On Editing

A while back, I posted a call to all writers who wanted to share their editing tips, and my friend, Dena, volunteered.  If you don’t already follow Dena’s blog, you’re missing a real treat.  So without further ado, here’s Dena:

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dms

Please share one to three tips or tricks that you use when editing your work, how specifically you use them, and why they work for you.

My biggest tip is to read your work out loud to yourself or use a program that will read it to you.  I downloaded a free text to speech program (if I was at home I could give you the name) and it helped tremendously despite the computer generated voice.  It’s great for picking up on stilted dialogue or scenes that don’t transition smoothly.

What was your biggest repeated mistake when you first started writing? What is your weakest point of editing and why?

My biggest mistake was info dropping.  I wanted to tell my reader everything and it was difficult to learn how to intersperse tidbits of information throughout the story instead of throwing it all out at once.  My weakest point of editing? No questions about it, grammar structure.  I hate commas! I either use them too often or not enough and they are never in the correct places. Grammar was never a strong subject for me.  I’m better at math, but you don’t find a lot of math in romance novels unless you’re doing an “oops I’m pregnant” storyline and you have to add up the months since well … you know!

Have you used any editing methods previously that just didn’t work for you? If so, what were they and why didn’t they work?

I edit as I go.  Meaning, when I sit down to write each day I look over what I wrote the previous day before moving forward.  Sometimes this does slow down the process, but I’ve tried not looking back and keep pushing forward and it didn’t work.  Because not only am I editing it, it’s also a quick refresher of the place I’m at in the story.

Please tell us something about your current work in progress or your most recent completed work (or both), and tell us where we can purchase your book(s).

My debut novel, Drive Me Sane, released last year.  It’s a second chance romance of a feisty female veteran and an up and coming country music star who find themselves facing their past while trying to deal with problems plaguing their future.  You can find it on Amazon at http://amzn.com/B012E7RHOS

My current work is tentatively titled, When Love Goes South.  I’m actually very close to having this finished. A contemporary romance with characters who are a little older and who have dealt with things in life like death of loved ones, divorce and loss of friendships, I think it’s a story that almost anyone can relate to.  It’s also a little more spicier than I’ve written before with characters who are flirty and fun.

If you have any other news to share with us, please feel free to do so now.

Amazon recently acquired the digital rights to Drive Me Sane, so I’m happy to announce it will be re-releasing  with Amazon’s encore program on August 4th.  It has a slightly different cover and a new price (it’s cheaper and this makes me all kinds of happy!).  Print copies are still available through other online retailers.

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Thanks, Dena, for such awesome tips!  Now, who’s up next?  If you’re game, please contact me at:

email

On Editing

 

A while back, I posted a call to all writers who wanted to share their editing tips, and Rhonda Blackhurst volunteered.  If you don’t already follow Rhonda’s blog, you’re missing a real treat.  So without further ado, here’s Rhonda:

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Rhonda Blackhurst

Please share one to three tips or tricks that you use when editing your work, how specifically you use them, and why they work for you.

Putting some time between each edit allows me to see more clearly what works and what doesn’t, making each edit more effective. While extra time between edits takes longer to complete the project, that space between edits allows time to work on other ongoing projects, actually making me more productive. After the first draft is written and the manuscript has been tucked in a drawer for a couple of weeks, I like to read through the entire manuscript in as few sittings, and closely together, as possible. During that first complete read through I don’t make any changes, but rather I have a coding system where I jot down in the margins of what needs to be changed and how. For example areas that don’t make sense, where the plot seems to be dragging, inconsistencies in character development, plot or details, if more needs to be explained or areas need to be cut, etc. After tucking the manuscript away for a couple of weeks once again, I then begin the major overhaul, followed by another break from the manuscript and the final finishing touches.

When I get to the editing phase of the project I’m working on now, a novel titled Finding Abby, I’m eager to try an editing process I stumbled across in a writing magazine. Each read through will be spent on one specific area of editing, starting with the biggest issues of plot and character, and ending with the proofreading and glitter. That will allow my brain to focus on one thing throughout the run through with less likelihood of missing something. I’ve learned multitasking a project isn’t the most effective way to edit.

The InheritanceWhat was your biggest repeated mistake when you first started writing? What is your weakest point of editing and why?

My biggest mistake of writing was simply not writing. I would wait for huge chunks of time where I could devote purely to putting words on the page, which resulted in no words on the page. I’ve learned to grab every fifteen minute increment I can and work with it accordingly. Lots of time? Work on my novel. Short amount of time? Work on a character sketch, plot ideas, etc.

