Welcome to the first installment of the Writer’s Corner. Here you can get some insight into the life of a writer. Some of them are Clayborn Press authors, some are not. But all of them are interesting.
This week we are talking to Sean P. Chatterton. He is a Clayborn Press author and is featured in the book, Question of the Day, which is available now. Sean can be found on his website, http://www.seanpchatterton.co.uk/bio.htm.
How long have you been writing and what is your proudest accomplishment so far?
I’ve been writing since I was eleven. I still have my school textbooks with my early attempts of writing. Nothing ever went further than that until my sister died of cervical cancer in 2010 and I realized my childhood ambition of being a writer would pass me by if I didn’t make a serious effort to write properly. It took me just one year to get my first short story published. It was about a teleporter accident. Which by coincidence one of my childhood author heroes Arthur C Clarke’s first published story was of a teleporter accident. A complete coincidence, but one that I am dead proud of. As proud as I am of that coincidence, the thing that I am most proudest of is another writer emailing me to tell me that one of my short stories was the best that he had read that year. The story was “Small Still Voices”.
What advice would you offer new writers?
When I first started writing I spoke to a number of established authors and I was amazed at the free advice that they gave. Charlie Stross told me to read Stephen King’s “On Writing, memoirs of the craft”. I would strongly recommend that myself. Peter F Hamilton told, practice, practice and more practice. And when I asked Brian Aldiss about writing what I wanted to write, or writing the sort of stuff that gets published he told me in no uncertain terms. “Fuck ’em. Write what you want to write and find a publisher who likes what you write.”
What is something that you struggle with the most when you are writing?
I have great ideas when driving my car. These appear to vanish when I am in front of the keyboard. Whole story lines, dialogue and flashes of inspiration elude me which was as clear as day when I was driving.
As a writer, do you have any literary pet peeves when reading books?
I kinda hate it when you get told “show don’t tell”. In your writing you *are* telling the reader what is happening. That said. It is possible to convey many things by the way the character acts, or does something. The only problem I have with this, is as a short story writer, showing, not telling is a lot more wordy. For example: Travis gritted his teeth in frustration. Six words. Travis gripped his glass tumbler in a clenched fist, his brow furrowed, his teeth gritted, as he struggled with his frustration. Twenty one words. Which reads better, you decide.
When you decided to put your books out for sale, did you go Indie, small press, or with an agent? And what factors contributed to that decision?
I’ve not yet written a book. I am a short story writer. That said, I do have two novels mapped out ready to write; when I get the time! Actually having the time to write bit might go with the frustration bit as well. Regarding the press. I have not gone self published; yet! All of my printed and online publications have been with small and Indie press. I’ve yet to crack the pro market. Not for lack of trying. However, the reason I’m not particularly bothered about this is because of the success of self published authors these days. Look up Andy Weir, Iain W. Sainsbury, and others. People getting some serious sales (and movie deals!) and they started out, or still are, self published. As to the factors about who I chose. I do my research. I don’t just spam any publisher. I check what they publish. Is it like the stuff I write? Then I read their guidelines and make sure I fit. I’d love to get published by one of the big five pro short story publishers purely for the kudos of it. But these days with the market changing so much with online and digital publishing, I honestly think it isn’t the huge deal that it used to be.
Are you working on anything new?
I’m always working on something. I have flashes of inspiration and get the idea down before I loose it (when I’m not driving). So I have a number of story outlines always ready.
Would you describe yourself more as a “pantser” or an “architect” type of writer? (someone who makes it up as they go along – writing by the seat of their pants, or someone who plans meticulously)
I’m most definitely not an architect. I don’t have the whole story mapped out. I like to see where the story goes and let it surprise me, hopefully as much as the reader is. That said, I do like to have a fairly clear idea of where it’s going, or the end at least.
What is your writing process like?
I can go months between writing a story. Or I can churn out half a dozen in a few weeks. There is no method in my strain of madness. When writing I can agonize over a few hundred words and it takes hours. Or I can bash out (and have done) four thousand words in the same time. It all depends on how the flow goes. I tend to have an idea, then shelve it for a while until I can work on it properly. When I’ve written a story I give it the once-over to correct any obvious typo’s or mistakes. Then I shelve it for at least a week, then give it another go over. Then I shelve it for a month, so I can read it with fresh eyes and see where the flaws are, or I could improve it. In my early days I would bash out a story then send it straight off. I can totally understand why the editors rejected such garbage. Which is why I now follow the above process.
Do you use any special tools or programs to help you write?
Nope. Plain old Word. Occasionally I actually use pen & paper! When I am away from my desk and need to jot something down. Once, a few years ago, I was on a family holiday. Whilst relaxing in a nice hotel, I wrote a whole story in my note book. It was rather refreshing as I can’t write by hand as fast as I can think, so it forced me to slow down and think of the words precisely. I discovered that when I did the conversion to electronic format there were a lot less errors.
Is there anything else that you’d like to share with reader or aspiring writers?
Don’t give up! If you can, write something every day so that you get into the habit of writing. And follow the three bits of advice that I quoted above 🙂