Guest Interview: Stuart J. Whitmore

There are few short stories that I wish had been turned into a novel; No Fanfare by Stuart J. Whitmore is one of those short stories that I wish had been longer. This fantastic well-told story  presents us a topic with so many questions that leaves readers wondering about the endless possibilities. But Stuart not only writes short stories, he’s also written novels and non-fiction. I was lucky enough to interview this talented author and I’m certain his answers will inspire many aspiring writers.

– Tell us a bit about yourself. For instance, how did you start writing?

My interest in writing was mostly sparked by winning first prize in a classroom writing contest when I was about eight years old. The prize was $2.00 in cash, which (adjusted for inflation) would be about $10 in today’s dollars. I’m not sure whether the prize or the teacher’s praise mattered more at the time, but I see that as the start of my writing. I wrote my first full-length novel (first draft) when I was 14-15 years old, and another when I was 16-17 years old. I put my writing on hold for awhile to pursue a non-writing career and start a family, but NaNoWriMo helped bring me back to it.

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– How did you come up with the story idea for “No Fanfare”? Would you consider writing more about this topic and even turning it into a novel?

I like to play around with “what if” questions and see what stories I can generate from various answers. Just this morning I wondered, “what if cats could smell memories?” I give full credit for that strange question to the strange behavior of our cat! While I don’t remember the specifics, I’m fairly sure No Fanfare started in a similar way. What if someone was sent on a secret mission to another planet, and then everybody forgot he was there? (Or, what if someone thought that had happened to them, even if it hadn’t?) I also have a long-term interest in Mars exploration and colonization, which previously inspired my children’s book (Two Boys, Two Planets).

I haven’t given any thought to writing more to the story. It was always intended as a vignette focused on the initial “homecoming” experience. I tried to offer enough uncertainty that the reader might wonder what to believe. On the other hand, I realize that some readers prefer a more concrete resolution, so I might someday write a follow-up to No Fanfare.

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– What do you enjoy most, writing short stories or novels? Do you write short stories with the idea they’ll become short stories or do you usually decide this during the writing process?

Short stories are fun to write, but I love writing long, complex novels. I love all of the world- and character-building that I can do with longer works. Usually when I write a short story I intend for it to be short, although sometimes I’ll start a story without a particular goal for how long it will turn out. With short stories I often want to get a reader to start imagining things about the story I’ve started, with the hope they’ll enjoy filling out their own ending, but sometimes I get in trouble for leaving things unanswered!

– What is you ideal place for writing? Do you have a special process to get inspired or get in the writing mood?

I’m very flexible about my writing. I’ve written on public transit, in doctor and dentist waiting rooms, on a bench in a busy shopping mall, as well as quietly at my desk at home. Some writers develop a process to get in the mood for writing, and I often tell myself I should try that, but I never seem to get around to it.

– Besides the Dan Starney series, are you looking to work on another novel?

With luck, I’ll be releasing several more novels this year, as well as some novellas. I have four fantasy novels that are shaping up nicely, plus I have a detailed outline (rare for me) for a novel in a different genre, and a concept for a novella series in yet another genre. This year I’m exploring the use of pen names to keep the different genre works separated, although my fantasy novels will still be under my own name. I also plan to write a third book in the Dan Starney series to wrap up that storyline, although I don’t have a timeframe for when that will be released.

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– You also write non-fiction, what topics do you most enjoy writing about? What differences do you find between writing fiction and non-fiction?

So far my non-fiction writings have been fairly short dabblings in topics, and I haven’t found one where I feel comfortable yet. I like to be able to share information and ideas with people, things that can be useful in the real world, which is the appeal for me in non-fiction. I finder greater joy in writing fiction, but that is perhaps because it is a lot like daydreaming for me, and I am an incorrigible dreamer.

– What would you recommend aspiring writers? Any tips or writing recommendations?

One of the biggest obstacles that I see in aspiring writers is getting past the “I’m going to” stage and actually doing. While I enjoy talking about writing as much as anyone, being a writer means actually doing the writing too. There are many ways for people to start writing, whether it is fiction or non-fiction, and I would encourage aspiring writers to seek out those opportunities — contests, anthologies, sites like Wattpad, etc. — and start producing words. This is especially useful if it is done in a way where complete strangers can read those writings. Reactions from people outside of family and close friends can help highlight what works and what doesn’t. To develop as a writer, it is important to learn about writing and read what others have written, but it is even more important to just write, write, write!