As for the weakest point of my editing, I think editing is always a work in progress. The more I read what works for others, the more I find what works for me. Ideas like the one Rachel has here are golden learning opportunities for writers.

Shear MadnessPlease tell us something about your current work in progress or your most recent completed work (or both), and tell us where we can purchase your book(s).

My last book, Shear Madness, is the first in a series. I love a good mystery, so writing one was the most amazing journey! The first draft of the second book in the series, Shear Deception, is completed and awaiting the editing process which I will start after I’ve completed the first draft of the novel I’m working on now, Finding Abby. My current work in progress is a complete makeover of a Camp NaNo project from last year. As much as I enjoyed writing it, when I read through it back then, it just didn’t do anything for me so I filed it away (electronically) and forgot about it. One day when I was running I was hit with an idea of what I wanted to do with it. And that was to make it another series. While I’m working with the same “general” idea, the setting, characters, and plot have changed drastically. And I’m loving it! My first book, The Inheritance, and Shear Madness are both available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble. The Inheritance is also available at Old Firehouse Books in Ft. Collins, CO.

If you have any other news to share with us, please feel free to do so now.

This fall is bringing some fun writerly activities. (I’ve made the word “writerly” a legit part of my vocabulary. ) September 5th I have a book signing at the local bookstore. My postcards and flyers arrived today and my personalized pens arrive next week. September 11-13 I’m attending a writer’s conference. Though it’s not far from my home, I’m staying at a hotel to take full advantage of the evening hours to practice all the gems I’ll have learned during the sessions. (Or to crash from brain overload from all the gems I’ll have learned.) Then there are the new books to read on the craft. I’m a sponge when it comes to learning the craft. Nearly every page I read gets marked with highlighter or pen. And last, two fall vacations, one in Minnesota and one in the mountains (well, the one in the mountains is actually a conference for work, but it’s in an amazing, breathtaking part of Colorado, tucked in the mountains) with lots of time for writing and editing.

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WOW!  Rhonda really has her writing game on, doesn’t she?  Thank you, Rhonda, for such awesome tips!  Now, who’s up next?  If you’re game, please contact me at:

email

On Editing

Tap, tap, tap.  (Tapping my microphone.)  Is this thing on? 

Well, folks, I thought I’d have a nice little Tuesday segment during the summer that all of us writers could participate in and share and enjoy, but I can’t get anyone else to play along.  Don’t YOU want to share some of your editing tips and tricks with us here?  In exchange for your participation, you’ll get a shameless plug for your book(s) as well as a heartfelt thank you from many of my followers.

Too many of you seem to think that you don’t do anything special or you don’t know anything that everyone else doesn’t know.  But that’s not necessarily true.  We all do things a little differently, and we want to hear from YOU.  What do you say?

If you’d like to play along, please email your responses to the following questions to my email address below, and include any photos and/or links of you and your blog and your work so we can purchase it.

  1. Please share one to three tips or tricks that you use when editing your work, how specifically you use them, and why they work for you.
  1. What was your biggest repeated mistake when you first started writing? What’s your weakest point of editing and why?
  1. Have you used any editing methods previously that just didn’t work for you? If so, what were they, and why didn’t they work?
  1. Please tell us something about your current work in progress or your most recent completed work (or both), and tell us where we can purchase your book(s).
  1. If you have any other news to share with us, please feel free to do so now.

My Friend, Craig Boyack…

When I started blogging here, I never dreamed I’d meet so many wonderful and fascinating people.  So many of you make me smile each day with your comments.  One man in particular always makes me happy.  (You might remember him from a previous interview.)  When he blogs, he often interacts with characters from his books, and he allows us to see not only a snapshot of his writing style, but he also cleverly makes us want to know more about these endearing characters.

For years, Craig imagined, told, and wrote stories.  Finally, in 2014, he decided to jump into the self-publishing pool and share some of his talent with the world. He published four of his previously written stories over the course of the year while he worked on writing some new ones.  I’ll let him tell you about what he published last year.  Craig?

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Thanks, Rachel.  Craig here.  It’s good to be back.  I’d love to share a bit about my work:

Wild Concept is the story of an experimental robot. Lisa was designed to show off corporate superiority, and was programmed with emotional response software. She winds up placed with the local police department to help solve a murder. The end of the experiment involves her being disassembled and studied to perfect a commercial version of robot. Lisa decides to make a run for it, rather than be destroyed. This story explores prejudices and what it really means to be human.

