Allan Douglas [allandouglas]
What did you first read? How did you begin to write? Who were the first to read what you wrote?
My mother read to me as an infant, I started reading on my own early; primer books obviously. The first real novel I read was Wonderful Flight To the Mushroom Planet by Eleanor Cameron; a children's Sci-Fi story. I've been hooked on Sci-Fi ever since.
My earliest work went into a notebook that never got shown to anyone. In grammar school I wrote some stories for an English class that my teacher insisted I enter into a writing contest. The earliest to get professionally published were magazine articles on computer programming.
What is your favorite genre? Can you provide a link to a site where we can read some of your work or learn something about it?
For entertainment reading, I prefer science fiction, especially hard Sci-Fi. But most of my reading is research for projects I'm working on.
Sure, http://allandouglas.com/blog/ is my personal blog where I offer up advice on writing and publishing as well as short memoirs about my life as a mountain man wannabe. The About Me page offers links to many of my published articles as well.
What is your creative process like? What happens before sitting down to write?
Quite often an idea will hit me out of the blue - Inspired Writings, I call them - and I know that if I don't at least get the bones down on paper right now I'll lose it. It's best if I can sit down at the keyboard and let the words running through my head drip off my fingertips and flow into the CPU while they're still fresh and warm. If I wait, they congeal and are harder to work with.
When I sit down to work on a specific assignment, I take all my notes and start rearranging them into a sensible order, then see what kind of inspiration jumps up to fill in the gaps with sensible and entertaining banter. If I get stuck, I work on something else entirely. Sitting and staring at the screen never brings a solution, but sometimes pushing the problem out of my mind forces it to resolve itself and beg for my attention again.
What type of reading inspires you to write?
Everything. Novels, short stories, even newspaper articles can spawn ideas for a story or article. I don't discount anything in terms of inspiration.
What do you think are the basic ingredients of a story?
First you have to have a good story; if nothing is happening it isn't worth reading about. Then you must have a good plot. These are different, story is what the book is about, plot is how it is revealed to the reader. Set a good hook right off, then keep the pace moving along to keep the reader interested. The finishing touch and an equal partner in importance is vibrant characters. They have to be someone I can care about, even if I hate them for who they are. Flat lifeless characters won't hold a readers attention, you have to make them seem lifelike.
What voice do you find most to your liking: first person or third person?
First person is more active and engaging, but third person is more flexible. Depending on the story, it's scope and the cast of characters, one may work better than the other. I prefer reading stories in first person because of the intimacy of the dialogue (and because it usually means there aren't so many characters to keep track of).
What well known writers do you admire most?
I've always been fond of the works of AC Clarke, Isaac Asimov, Frank Herbert, and Robert Heinlein. More recently I've greatly enjoyed books by Mary Pax, Lindsay Buroker and Michael Rose. If they aren't well known yet, they will be.
Are you equally good at telling stories orally?
No. I'm very shy and self conscious around other people. There seems to be a series of stumbling block laid out between my brain and my tongue, so my words come out all jumbled.
Is writing a form of personal therapy? Are internal conflicts a creative force?
Most definitely. Writing helps me get my world straight. The only time I can write something that approaches poetry is when I'm in a highly charged emotional state. But even when I'm calm, writing about my experiences helps me to process them, even when what comes out on paper has very little semblance to what I experienced. I know what's hidden under the letters and between the lines.
Does reader feed-back help you?
It's always nice to get encouraging remarks. Artistic types NEED encouragement. But the most helpful to me is feedback from other authors, maybe better authors than I, that offer advice on how to make my writing just a bit better. Of course separating worthwhile advice from knowledgeable sources from the half-baked spoutings of self-important hacks is the key. This may take doing some homework on the commenter to see if their advice is worth listening to.
Do you share rough drafts of your writings with someone whose opinion you trust?
Yes, I have a couple of people who serve as beta reader and copy editor. It's always good to have a second (or third) set of eyes on a manuscript before it's sent off to The Editor or worse, to Print.
Do you believe you have already found "your voice" or is that something one is always searching for?
