Please share a few ways your writing has improved since the release of your first book.
The passage of time, maturity, personal experiences through the years all have contributed to the improvements in my writing from one novel to the next. I believe the storylines and character developments become much better, deeper in depth of thoughts and actions as we mature.
Who holds you to a high standard of writing? Do you have a writing group?
I am my own worst critic in terms of writing with higher standards. I apply far more pressure upon myself than anyone else possibly could by constantly demanding the best structure, scenes, and characters. I want readers to become immersed in my novels to the point that time slips away while they are reading my novels.
As for writing groups, I do not belong to any. Several author friends I know belonged to groups which ended poorly for them. The writers all started out with the best of intentions when providing feedback then gradually turned on one another with their criticisms. After listening to my friends’ tales of arguments and animosities occurring within their groups, I chose to remain away. Plus, the only writing groups within my area are several miles away and their meeting times would conflict with my rather hectic schedule. Having said that, there are, and I emphasize ‘are’ good writing groups in existence. But I do utilize non-relatives, unbiased readers to provide feedback on my writings before a novel ever moves forward for publication.
Have you taken risks in writing?
To date I have three novels published. Each is different from the others in terms of storyline and time settings. One is set in modern day, one is set in ancient China, and the other is of ancient Egypt. They are only related by being fiction, action adventure and historical fiction. While some authors remain solely in a single genre such as romance, horror, or murder mystery, I want to write a variety of novels. In terms of risk, I think when I write from a woman’s viewpoint that is sufficient risk because I am pretending to understand the logic and thinking of a woman. No man will ever really understand a woman’s thinking. (smile) Another risk for me was writing from the viewpoint of a eunuch in my novel, “The Cobra and Scarab: A Novel of Ancient Egypt.” As an ex-Marine Sergeant, this character gave me a bit of writing heartburn on several occasions.
To whom would you compare your writing style?
This is a difficult question because I have never been one to compare myself to another author. I want to reach a point with my novels that people compare themselves to me. But, having said that, a fellow author presented a website that allowed a writer to paste a chapter of their novels on the site for an “author’s comparison.” I pasted the entire Prologue of “The Cobra and Scarab.” I was pleasantly surprised when it displayed, “You write like Dan Brown.” My wife says she believes I write like Robert R. McCammon which is an honorable comparison because he has many great published works.
How do you stay authentic in your writing?
I love history and therefore attempt to be as factual as possible through intense research while working on a book. My storylines must be original and my characters are a blend of people I’ve met or known through the years. Even their personal quirks, mannerisms and habits must be from actions I have witnessed or noted in people. So, I make every attempt at being authentic.
How can a beginning writer hone their writing skills?
First, I recommend reading a wide variety of classics to understand their overall construction and development. Second, if possible, take a writing class at a local community college. These are what I consider to be the important, initial starting points for a brand new writer.
I also recommend you do not run out and buy forty books on “How to Write the All American Novel.” Those authors have their own opinions which in the end will thoroughly confuse you. One book I do recommend reading is “The Successful Novelist” by David Morrell, author of “First Blood” and a long list of other great books. Learn from his personal mistakes and experiences that he shares in “The Successful Novelist.”
And most of all, when you write your first true novel, obtain truthful reviews from non-related, un-biased readers. You need honesty about your work. Never argue with a reviewer because they gave you their opinion and you disagree. If you asked for an honest appraisal, then accept what they gave you. Obtain at least five or more appraisals and look at the norm of their responses. That alone will provide you with solid input about your skillsets.
What is your writing process for a book?
I spend almost a year and a half on a novel from beginning to end. I research with great intensity, all the while developing the storyline and characters I truly want before ever starting to write the book. I write mostly late at night because I am a nocturnal type of person, and I attempt not to edit as I go because this slows the flow of my creativity. Once I complete a section or scene, I do not go back and read it again for at least several days. When I do return to what I’ve written, it is amazing how differently it will appear to me—good or bad—then I make appropriate adjustments as I feel the writing needs.
Another trick of the trade I use is to read my work aloud. You will be amazed at how quickly you will find poor writing. For some reason hearing the words allows your mind to evaluate them. I compare this to listening to a song. Your ear hears the smooth flow of the music, yet can distinguish when problems exists in a song.
How serious are you about writing?
If there is ever any one aspect of my novels I would want known by readers or potential readers, it is that I take my writings extremely serious. I want to uphold the trust of my readers that they are receiving quality work from me, the best I can give. No shortcuts are taken. They paid good money for my novel and I want to give them their money’s worth. As I write a novel, I want to develop fans and readerships that are long lasting. I want readers to write and share their thoughts, the emotions they felt with the characters, and how time slipped away while they read my book. The best compliment I ever received was the day a reader approached me and said, “I hate you! Because of your book (“Solomon’s Men) I missed so much sleep and was tired every day at work from staying up so late to read ‘one more page.’ But it was worth it!”
Thank you for sharing your writing experience. To find out more about Glenn Starkey click the links below