Wild Concept can be purchased here:

Panama is a paranormal romp set during the building of the canal. President Roosevelt knows Ethan can talk to ghosts, and that Coop dabbles in magic. Roosevelt sends them to Panama to investigate some mysterious disappearances. The boys discover a demon army under control of a Carlist rebel, bent on recovering Spain’s lost colonies.

Panama can be purchased here:

Arson is the story of Perry Wolfe, an elite firefighter who works in space. Big insurance is the villain here. Perry has a minor accident that ends his career. While trying to rebuild his career, his sister is murdered. He travels off planet to train as a federal arson investigator with ATF. It is there that he discovers some unusual ties to his sister’s murder. He tries his best, but discovers something else he needs along the journey.

Arson can be purchased here:

Which brings us to The Cock of the South. This was a pile of loose notes and electronic pages at the beginning of 2013. I’m counting it as one of the older stories, even though it wasn’t finished.

I always challenge myself with each new story. The challenge in Wild Concept was to write a non-human protagonist. Panama challenged me to write a buddy story with two main characters. The challenge in Arson was to explore a main character’s downward spiral. These challenges won’t matter to readers, but writers might find them interesting. The personal challenge in The Cock of the South was to use fairytale story structure.

The Cock of the South is a fantasy set during Greco-Roman times. It involves a group of non-humans, who are all on the verge of extinction, banding together to carve out a place they can survive.

The main character is Cobby, a Southern Dwarf who was raised by humans. At the beginning of the story, he assumes he is just a short, broad human. When his comfortable world collapses he learns the truth. His “father” killed his real family and claimed Cobby as a prize of war.

Cobby makes a great character for readers to learn about this special world, because he is just learning about it himself. The world is a much bigger place than Cobby realizes, and there are more problems than just attending religious festivals or selling his wares at the market.

This story is a scoop of Exodus, with spices of King Arthur, hang together or hang separately, and finding the lost city. It’s all set in a Greco-Roman environment and I really enjoyed writing it.

The Cock of the South can be bloody and brutal in places. Fairytale structure isn’t necessarily for kids.

It’s important to me to stay true to my genre. A fantasy ought to have something fantastic in it. This story includes special people like centaurs, a minor goddess, and a touch of magic.

I strive to create memorable characters in my stories, and went out of my way to include some strong female characters. Many women like the fantasy genre, and the female characters ought to do more than cook, get rescued, or bind wounds.

I hope readers will take a chance on this story. I had a lot of fun with it, and I think you will too.

The Cock of the South can be purchased here:

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Hi, friends.  It’s Rachel again.  I appreciate Craig stopping by to share some of his work with us.  But what he didn’t mention was his upcoming novel Will O’ the Wisp.  Actually, I was among the lucky few to receive an advance reading copy of Will O’ the Wisp, and I have to say, it’s fantastic!  In fact, I’ll not only highly recommend it when it comes out, but I am hopeful that Craig will actually write a sequel.  Yes, it’s that good!

And there you have it, friends.  Doesn’t Craig’s work sound fascinating?  (And besides being an awesome writer, he’s also a really nice guy.)  If you don’t know him already, please hop on over to his blog and introduce yourself.  And be sure to tell him Rachel sent ya.

Author Interview – Reigh Simuzoshya

Recently, I posted a Call to Writers, asking my fellow author bloggers to allow me to interview them for guest-spots on my blog.  (If you are interested in participating, please contact me.)  I asked everyone thirty-five questions — some were basic, and others were multi-part inquiries — and I asked them to answer only what they wanted to or what was applicable. My friend, Reigh Simuzoshya, PhD, had some very thought-provoking responses which I’m sure will interest you, as well.   After you read her interview, please be sure to hop on over to her Facebook page and Twitter account and follow her for a regular dose of her insight.  And now, I turn the microphone over to Reigh…

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ABOUT YOU::

1. Please tell us your name (or pen name) and a little bit about yourself:

My name is Reigh Simuzoshya. I have a Ph.D. in Public Health with a concentration in Epidemiology. I like researching the efficacy of biblical principles to life in general.

2. Please provide the link to your blog (and website, Facebook fan page, Twitter, etc.):

http://www.reighsimuzoshya.com
https://www.facebook.com/PerfectPrescription https://www.facebook.com/reigh.simuzoshya
https://twitter.com/reighsim

3. How many books have you written?

I have written two books so far.

