This is going to be the first in a hopefully long-running series of interviews with neo-professional writers. What’s a neo-pro? Someone who has started writing seriously, submitting seriously, and has a goal of making some or all of their living at writing, ie intends to be and/or has taken the first steps down the road to being a career writer.
It’s tough being a neo-pro. We might have a few sales under our belts, are likely getting more “nice” rejections than form letters, but we haven’t quite been here long enough to have the shine rubbed off. We’re past the “use correct submission format, follow guidelines, put ass in chair and write” kind of advice and into the deep end where there are only hints and no real, clear path, just hard work ahead. So I wanted to interview and spotlight some of the neo-pros I interact with (and hopefully I’ll meet more of us as I do this). While our paths may all look a little different, we’re all in this together.
And hey, this way I can say… “I knew that writer back when…”
So here’s my first victim writer interview. Let me know in the comments if I missed a cool and/or obvious question that you’d like me to ask in the future. Thanks!
Who are you? What’s your genre/history/etc?
Tom: My name is Tom Carpenter. I have and will write just about anything I’m interested in, but I think my sweet spot will probably be fantasy and science-fiction since those forms suit me best (and it’s what I’ve most written so far.) My day job is a Production Manager at Toyota which has kept me quite busy over the years. Thankfully, I really picked up the old steam shovel and started working on my first novel when I was still in college. I finished it a few years later but then got side-tracked by a few poor choices, kids, and insane amounts of work. It wasn’t until I finished my MBA about four years ago that I realized I really do have time for writing…well actually, my lovely wife reminded me of that and I’m sure she’s regretted that decision a few times since (just kidding! she’s amazingly supportive!)
What’s your Race score?
Tom: I’m currently at 48 which boggles my mind. I was at zero about 1.5 years ago. Granted, I had three novels I’d finished and was starting to write shorts, but it seemed daunting to make that score grow. I started sending out the second and third novels (the first is not good enough by a long shot) and have been steadily increasing my score. It’s strange to think that professionals are usually above the fifty level (though probably closer to one-hundred) and that I’ll hit that level soon. Granted, I haven’t sold anything yet, but I feel like it’s coming.
When did you “get serious” about being a writer?
Tom: After the MBA. I also gave up my World of Warcraft addiction. It’s amazing how much time there is to write when you’re not obsessively playing games.
What are your goals with your writing?
Tom: I’d love to say getting published, but I can’t control that. So I’ll stick to my 2011 targets: above 50 on race score (close!), 300,000 words written, over 100 rejections (close!), and over a 20 on eRace. I’m also planning on editing and producing a yearly anthology about augmented reality (more details in a few months!) The world of epublishing feels so amazingly freeing.
Where do you see your career in 5 years?
Tom: I’m sure I’ll still be working for Toyota at least until the kids are in college. If at that time, I’m making enough to safely leave? Then I would take that chance, but until then I’ve got two jobs.
Do you have a particular story or idea you are dying to write? Or, if you could write a tie-in to any established universe/franchise, what would it be?
Tom: Oh jeez. I have so many ideas for novels that it’s hard to pin that one down. Every project I start seems like the greatest thing ever when I’m writing it. So really I’m always dying to write, what I’m currently writing. I would love to work with other authors on some projects though. Either ones of my devising, or maybe something like George RR Martin’s Wild Cards series.
What are your hobbies outside writing?
Tom: We’re allowed other hobbies? Seriously, if I had time, I would still play computer games. I do occasionally get together with friends and play cards or other nerdy games, but it’s too far and few between.
What’s your writing process like?
Tom: I have weekly goals for word count that I expect myself to meet. If I’m ahead on other weeks, I will allow myself a little slack, if for a good reason, but otherwise I’m a slave to the targets. I always write on Sat and Sun morns, but try to fit in one or two nights during the week. I also do a lot of thinking during the work drive, or when I go running with the dog on the weekends. Overall, I’m extremely taxing on my muse, expecting her to perform whenever I demand (read my post about creativity to understand that statement: http://thomaskcarpenter.com/2010/12/05/the-myth-of-creativity/)
What’s been toughest about your journey so far as a writer? How do you keep yourself going?
Tom: When I finished my first novel I got an agent and she scammed me out of $300. I was devistated at the time, but now I consider that money well spent, because that small amount (compared to what some authors lose) opened my eyes to the unregulated world of agents. As for keeping going now? I was an undisciplined youngster when I wrote my first novel. I actually think my time in Toyota has helped me become more focused and capable of meeting difficult targets. It has felt like a long strange trip though, and while that first big sale (magazine or novel) will be exciting, I think I’ve also reached the point that I know its just another step on a long and daunting staircase.
Any tips or tricks you’ve figured out for improving your writing?
Tom: Listen to people with more experience than me (I recommend Dean Wesley Smith and Kris Rusch). Otherwise, I’d just parrot the usual advice you get from pros: read a lot, write a lot, write even more, send that stuff out and go back to writing.
And finally, got anything you want to pimp?
Tom: I jumped on the self-pub bandwagon and recently put out a novel I’m very proud of: The Digital Sea. I also write for a tech blog about augmented reality called Games Alfresco (www.gamesalfresco.com) and I have my author website where I talk about augmented reality, writing, tech stuff and the robot apocolypse.
It’s an exciting time to be a writer! Thanks for sharing me with your readers.
*Big thanks to Tom!*