’t say anything good about me but it’s the truth.

9) For your own reading, do you prefer ebooks or traditional paper/hard back books?
Up until my birthday in May I would have said paperback books no question. If was going to spend money, I wanted something solid to hold in my hand. I then realized how utterly ridiculous that was, especially for someone that wanted to publish ebooks. I got a Kindle and to be honest haven’t looked back since. I now think ebooks are the best thing ever, though I still love that new book smell.

10) What book/s are you reading at present?
I’m actually reading Ops Files (Jet 0.5) by Russell Blake at the moment. It’s not a bad read to be honest, even though I confess I mainly picked it up because it was free. I’m not exactly feeling very flush right now, therefore my book budget is next to non-existent.

However, if I achieve my goals for this week, I may reward myself by buying the next book I would like to read. It’s a Stargate novel, another TV tie-in, eventually I will probably read them all.

11) Favorites and why?
Ah this last question was originally several different questions, asking about my various favorite things and why they were my favorite. I decided to combine them.

– motivational phrase
“Be confident in your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.” is a paraphrased quote from Henry David Thoreau. I actually have this inscribed on the back of my iPod, not that I ever see it as I keep the iPod in a protective case. I really love that phrase, I’m just utterly terrible at putting it into practice. Why do I love it? Well because it gives me hope that maybe things can be better.

– book

I don’t think I have an actual favorite book. As I said I thought the Lee Goldberg series of Diagnosis Murder books were incredible. However, that’s really as close as I get to a favorite book. Why? Because they capture the characters incredibly well, I can see it all in my mind. It has the exact feeling of the show at the point that I loved that the most.

– quote

What else would it it be? “I can fix a bad page, I can’t fix a blank page.” I repeat this to myself almost every day, it’s practically like a mantra. Though most of the Baty-isms would also apply, there’s a lot of wisdom to come out of NaNoWriMo. Why do I love it? Because it keeps me going sometimes when I struggle, because it gives me a reason to keep going and hope that what I’m doing will be alright in the end.

– TV Show

If you ask me this at different times, there would be a different answer. Tastes change as time goes on. However, for the past eighteen months and I’d imagine for the foreseeable future, the answer is Stargate SG-1/Atlantis. I know they are two separate shows but they are part of the same universe, they are shared so I think of them together.

That doesn’t apply to Stargate Universe as I didn’t like it, I only managed the first four or five episodes, it was that bad. However, with how brilliant Robert Carlyle is in Once Upon a Time, I now feel like going back and trying Stargate Universe again, an actor that good would surely be worth watching. Although I seriously doubt that, I wanted to love Universe the way I loved Atlantis and SG-1, the fact that I didn’t means there must be something really not to my taste about Universe.

Anyway, why do I love it? I think it’s the world of possibilities, the questions it poses, the strength of the characters, the humor, the fact that I can really believe in it, in a world beyond our own. The show isn’t perfect but it created an amazing universe, one with almost unlimited potential.

The fact that all that development is going to be ignored for the reboot, and likely never used again, makes me incredibly sad and bitter. They don’t need to reboot it completely, they could do so much, even have their blockbuster movies. It’s going to be a sad day when the reboot is launched. If it does well then they’ll never visit the TV show development again, if it does badly it likely spells the end of any Stargate development. Either way it’s over.

– movie
I absolutely love the marvel films. Now they are not perfect, they are only snapshots after all, there’s a lot they don’t include. However, I have to admit that they don’t take the crown for my favorite movie. That honor goes to something that I probably shouldn’t even like, it’s so far out of my wheelhouse that it doesn’t make sense.

My favorite film is The Princess Diaries which is insane. It’s a children’s film, there are no car chases, gun battles, superheroes, spies or action of any kind. It’s the opposite of everything I’m ever drawn towards and yet I love it. I have watched this film more times than I could count and I’m close to word perfect. It’s something I watch when I have a bad day, it’s something I watch when I’m ill, it’s something I watch when I just need to watch something nice for a while, where nothing bad happens.

The film just has an undeniable feel good factor, everything about it just combines so that I can rewatch it time and time again, it never gets boring. I honestly don’t know why I love it so much but I know that I need it. Everyone needs a film that demands nothing from them, and helps them out when they are down.

The sequel is also good to watch, for all that it was nowhere near as good. I’m torn between being sad that the recent rumors of a third firm are false, and being pleased because if a third film isn’t as good as the second, then it could just ruin the whole film line. Still, I would have liked to return to Genovia.

Interestingly I don’t like the books that the film is based on. An odd turn of events when I think the film is better than the book, kind of upsets the natural order.

That ends the ‘Writer’s Interview series’, it’s been interesting to answer all those questions, I actually learned some things. That’s what words do, they bring reality to otherwise vague concepts, they clarify matters.

Until next time.

One thought on “A Writer’s Interview: Part Three

  1. Ooh. I like that t-shirt too. Haha.

    You bring up a very good point about localization. I’ve thought this through too, and this is where I find it essential for me to hire an American editor.

    My reading experience and buying books when it comes to covers is very much like yours. It is the same for me in that the cover comes first. It’s what pulls me in or makes me move on, no question.

    In five years time, I hope to see you with many books out. I would also like to hope that a certain manuscript of yours has been through it’s final draft and is out, too. Heh. I know it’s your baby, and I look forward to reading the finished novel someday.

    YAY! I was so pleased that you moved to the kindle. It really does open up a whole new world, and I’m pleased you are discovering this. But yeah, I also know the feeling of opening a paperback now and again.

    I also like your quote about not being able to fix a blank page. We’ve talked about this before, and I do agree. I just wish I could apply it to myself more.

    Awesome posts, loved reading them all. Good luck with your books, you are going to do GREAT!

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