4. Has any of your work been published yet?  If so, please share the link(s) to purchase it:

The first one: The Perfect Prescription: Godly Wisdom on Public Health was published in 2013. The second one, Biblical Principles in Modern Legislation was out this month, August 2014. The first one can be purchased from Amazon.com and Barnes and Noble. Both of them can be purchased from Tate Publishing Enterprises although the second book has just been released. It might not appear on the website as yet.  https://www.tatepublishing.com/bookstore/book.php?w=978-1-62854-831-0

5. If you have been published, did you self-publish or use traditional publishing?  Why?  If you have not been published yet, what are your plans for the future?

I have used traditional publishing methods because oftentimes traditional publishers offer quality control at every phase of the publishing process. They do high quality cover design, proof reading, marketing and promotion of the book themselves…etc.

6. How old were you when you started writing?  When did you know you wanted to be an author?

I enjoyed writing compositions and essays in high school, but that waned somewhat when I went to higher education. It was not until I was in my mid-fifties that the urge to write came back. I resisted it vehemently but I finally ended up succumbing to it. I was inspired to write again. I fought the urge to write about God and the Bible because I thought that in an increasingly secularized global community no one would be interested to read books about God! But when I started writing I could not stop!

7. What would you say motivates you to keep writing?

My transience, the realization that I am a pilgrim on this earth gives me the impetus to write down what I now know for both contemporary and future generations. It is a desire to leave a legacy behind after my earthly sojourn.

8. Who are some of your favorite authors?  What are you currently reading (or what is the last book you read)?

Philip Yancey, Ravi Zacharias, William Lane Craig, John Lennox, Simone Weil, Norm Geisler… Currently I am reading “Reasonable Faith by William Lane Craig and Why Jesus by Ravi Zacharias.

9. What is your preferred reading method?  (i.e., Kindle, Nook, paperback, hardback, etc.)  Why?

I prefer hardcopy books to electronic books. Hardcopies allow me to make notes while writing. They also allow me to hold the book, tangibly, in my hands…a sense of ownership, I guess. Maybe I am just old fashioned.

10. Do you write in first or third person, past or present tense, and why?

I write about ideas and concepts. This means writing mostly in the third person; both present and past tense. Some of my topics are historical while others are on-going. Hence, the application of both past and present tense.

11. Do you “always read” or do you take breaks between reading books? 

I have got to. I am a voracious reader. Reading is a vital component of the learning continuum, for me.

12. How many books would you say you read in a year?  How many at any one time?

I read a minimum of fourteen books a year. I usually read two books at a time.

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 ABOUT YOUR CURRENT BOOK::

13. What is the title of your current work in progress of the most recent manuscript you’ve completed?

The Perfect Prescription: Godly Wisdom on Public Health was published in 2013. The second one, Biblical Principles in Modern Legislation published in 2014.

14. What is your novel’s genre?  Would you say there is a sub-genre?  What makes yours different than other books in the same genre?

I think that primarily the genre of both my books is the Christian believer who desires to know more about God’s involvement in His creation; particularly His guidelines for our holistic well-being.

15. What inspired the current or most recent story you’ve completed?

My need to know about how God feels about me; whether I really mattered to Him.

16. What is your target audience’s age, gender, etc.?

I would place the age of my target audience at 18 and above.

17. Do you want to tell us a little bit about your story?

The first book, The Perfect Prescription, refutes the supposition that the Bible is an obsolete and archaic book saturated with myths and superstition, and insists that if studied carefully with an open mind, the Bible is a rich repository of time-tested counsel for all facets of life including health and longevity.

The second book, Biblical Principles and Modern Legislation, highlights biblical principles as the foundational pillars of justice and fairness in modern polities.

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 ABOUT HOW YOU WRITE::

18. How often do you write?

I write almost every day. It is a full time calling. I would not want to call it a job because I have had very little monetary returns from it so far, but I am glad that I can share what has been revealed to me in Scripture with others.

19. Approximately how many words do you write at each sitting?

A minimum of 1,000 words

20. Do you do your own editing or send it to someone else?

My publishers do the primary editing.

21. What is your method of writing?  (i.e., Do you write the entire manuscript, then go back and make changes?  Do you plan chapters as you go along or write the story then go back and add chapters?  Do you re-read as you go along or after you are done with the first draft?)