For more information about Stuart J. Whitmore:

Website: http://www.stuartwhitmoreauthor.com/
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5623681.Stuart_J_Whitmore
Google + https://plus.google.com/+StuartWhitmore
Twitter: https://twitter.com/Crenel
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/StuartWhitmoreAuthor
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/stuart_whitmore_author/
Snapchat: stuart_whitmore

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There seems to be light in all futures…

I believe all writers are filled with doubts; from am I really good for this? will I ever publish something? will people like what I wrote? should I insist on this path? Do I have what it takes to be a good writer? etc. I think almost all writers have gone through this stage at some point in their lifes, even the accomplished ones, if not, then I’d love to know of a writer who never doubted about his/her skills, and how did he/she manage to keep confidence at all times…

However, there seems to be light in all futures. I believe that light is for the ones who never surrender and work hard to achieve their dreams. More than a year ago, I started working on this lifetime goal of being a writer. I’m still working on the editing on my first novel; but last week, I felt the impulse to put it aside for some days and let myself get involve with another project, a short story. I got this idea of a shocking ending for a story, but haven’t thought of a plot or characters yet. I was eager to see how much I had improved in my writing skills. I wanted to see if my first draft of anything else would be much better than the first draft of my novel; if I had improved in creating a plot and characters, in describing the settings, if I finally understood showing vs. telling, if the dialogue would come easier now after the experience of my first novel. So I sat and wrote an almost 3300 words short story.

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Image source: shantellemaryh.blogspot.com

I dug into the Goodreads beta reading groups to see if somebody wanted to give me feedback. In the end, three people revised my story and I got really good, amazing, unbelievable feedback! It felt so good. Never ever, did I expect to receive such good feedback on my writing. I finished editing it this morning and used NaturalReader (a software that I really recommend for having your writing read to you by the computer) and I was surprised. My writing had improved a lot and the pacing and everything else was quite decent.

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Image source: writingnorthidahow.blospot.com

I learned that writing is about practice and hard work. But also, I understood, that any goal in life is achievable; that it is only about perseverance and faith. I had reached a point in my novel, where I seriously doubted my writing skills. But now, I feel more empowered and more encouraged to continue writing.

And you, have you ever been in a situation where you’d almost given up but found encouragement when you less expected?

Energy level while editing your work

Editing can exhaust you. I’m still on the editing stage of my writing and I found it hard, really hard.

I find myself wishing I could only write, write, and write as many stories as possible… and have somebody else do all the editing stuff. Of course, this poor being, the “editing person” wouldn’t understand a sh**t of my writing since my first drafts tend to be terrible.

Writing Editing

Editing is taking all my energies. Why? (Please consider this is my first time editing my work, so maybe next time the process will change a lot, a.k.a. I intend to write much better first drafts) So why do I struggle so much with it? These are the main focus points of my editing:

  • In my editing, I delve into characters as much as possible
  • I try to make pacing well…. The right pacing

In delving into my characters…

As Stephen King says, we should write with the door closed and edit with the door opened. Well, since I wrote with the door closed, I managed to convince myself to edit with the door opened. This situation has taken me to uncomfortable situations described below.

I find myself doing these weird actions:

ACTION speaking the dialogs out loud to spot my tone voice, the accuracy of words (meaning if they really sound as “dialog” and not as boring description), and the feeling of each phrase in general.

RESPONSE Some scared people circulating in my house watching me speak in a foreign language while whining, screaming, shouting (or doing whatever my character is doing)

Characters Editing Characters Editing

ACTION trying to feel inside my character, be my character, step into his shoes, mind, whatever there is to step into.

RESPONSE Again some disturbed people in my house watching me making faces to a mirror as I try to look sad, happy, etc.

Writing Editing

But besides the fact that people in my house are already looking for a psychiatric institution for me, what is the problem with delving into characters?

I get exhausted. After only a couple of pages, sometimes only one or two… I feel all my energy lost,   making it very difficult to make progress in my writing. (I have set up a goal of at least 10 pages per day)

And what about the right pacing?

