For the Blog’s inaugural interview let me introduce to you, WALTER B SHILLINGTON, author of Difficult Times, An Alien Invasion Serial:
If you were to introduce yourself to a group of strangers, what would you say?
Until recently I would have described myself as retired and mentioned my twenty-nine years employment as an electronic technician. Now that my weekly serial is in full swing, I introduce myself as a writer. For me the switch occurred the moment I sold my first episode. A total stranger considered me a writer; that was good enough for me.
How long have you been writing?
I dabbled as a teenager, and then gave it up to concentrate on my military career. Since retirement I have written two unpublished novels and authored a number of technical reviews for The Hub. These projects taught me the basics and provided the experience necessary to fine-tune my craft. I now write a weekly serial which follows the adventures of a man struggling to survive amid an alien invasion.
What do you write?
I normally write Science Fiction. Typically, this type of story is based in the future, using unknown technology and undiscovered locations; the perfect genre for lazy writers who avoid research.
Once my present story ends, I plan to write about a private detective who sets up shop in a small town. A serial of this type, while requiring a complicated plotline, would be fun to write.
Did you always believe you were meant to be a writer? Or was this some accidental discovery?
I’ve always wanted to write.
Do you listen to music while you write? If so, what kind of music?
I’m not great at multitasking. The radio stays off.
What are you currently working on?
I write the weekly serial, Difficult Times. It’s a briskly paced, science fiction adventure and is available on Kindle.
If you could be any character of any book, what would it be?
I’m sorry, I can’t think of an answer for that.
Do you name your muse(s)?
I assume you refer to my source of inspiration. I take a long, brisk walk every morning, using the time to work out plots and dialogue. When I sit at the computer and write, the air is heavy with smoke. My muses are an unlikely pair; fresh air and cigarettes.
What is the one advice you would offer to a new writer?
Editing is the key. I spend three days writing an episode. The next day or two, I rewrite. I’m ruthless. If a word, sentence, or even a paragraph does not directly contribute to the story, it is deleted. I’ll read the story aloud. If a section sounds uneven, I’ll reword it until the paragraph feels as smooth as silk.
The following day I edit the material again. I check for small stuff like overuse of certain words or paragraphs where all sentences tend to be the same length. At this point it is useful to have someone else look over your work. Friends and family can help but they tend to be too nice. Join a local writers group or a website such as Scribophile. Ask them to tear your story apart.
My final edit occurs on publishing day. I write two months ahead, which means I haven’t glanced at this material in weeks. This is good because I examine the work with fresh eyes. I’m still shocked at the number of improvements made each time I perform the final edit.
Do dreams inspire your writing ideas?
Sadly, I seldom remember my dreams. When I do, they never make sense.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
I expect success. I’ve worked hard to lay the groundwork, and continue to perfect my craft every day. The steady improvement in readership increases my confidence; that’s the beauty of writing a weekly serial. I plan to rise to the top of the best seller list within five years.
What do you think the future holds for serial fiction?
The outlook is bright. On one end you have the novice writers who set up a blog and publish their episodes for free. Those that read these installments can provide valuable feedback that allows the blogger to increase their skills.
On the other end you have the experienced writer who publishes well-edited installments on sites such as Amazon and Kobo. The individual episodes provide little income but they introduce the writer and their work to the general public. Then, when these episodes are bundled into a larger eBook, representing a season, they should sell quite well.
Any additional comments or advice you’d like to add for our readers?
Every writer understands the importance of the opening. If the reader browses through the first few lines of a book and finds little to attract his attention, he puts it aside and moves on.
So how should you start your book? Would background information, designed to bring the reader up to speed, be appropriate? Could a strong physical description of the lead character, or of the setting, fit the bill? What about action, dialogue, or even a verse from a poem?
There is only one rule. The opening must grab the reader by the throat and drag him into the story. Background information can work but, unless carefully composed, will be written off as a boring history lesson. Physical description is fine, provided you keep it short. Most writers tend to use action and dialogue, combined with crisp vivid description.
Remember, this is just the opening of a lengthy story. You will have plenty of time to explain what’s going on, build your characters, and advance the plotline. Don’t do it here. Use this space to hook your reader.
Thank you, Walter, for visiting with us today!
Check out Walter Shillington’s serial, Difficult Times, at Amazon!