I usually have a draft of a table of contents serving as a guideline for my chapters, subject to modification, of course. Then I write the entire manuscript. Finally, I go back and edit it and make changes before submitting it to the publishers who do their own editing, which I must approve.

22. Do you have a muse?  If so, please elaborate. If not, what inspires you?

My inspiration comes from studying the Bible and reading the work from Christian authors.

23. How long does it take you to write a full manuscript?

It takes me a minimum of two and a half years to draft a manuscript.

24. Do you give yourself a word limit for each day or a time limit to finish your novel?  If so, please elaborate.

No, I do not give myself a word limit. Sometimes I write extensively, other times I do not write much.

25. How do you come up with your character names and geographic location / business names?

My work does not require creating characters. Rather, I write about concepts.

26. How long (or how detailed) are the notes you take before you start writing?

My notes are not usually detailed since they serve as prompter. That is, they are reminders of the main idea.

27. Do you have any “must haves” to help you write?  (i.e., a full cup of coffee, a view of the ocean, etc.)

No. I do not have any “must haves.” At least, not yet.

28. Do you only write during a certain time of day or in a certain location?  If so, do you make yourself stop after a certain time?

Mostly, I write in the mornings when my mind is fresh after a night’s rest.

29. Does your real life ever neglected because of your writing?  If so, how do you feel about that?

My writing has really become my real life. My family has graciously surrendered me to it.

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 ABOUT YOUR WORK::

30. If you have written more than one novel, which is your favorite and why?

I have written two books. I am not sure I have a favorite since they both tackle different but critical issues.

31. What is the oddest thing you have ever researched for one of your books?

Global waste management strategies.

32. What is the most difficult thing you have ever researched for one your books and why?

Methods used to execute capital punishment. It is about killing human beings, a disconcerting subject even when there might be legitimate reasons for doing so.

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 Thank you, Reigh, for allowing me to interview you.  I hope everyone else has enjoyed learning about you and your work as much as I have.

~Rachel

Author Interview – James McAllen

A while back when I posted a Call to Writers, asking my fellow author bloggers to allow me to interview them, I was elated with the responses I received.  (And if you would like to participate, please feel free to contact me.)  I asked thirty-five questions and gave the interviewee the freedom to answer only what they wanted.  My friend and fellow-blogger, James McAllen, had some very interesting responses which I’m sure you’ll find as fascinating as I did.  When you’re done reading the interview, please hop on over to his blog and make sure you follow him for more news.  And now, heeeeere’s James…

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ABOUT YOU::

1. Please tell us your name (or pen name) and a little bit about yourself:

James McAllen –   I was born and raised in the Bay Ridge section of Brooklyn NY. After failing as a baseball player, rock singer, Shakespearean actor and masked superhero, I decided to try my hand at writing. My first screenplay, Three of a Kind, was a semi-finalist in the 2004 Project Greenlight contest. Split Rock Road is my first published collection of short stories.

2. Please provide the link to your blog (and website, Facebook fan page, Twitter, etc.):

http://jamesmcallen.com/

https://www.facebook.com/jimmcallen

3. How many books have you written?

I’ve self-published a collection of short stories titled – Split Rock Road.

4. Has any of your work been published yet? If so, please share the link(s) to purchase it:

http://amzn.com/1481121367

5. How old were you when you started writing? When did you know you wanted to be an author?

In High School, we had a teacher named Mrs. Bogash who made us write in a journal every day. I’ve been writing ever since.

6. What would you say motivates you to keep writing?

I look at all creative efforts as extension of who I am, and who I want to be. There are many things that inspire me to write; books, movies, songs, sunsets, but being a writer is just part of who I am.

7. Who are some of your favorite authors? What are you currently reading (or what is the last book you read)?

Hemingway is my favorite author. Everyone should read “The Old Man and the Sea” over and over again. I also love Jack London, John Irving and John Updike. David Halberstam is my favorite non-fiction author.

8. What is your preferred reading method? (i.e., Kindle, Nook, paperback, hardback, etc.) Why?

Although I spend a lot of time reading articles, blogs and newspapers online, books were meant to be read the old fashioned way; sitting in a comfortable chair with a physical book.

9. Do you write in first or third person, past or present tense, and why?

I alternate with tenses and p.o.v. I let the story tell the story. The muse usually decides.

10. Do you “always read” or do you take breaks between reading books? 

I go on reading “jags”, where I’ll read four or five books in a row and then take a break. The same goes for movies.

11. How many books would you say you read in a year? How many at any one time?

I usually read somewhere between 10-15 books a year. I try to confine myself to one at a time, but I sometimes find myself reading a novel and a biography simultaneously.

