How Did You Become A Writer?
One summer in the early 1980’s, I read the worst science fiction book ever published. Okay, I haven’t read all the science fiction books ever published, so there might be a worse one somewhere, but this one was bad. I told Leanne, “This book is horrible. I can write better than this.” She said something about putting money where my mouth was (that’s a euphemistic interpretation of her comment). I took a correspondence course on writing. The first half was on newspaper writing. I complained to my mentor/editor. He said that newspaper writing requires the writer to say what needs to be said in short, comprehensible sentences without fluff. I am convinced that is the best lesson about writing that I have ever learned.
I took that correspondence course knowledge and practice and began to write. I wrote mostly short stories. There were two reasons for that. First, I love short sci-fi fiction. My memories of summers in grades 7-11 revolve around the yearly anthology collections of “The Best Science Fictions Stories from 19--.” Since there were several magazines like Amazing Stories, that were strictly sci-fi from the 1920s-1970s, there was no shortage of short stories. Second, when I wrote a short story, it was over quickly. I enjoyed the feeling of finishing.
In any story I have ever written, all the characters did exactly what I wanted them to do when I wanted them to do it. They all did it the way they were supposed to and without complaint. If I went back later and decided I didn’t like what they did or how they did it, I re-wrote the story, sometimes eliminating the offending character completely. You have no idea how therapeutic that was after some days at school with well over 100 students vying for attention and not always paying the closest of attention.
The most recent inspiration for writing, serious writing for publication, came from two sources that fueled a desire I already had smoldering. When I retired from teaching, Cody Jelsovsky, a long-time friend and the person who’s read more of my stories than anyone else, gave me a book on writing along with the admonition that I she now expected novels. Towards that end, I had lunch with another long-time friend, and the highly successful author of the Anna Strong novels. She and I talked about writing as a career. Her suggestion was to go with science fiction as it was one of the most receptive fields for new authors.
What Are Your Sources Of Inspiration?
I really don’t know how to answer that question. Some are from comments I heard or read. Others are from people who suggest a concept that I find intriguing—others just kind of morph from who knows what/where in my brain.
What’s Your Writing Process?
Sometimes I do an outline for everything I know will be in the story. Then I start writing. I add to the outline as I go along.
Sometimes I have an ending and just mini-outline all the way there.
I’ve never started with a full-blown outline and written a story. Well, maybe once or twice in school when we had to submit outlines before drafts—although I confess to having reverse-engineered an outline or two from my already written story to meet a requirement--sorry Mrs. Helen Tubb!
Do You Have Any Other Books Finished?
I have five other books. Two are "finished" and have been submitted to publishers. Two need more editing, and one is in the very early editing process. Currently four of my other books are unpublished. But, I hope to remedy that in the near future. Two are science fiction, one is a detective/mystery story, one is Biblical fiction. The other finished book is the true story of my miracle baby granddaughter. A teaser for each is found elsewhere on this site.
How Long Does It Take You To Write A Book?
That is a good question, and very difficult to answer. Each book is different. Traveler's HOT L is a merging of several short stories under the time travel theme. At least two of the stories were written years ago, but even I don't count all the intervening years in the length of writing time for that book.
Once I get a draft of an entire book, I let the manuscript sit for at least two weeks. I don't look at it, and I try not to think about it too much. After the "cooling off period," I cold read the whole thing and do what I call the brutal edit. In that first edit, I have to honestly decide what text is essential, what text is helpful, and what text is superfluous. The goal is to reduce the word count to the story. That takes hours and hours. It's very painful to cut words you were sure were correct when you put them in the text originally, but now are just not right.
Subsequent edits (normally two) are required to clean up the text and finalize wording, grammar, vague references, etc. This is also time consuming. The total editing time approaches the time it took to write the first draft, when all I cared about was "getting the story down." For The Observers, I kept track of time on the final two edits before I submitted the manuscript. Those two edits totaled over 40 hours. The manuscript was approximately 80,000 words (in length.
BTW: Because you are a dedicated reader, you are one of the first to know that I have a signed contract for The Observers. It will be coming out in December of 2014 in print and e-book. Also from Koehler Books.
What Ideas Do You Have For More Books?
I’ve started collecting ideas and stories for “Traveler’s II.” I’m also allowing the idea of Genomic Medicine to simmer in the back of my brain as well.
Thoughts On The Writing Process
I am convinced, anecdotally backed by some research, that when you write something down that makes sense to others, you have accomplished something approaching miraculous. Peasants in the Middle Ages, when books were both coveted and rare, were astounded when a reader could interpret strange symbols on a page and relate stories the reader had never heard before. I tell teachers in presentations I make that I’m not sure a student really understands a concept unless (s)he can write coherently about it. Writing is a magical ability. I’ve always been thankful that I like to write.
As I was working on one of my books in the Fall of 2012, I e-mailed a gracious good friend, a very successful writer. I asked, “What do you do when you have a story inside that you can’t get our fast enough?” Her answer, “Type faster.”
I thought, “Really. Type faster? That’s it?”
I’ve learned, that, indeed, is it.