If asked how I would describe my "voice" I could not do it. But I've had several editors say that I have a unique writing voice and it's one they enjoy. Comments from readers also indicate that folks find my writing entertaining and educational. I do find journalistic writing - required for newsy writing - to be very confining and the results boring. But then people aren't looking for entertainment here, they just want facts.
What discipline do you impose on yourself regarding schedules, goals, etc.?
I used to be a big-time scheduler; I had a day-planner and I mapped out everything I was going to do at least a week in advance. And that seemed to work out fine while I was enmeshed in the corporate world, but once I got out of that, life has a way of just popping up and saying, "Not so fast there bud, I'm going to toss *this* jewel of a hiccup into your plans for today." So I've taken to planning longer term and general goals, allowing me a bit more flexibility on a day-to-day basis. This keeps me from stressing out and going bonkers (or working 24 hours a day) because I didn't get all the things I'd hoped to do done that day. You have to learn to roll with it, but not fall into slacking. What needs to get done needs to get done.
What do you surround yourself with in your work area in order to help your concentrate?
Primarily, quiet. I am not one of those people who can write amid a clamorous household. If a television is on or a radio playing I tend to listen to the discussion there instead of paying attention to my writing. Soft instrumental music is good, but nothing with words. Fortunately I'm home alone most of the day. If I need to get away, I have an office in a separate building where I'm supposed to go to work, but it's not very cheerful, so I go there only to avoid the noise of weekends.
Do you write on a computer? Do you print frequently? Do you correct on paper? What is your process?
I use a laptop computer so I can take it with me. It transports easily between home and office, but can also go with me on trips or vacations.
I print only for a final read-through, and I read it out load; that catches a lot of flow problems that get missed by reading only with eyeballs.
Essentially, I like to write a piece, read it through a couple of times to catch any grammar and spelling goofs. Then set it aside for at least a day before reading it again. This will turn up awkward sentences and bad word choices that I missed earlier because it was too fresh and I "knew what I meant".
From here it may get posted/submitted or I may send it to beta reader and copy editor for a final once over. Beta reader tells me if there are logic problems, copy editor slaps my wrist for missing something technical.
A book or major magazine article will then get sent off to a hired editor for final polishing. This is more important for fiction where story and characterization are oh-so important.
What sites do you frequent on-line to share experiences or information?
Twitter (@AllanDouglasDgn) and Facebook are my primary hang-outs, but I also have G+, LinkedIn, Goodreads, and Triberr accounts. Facebook has a page for my book (http://www.facebook.com/pages/Writing-for-Profit-or-Pleasure/143704772350971) and my personal page, but i don't promote the personal page and I only "friend" people I'm genuinely interested in hearing from. Twitter is my primary outlet for professional communications.
What has been your experience with publishers?
I've had one book traditionally published and two more self-published. I've written for mainstream print magazines and newspapers but I also do a lot of on-line content. You could say I'm all over the map when it comes to being published.
What are you working on now?
I've been concentrating (too much, it seems) on marketing my latest book, but while I do that I also write for three blogs and a magazine. I sell individual articles as I can. I'm also an avid gardener and woodworker, these take up some time so I have something to write about on these topics. I need to back away from the social media stuff and concentrate more on another book. I have two underway, one is a gardening guide, the other is a sci-fi novel I've been working on for years. It may never be good enough.
My latest book is Publishing for Profit or Pleasure: Where to Sell Your work
What do you recommend I do with all those things I wrote years ago but have never been able to bring myself to show anyone?
If you don't think they're good enough to show, rewrite them and make them better. If they're too short to publish as they are, use them for an anthology or story collection. Or if they're non-fic articles, find an eZine or blog that may be interested in running them.
Or... just use them as seed stock. Re-read them from time to time to see what other ideas they spawn that may be of more use to you. I have a whole folder of ideas, fragments of dialogue, and snippets of stories. I read them occasionally and see what sparks in my mind. Sometimes a snippet expands into a whole story, sometimes a bit of something sparks and flames into an idea that goes in a whole different direction.
One way or another, it's all useful stuff.
Newport TN USA