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ABOUT YOUR CURRENT BOOK::

12. What is the title of your current work in progress or the most recent manuscript you’ve completed?

The current project is titled, Under an august moon. The story centers around two characters; a recently released convict who struggles to put his life together, and an alcoholic priest who struggles with his faith.

13. What is your novel’s genre? Would you say there is a sub-genre

The goal of this book is to write a literary novel. There is no sub-genre, per se, but it does contain some elements of a crime novel, or a mystery.

14. What inspired the current or most recent story you’ve completed?

I met a man whose mother died on 9/11, but of natural causes, hours before the attacks. I used that as a starting point for my character. He resents the attention giving to the victims of the attack, and eventually lies about his mother’s death, sending him down a regrettable path.

15. What is your target audience’s age, gender, etc.?

The story is for adults, but I don’t have a target group as far as gender or demographic. I’m not that clever when it comes to marketing.

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ABOUT HOW YOU WRITE::

16. How often do you write?

When I’m writing, I write every day, even if it’s just for a few minutes, but there are stretches where I don’t write anything but my blog for weeks at a time.

17. Approximately how many words do you write at each sitting?

Jack London set a daily goal of 1000 words. That was handwritten. I try and shoot for 1500, but I don’t punish myself if the muse isn’t cooperating.

18. Do you do your own editing or send it to someone else?

Both.  I edit as I go, then I let my girlfriend do a round of corrections before I send it out to a professional editor.

19. What is your method of writing? (i.e., Do you write the entire manuscript, then go back and make changes? Do you plan chapters as you go along or write the story then go back and add chapters?  Do you re-read as you go along or after you are done with the first draft?)

I’ve written several screenplays, and they were written as an outline first, then scene by scene. My first book was a short story collection, so each was written independently.  August Moon, has a non-linear structure, so it jumps all over the place, according to how I feel at the given moment.

20. Do you have a muse? If so, please elaborate. If not, what inspires you?

Ah, the fickle muse. The muse comes in many shapes and sizes, all of which are feminine in nature. In some ways, the pursuit of art is like the pursuit of love. It is a courtship. All artistic endeavors, be it writing or painting or music, are simply attempts to make the muse happy, so she will come back to inspire you once again.

21. How long does it take you to write a full manuscript?

I’ll let you know when I finish this one, but Split Rock Road was complied over several years, although the bulk of the stories were written in one year.

22. How do you come up with your character names and geographic location / business names?

Character names are really tough, as I have a tendency to use the same ones over and over. For male characters, for some reason I find myself using “J” names; Justin, James, Jake, etc. I have to make a conscious effort to change the name. For streets, or businesses, I often pick up a random book and point to a word on a page. Usually, I can find something interesting that way.

23. How long (or how detailed) are the notes you take before you start writing?

I find notes helpful at times, but I also find myself using them as a stalling tactic. I’ll compile 30 or 40 pages of notes, just to avoid actually writing. You can never write bad notes, but you can write a LOT of bad sentences before you find one that works.

24. Does your real life ever neglected because of your writing? If so, how do you feel about that?

No, on the contrary, my writing suffers from too much time spent at work and commuting. Maybe I can crowd-source a years’ salary to assist in my next book.

25. What is the quirkiest thing you do or have ever done when writing?

I like to read the dialogue out loud, in different voices, just to hear if it sounds authentic. On occasion, my landlord will ask me who I was talking to.

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ABOUT YOUR WORK::

26. If you have written more than one novel, which is your favorite and why?

I spent the first few years writing screenplays, then switched to short stories, so this is my first attempt at a novel.

 27. If you could be one of your own characters for a day, who would it be and why?

A piece of me lives in every character, so I get to be them every day.

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Thank you, James, for allowing me to interview you.  I hope everyone else has enjoyed learning about you and your work as much as I have.

~Rachel

Author Interview – Al Ajello

We are definitely not at a loss for talent today, folks!  A while back when I posted a Call to Writers, asking my fellow author bloggers to allow me to interview them, I was elated with the responses I received.  (And if you would like to participate, please feel free to contact me.)  I asked thirty-five questions and gave the interviewee the freedom to answer only what they wanted.  My friend and fellow-blogger, Alfonso (Al) Ajello, had some very fascinating responses which I’m sure you will find as captivating as I did.  When you’re done reading the interview, please hop on over to his blog and make sure you follow him for more entertaining tales.  And now, heeeeere’s Al…

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ABOUT YOU::

1. Please tell us your name (or pen name) and a little bit about yourself:

My Name is Alfonso (Al) Ajello, I am a writer and guitarist who lives and works in northern Bergen County, NJ with my wife and 2 kids. I finance my writing and artistic pursuits by working 9-5 in the insurance business.

