An Ode To Novel Writers

We’re excited to celebrate National Novel Writer’s Month in November! As part of our recognition of novel writers, we’re asking others to share their thoughts for aspiring novel writers. We’ll be adding a blog series highlighting different perspectives throughout the month.

Two of our own great trainers are published authors: Roger Sakowski, who teaches Java classes, wrote a novel entitled From an Otherwise Comfortable Room.  And Janie Sullivan, who teaches business skills classes, has written multiple articles in magazines and newspapers, books on writing and teaching, fiction anthologies, and hundreds of online content articles.

Both Roger and Janie love to write, but they don’t make they’re living doing it.  We’ve asked them to share their stories with our readers.

Interview with Janie Sullivan

Janie started writing while in high school and has never stopped. Her publications include multiple articles in magazines and newspapers, books on writing and teaching, fiction anthologies, and hundreds of online content articles over the past several years. Below are highlights from a recent interview session.

What were your goals when you started writing?

When I was 16 and knew I wanted to be a writer, my goal was to publish an article in a national publication. I was focusing on non-fiction then and writing articles for my school newspaper. Twenty years later I sold a series of articles to a national magazine focusing on home based businesses. Since then I have written for newspapers, magazines, and online content sites.

What are your writing goals now?

My main goal right now is to finish my first novel, a crime fiction story set in the Southwest. I have a writing partner in this project and we have finished the first draft. We hope to have it published by the end of the year. If the book is successful, we plan a series of novels based on the main character. I have published one volume of short stories and plan on publishing another one by the end of next year.

Assuming writing doesn’t pay the bills, what motivates you to keep writing?

This is an interesting question. Although I have thought about making a living from my writing, it never was the reason I write. I write because I can’t not write. The stories are in my head, and I need to get them out. Writing comes easy for me, it is something I have never struggled with, and I enjoy writing for myself as well as for my fans. When I actually sell a book or an article, I consider that a bonus. I enjoy the interaction between my blog followers and myself whenever I post something on my website. I have made many friends through my website, all writers, and I keep writing because of their encouragement and support.

Finally, what advice would you give young authors hoping to make a career out of writing?

It may sound trite, but never give up. Writing as a career is not something that comes easily. There will be many rejections and disappointments along the way, but keep writing. Set up a website where you can post your writing and share it with others. Write for yourself. You are your worst critic, so if you can please yourself, you will be able to please others.

Interview with Roger Sakowski

Roger has over 25 years of experience in technical training, programming, data management, network administration, and technical writing for companies such as Data Communications, American Bell International, Bell Labs, GTE, GE, and Lucent among other Fortune 100 companies. We asked Roger to share his story. Enjoy!

When I was twelve years old I took apart a fishing reel. I wanted to see how it worked. Aside from ruining a perfectly good reel, I discovered a complex system of gears and springs that obviously did more than act as a simple spool for a line connected to a hook that was, hopefully, connected to a fish. Subsequently, according to my parents, I destroyed household appliances and gadgets at a disturbing rate. They gave me the title of “wrecking ball.” I saw myself as an analyst.

In my teens, I tried my hand at a short story. I wanted to do something akin to what I did with the fishing reel, but use a character and plot instead. The rationale seemed noble enough, but, frankly the story stunk. Still, by writing it, I discovered I enjoyed analyzing people more than appliances.

So I followed my creative writing muse. She insisted that characters are portrayed more honestly by their thoughts rather than their actions. As if I planned on being a totally unknown author, my writing evolved into something like James Joyce’s even before I knew he existed. And that’s where I am now, a twenty-first century man writing like an early twentieth century Modernist.

That means what I write isn’t likely to be popular. It would be great if it was, but it’s not the driving force. I write to satisfy me; it’s like scratching an itch. I want to sit back and say, “Damn, that felt good.” But, if I depended on it for my income, I’d have had to supplement it by robbing banks.

To stay off the FBI’s Most Wanted list, I decided to make a living legally. Clearly, I like analyzing things and technology is a great field for doing exactly that. I write with my right brain. That’s my playground for doing what I want. I do IT training with my left brain. That’s where the playground has rules. In either case I still play and that makes me a very fortunate man.

For the aspiring author intent on writing a bestseller, ignore everything I’ve said so far. Writing for a large market is not a self-absorbed task. I suggest you get acquainted with the Chicago Style for fiction.

It’s the United States standard for just about everything involving the written word. Do research to find out what is an accepted form. For example, the “all-knowing” narrator is out, and something called “third person once removed” is in. Those sorts of things can make the difference in finding an agent or not. Use your areas of expertise in the plot. It lends credibility to your effort. Seek out people who will give a solid critique: what works and what doesn’t. Don’t be thin-skinned when a critique doesn’t go your way. Above all, read, read, read anything and everything in your genre; and write, write, write every single day even if you hate it.

On the other hand, if you’re like me, just sit down and—as Hemingway put it—write the next honest thing.

Stay tuned to our blog this month for some more snippets from other novel writers as they share their valuable insights!

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