This point has got me erasing tons of paragraphs, adding tons of new ones, and probably erasing them the next day again. I feel I still need to find a “technique” in this.

In some paragraphs, action scenes and characters would move too fast without giving too much thought to feelings, etc., for example, “the man grabbed the knife, stabbed three times and run….”

But in other scenes, I will find myself describing every lash of anger, every tensed muscle of a character’s body.

The result, a weird pacing….

I’m trying to find a balance here.  I found that it actually depends on my mood… and how long I’ve been editing that day.  In other words, I start with energy at its peak, writing strong character-driven scenes, and after an hour or so, I just want to narrate the scenes as fast as possible.

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So, the idea of this post is to get as much feedback as possible. Many of you have already been through this or at least have more experience than me.

What do you do to Not get exhausted so fast when you’re feeling too much inside a character’s head?

How do you deal with pacing? Is it common to start with full energy and then just get bored? Would you recommend me to shorten the amount of pages I had set up as a goal for editing per day?

How to get your hand not to agree with you

My whole life, or since I can remember, I’ve been invaded by Ganglion cysts in my wrists. Those are small liquid balls that appear in your wrists for no apparent reason but to disturb your life. They usually come and go, but some of them like to stick around causing pain. I’ve already got them surgically removed twice, leaving “good looking” scars.

The thought about scars is that they always leave space for good stories, like the one on my right wrist that led this weird guy in a club approach and tell me that He used to do that but not anymore… it took me time to realize that he thought it was some sort drug mark or maybe suicide attempt (which would be dumb since veins are on the other side of the wrist), and when I told him No dude is not what you think, he told me something like Yeah I used to deny it too… anyway…

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Image source: www.canstockphoto.com

The problem now is that the “thing” as I call it, won’t go until my hand stops making “efforts”, the good doctor has advised me to use the wrist the least possible, type the least, which me having a full time job as a Technical Writer and having the long-time dream of becoming a Fiction writer, maybe be outputting… but I guess life is not always easy…

Luckily, there are always ways, and I’m happy that I found them. I’ve reduced my manuscript edition workload to the use of pen and paper, right hand is the good one this time (lucky me!), and I’ll see if I can find somebody later who can do all the computer typing. Also, typing at work has improved thanks to a recently acquired Ergonomic keyboard which is magnificent!  And since I had to be careful with the type of exercise I chose (one where I don’t use hands), I bought myself an AirClimber (my first Teleshopping – equivalent to QVC – purchase ever!) and I love it!.

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And although my hand may not agree with my writing duties and lifestyle, I still have found ways to overcome this situation. And you, have you ever found yourself in a similar situation? (it doesn’t have to involve ganglion cysts) 

Why I decided not to do a resolutions list for 2015

I used to do a resolutions list every single 31st of December of every year. It always felt as if the beginning of the new year would bring the new opportunities, the new hopes, for the life of my dreams.

My resolutions list for 2014 was different. It was not focused in the common wishes like losing weight, exercising, eating healthier, etc. They were mainly focused on writing goals and other objectives that would lead me to achieve the personal growth I wanted to achieve. I reviewed that list in the early days of December. I found out I didn’t achieve most of them, not because I’ve been lazy, procrastinated, etc. but because most of them were not the the right goals.

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Image source: memesapp.com

In 2014, I started to find my way, to grow as a person, to understand what I wanted to do with the rest of my life, to work hard on it, and to persevere until I learned what working hard on your dreams really meant. I completed all of that.

This December 31st, I sat down with an empty paper ready to write my 2015 goals. It took me less than 15 seconds to realize that I didn’t have to write anything else. I knew clearly where my mind was heading, I knew what I have to do, I knew I was already working on it, and finally, I recognized that I was just fine, I was doing what I always wanted to do and I was on the right track. So, there was nothing else to write, things were crystal clear in my head as to how to proceed and act.

Of course, I still have some big goals for this year, but I know them by heart, I don’t need to write them down or make an elaborate plan on how to achieve them, I already know how. I already know that it’s just about hard work, and I’m already into it. Gosh, this feels so wonderful.

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Image source: http://www.nutritionfitnessandsstilettos.com

And you, do you write resolutions every year? do you achieve them? did you write resolutions for this year? I would like to hear about you in the comments.