2. Please provide the link to your blog (and website, Facebook fan page, Twitter, etc.):

Author’s page / Blog: http://alkajello.wordpress.com/

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/alfonso.ajello.1

Online Portfolio: http://cuttings.me/users/alkajello

3. How many books have you written?

I have written somewhere between 8 to 12 books, which are handwritten in spiral bound notebooks and stored in my basement. So far I have typed 2 of them into full length manuscripts.

4. Has any of your work been published yet?  If so, please share the link(s) to purchase it:

I have not yet had a novel published, but I won 2 short fiction contests for magazines and have had numerous articles published. To see my published works please visit my online portfolio at: http://cuttings.me/users/alkajello

5. If you have been published, did you self-publish or use traditional publishing? Why? If you have not been published yet, what are your plans for the future?

I am currently working with a literary agent who is actively shopping my first novel. At this time I am working through the first re-write of my second novel. I am also promoting myself by publishing a blog each week on my author’s page.

6. How old were you when you started writing?  When did you know you wanted to be an author?

I’m not sure of the exact age, but the fulcrum was when I decided to transfer to William Paterson College as an English major with a concentration in writing. When I saw Creative Writing 1 & 2 on the curriculum I was inspired. I couldn’t wait to get in there and get started. I not only excelled in those classes, but I developed a passion for it. After that I knew I needed to keep writing.

7. What would you say motivates you to keep writing?

Writing is therapy for me. I find that when things bother me the only way for me to get past them, to flush them from my consciousness, is to write them out. Writing keeps me sane and helps unclutter my mind.

8. Who are some of your favorite authors? What are you currently reading (or what is the last book you read)?

My favorite author is Hubert Selby, Jr., also a big fan of Kurt Vonnegut, and E. B. Sledge. Generally, I am not a big reader. Rather than read (in my non-writing time) I play guitar and write music. In my downtime I prefer movies and/or some of the excellent TV stories of today (Breaking Bad / House Of Cards / Ray Donovan).

9. Do you write in first or third person, past or present tense, and why?

I write in third person omniscient, past tense. I find that this is the most natural way for me to tell a story, as if my narrator is telling the story over a beer. I can get into the mind of each and every character, and report facts as they occurred.

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ABOUT YOUR CURRENT BOOK::

10. What is the title of your current work in progress of the most recent manuscript you’ve completed?

My title of my current work in progress is WEST (currently re-writing second draft). My most recently completed manuscript is entitled NUMBER ONE SON, which is currently being shopped by my agent.

11. What is your novel’s genre? Would you say there is a sub-genre? What makes yours different than other books in the same genre?

My novels are literary fiction. My vision is to produce highly personal stories that are engaging, entertaining and easily readable – yet gritty, brutally honest, and socially relevant. I love to focus on characters that are pushed to the edge of insanity. My novels are structured as a series of interrelated short stories that carry characters from an initial conflict through a journey of self-realization.

12. What inspired the current or most recent story you’ve completed?

NUMBER ONE SON: Being betrayed, being put in harm’s way, by those in power who are supposed to protect us.

WEST: Watching a news report after an air strike in Iraq, of a guy who was my about my age who was crying in front of a smoking pile of rubble, pointing and cursing the sky. I could not understand a word he was saying but I understood his sorrow and his grief, and his anger. It made me wonder how I would feel, and how a person might respond if in his shoes.

13. What is your target audience’s age, gender, etc.?

I don’t necessarily target an age or gender. When I was in creative writing in college we were assigned to read our work to the class for critique. My content was offensive to most people, with the exception of the professor and 2 or 3 stoners who loved of my work. It is the strong response (negative or positive) I am looking for from the general populous, and it is those 2 or 3 outliers that are my target audience.

14. Do you want to tell us a little bit about your story(ies)?

NUMBER ONE SON: Delmo sacrifices his marriage as he falls victim to the lure of wealth and power to join forces with his father, a vicious and powerful mob boss. Delmo regrets the heinous crimes he commits on his father’s behalf, and ultimately realizes that his father has betrayed him repeatedly throughout his life. He must devise a way out alive, gain redemption in the eyes of his wife and win back his family.

WEST: Wes loses his only son in an alleged terrorist bombing. When he realizes that booze and sex is not enough to ease his suffering he joins forces with a disgruntled Marine veteran who lost a brother in the same attack. The two forge a plan of spectacular revenge.

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ABOUT HOW YOU WRITE::

15. How often do you write?

I write every single day without fail.

16. Approximately how many words do you write at each sitting?

I write no less than 5 minutes as a starting point, which accounts for about 250 words. I refer to this as free-writing. The key is that the 5 minutes can be 5 minutes or it can expand to 3 hours.  Either way, I open that pathway to my creative consciousness.

17. Do you do your own editing or send it to someone else?

I do all my own editing up to a certain point. I will then forward “clean” work to my agent who will edit further and give me critical feedback.

18. What is your method of writing?  (i.e., Do you write the entire manuscript, then go back and make changes? Do you plan chapters as you go along or write the story then go back and add chapters?  Do you re-read as you go along or after you are done with the first draft?)

My stories are fully conceived in my head, and play as movie scenes.  I then describe each scene in detail during free-writing. I then gather these hand written scenes and organize them into chapters. I type these hand-written chapters into a first draft of the manuscript. The first draft then gets re-written as many times as necessary until I feel that it is completed. This re-writing is critical. While doing this I will edit, add chapters, cut chapters, kill characters or bring them back to life, and even re-structure the entire story.

19. Do you have a muse? If so, please elaborate. If not, what inspires you?

I have many muses that take many forms. Many times they are close friends and fans that have encouraged and supported me since the very beginning. An example of a muse is my agent who believes in me and “gets” what I’m doing. If you see me talking to myself, I am having an internal dialog with a muse – and the way for me to stop is to write it out. Inspiration can hit from anywhere, it can be born of conversation with a friend, or come from an everyday situation, or even come from something I see on TV. This interview questionnaire is an inspiration. I can’t move on until I write it out and finish it.

20. How long does it take you to write a full manuscript?

Approximately 6 months to complete a 90,000 word first draft (see question 24).

21. Do you give yourself a word limit for each day or a time limit to finish your novel? If so, please elaborate.

Yes, I go for 5 pages per day – assuming 250 words per page which equates to approximately 1,250 words. Assuming you work a 5 days week it should take about 15 weeks to knock out a 90,000 word manuscript. This is not counting the time dedicated to conceiving the story and the re-writes.

22. How do you come up with your character names and geographic location business names?

I’m always on the lookout for ironic and humorous names.

23. Do you have any “must haves” to help you write?  (i.e., a full cup of coffee, a view of the ocean, etc.)

Yes, a piece of paper and a pen…cup of strong black coffee (optional). I’ve tried a glass of Irish whiskey, but I find I do better when I’m sober and wired.

24. Does your real life ever get neglected because of your writing?  If so, how do you feel about that?

Absolutely, yes…my wife wants to drown my laptop in the bathtub. Unfortunately, even when I do step away from the physical work of writing, many times I’m still a million miles away in the middle of some crazy scene within my imagination. Being a novelist is a solitary existence, and the pursuit has cost me. It is very difficult to completely withdraw and work when life is going on around you, and sometimes it is even harder to tamp away the creative impulse to be present in the real world. No matter how hard it is though, it is rewarding to live your dreams. When the people you love recognize your sacrifice and talent and continue to support you, it makes it all the difference.

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ABOUT YOUR WORK::

25. If you have written more than one novel, which is your favorite and why?

NUMBER ONE SON, probably will always be my favorite because it is my first. This novel has taken so many forms, so many years of my life, so many re-writes, and so many rejections. Whatever happens with this novel it was my novelist’s education and that is priceless – and I have the black eyes and broken bones to prove it. I am satisfied that I have puked my heart and blood into this piece of art…and that I have achieved something great.

26. If you could be one of your own characters for a day, who would it be and why?

My narrator, my characters get beaten-up way too much. Second choice would be one of my female characters. They are by far the strongest and smartest characters in my novels.

27. What is the oddest thing you have ever researched for one of your books?

Terrorist tactics.

28. What is the most difficult thing you have ever researched for one your books and why?

Terrorist tactics.  Irrational fear that the FBI might flag me, and I’ll have a SWAT team knocking down my door.

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Thank you, Al, for allowing me to interview you.  I hope everyone else has enjoyed learning about you and your work as much as I have.

~Rachel