Interview #5: Will Nuessle
A: Probably seeing the Enter Contest, Gain Approval, Eventually Maybe Published possibility; I was not initially aware of how promotion is perhaps more tied to overall Popularity than Writing Quality (much like Amazon contests)
2.) How did you get started writing in general?
A: How much time do you have? The really-short-and-dirty version is that as a child I was always reading, and started realizing that when we wrote things for school, my stuff was read to the class significantly more often than my peers… and those same peers seemed to like it. I was ten, in the fifth grade, when I started writing my First Novel. I abandoned it two years later and nothing survives, which is probably lucky for all concerned.
3.) Congratulations on placing first place in the Coalition Awards!
And certainly I would recommend them—when any goober can judge (see previous comment about how they let me do it)—then we maybe shouldn’t put a lot of weight on any one opinion, but why not try it? You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take…
4.) You have three completed books up on your profile. Is Drama your favorite genre to read and write or do you prefer another genre?
A: I submit to contests wherever I best fit; Drama was one category, Children’s was another… the three books I have available all feature teenaged main characters, but I flatter myself that I write a skitch above the general ‘Young Adult’ book, and so consider the stories Mainstream Coming-Of-Age.
And it would seem that I do indeed like that genre, as not only those three stories but the last two I wrote and the next four bouncing around in my brain are all similar.
5.) All of your books are complete, a rarity here on Inkitt or on any writing site, do you only post stories when they're complete or are you not posting them online?
A: Being a recovering Perfectionist as I am, it would be a struggle to post things that aren’t complete (although I do have an ongoing Harry Potter parody, ‘Barry Botter and the Sorcerous Phone,’ appearing in serial form on the Lothlorien Poetry Journal, links on my wall for interested parties) but the three stories are all that anybody will see anytime soon, with the exception of my two self-published comedy essay books which embarrassingly need editing.
The reason being that I am submitting excerpts, short stories and whatever else I can come up with to any contests and magazines I can find, and the majority of those don’t accept Previously Published material, even if it’s just in a blog, on Inkitt, on somebody’s tombstone…
6.) You're one of the few who give, what some dub as, "brutally" honest reviews to authors, myself included, what would you say constitutes a solid review?
A: I hope not to be brutal! I do absolutely endeavor to be honest, and had to learn the difference between, say, Amazon reviews or beta readers wondering if they’re ready to query agents, and the average Inkitt writer. The idea that writers at all levels are posting here, looking for feedback, and may not want/deserve a Professional Opinion took awhile, but one thing I do is ask Management to remove any reviews that are ill-received.
If I leave a review, it’s what I truly think and I hope thoughts and ideas, encouraging or critical, land in fertile soil, so that a writer might consider the perspective and find ways to grow. Other writers and readers have given me the same gifts over the past thirty years, and I will say it’s very easy to tell whether or not a writer is interested in improving.
It’s a very interesting feature of Inkitt that a writer can respond, in some cases immediately, to a review; when a writer comes back with defensiveness, explaining to me why I’m wrong (or in one case, questioning whether English was my first language) I know that writer, at least at that moment, is not ready to improve.
Conversely there are several writers I’ve reviewed who have asked for more, asked if they can share more when/if they revise, and I always say yes.
It might seem like I swoop around like a vulture, looking for stories to land upon and shred to pieces, but I try to only review stories where authors have asked for such, and I always do try to be encouraging and helpful.
I will also say that my opinions are offered for free, and might not be worth more than people pay for them.
I will also also say (aren’t you glad you asked?) that when I receive critical feedback, even if in my head I know that it’s valuable and useful, deep inside my little kid has to sit in a corner with his head against a wall for awhile.
It’s very annoying.
7.) On your profile it says you're high ranked in ninjitsu but also raising two kids, I know the question on everyone's mind is how do you fit in time for writing?
A: I do get that one a lot. The ninjitsu is behind me, but the two kids will become three any day now; I get the good writing done before the children get up, and then again when Sesame Street is on.
I’m fortunate that I can work out What Happens Next while showering, or dropping off to sleep, or driving, and then can usually keep a half-formed sentence in mind when suddenly somebody, I dunno, locks his little brother in the dog crate. (To use a random hypothetical example.) I have noticed that if I’m in the middle of entering a contest or submitting to a magazine I’m a little more grumpy when inevitably interrupted.
8.) What books or authors have you found on Inkitt that really stand out?
9.) Any advice to people starting out writing?
A: Short version: Read when you’re not writing, write when you’re not reading, and for the high-speed track give the television away.
Long version: Almost everybody I talk to has had a story knock on their door; I always encourage them to write it. Whether or not anybody ever sees it, if you get that story out of you and onto paper of some sort, you’ve accomplished something good. Something most people never actually do.
I don’t advise trying to publish the first thing you write. Much like playing an instrument or learning a dance, writing is an art and nobody’s any good their first time out. (Andy Weir notwithstanding)
In my blog (link provided upon request) I spent many weeks describing my writing journey from fifth grade on, and post after post making fun of the terrible stuff I used to write. I was a good ten years in before I was even sort-of good at writing.
10.) Are there any aspects you think you could improve on as an author?
A: The day anybody says ‘no’ to that question they stop improving, so I hope I never do. As I sit here, I can tell you that my weakest element is description, followed by plot. If I really wanted to be honest I also struggle with my own ‘cleverness’; there are times where I go back and catch myself using bigger-than-necessary words or cute phrases just because I can, and not because they advance the plot.
Every scene, every page, ideally every sentence either advances the plot or deepens the characters; anything else is wasted. I struggle with wasted words.
When searching through endless catalogs here for something to read, what do you look for whether it be content wise or technical wise?
On the rare occasion I find a story not werewolf-centered (are such stories the latest wave, following magically-powered-children-school stories, sparkly-vampire stories and dystopian-children-hunting-children stories?) in which the blurb catches my attention, I’ll give the writing a page or two to draw me in.
Lest this seem harsh, every agent I’ve ever heard talk about it has the same level of tolerance for unknown writers. And it’s not just Inkitt or beta (or Amazon) stories that often lose me; I’ve put down New York Times Bestsellers that didn’t grab me in the first page. I’m middle-aged, running a small business, primary caregiving three small children and trying to jumpstart a writing career…when I find time to read I want to read something good.
And a good writer, in my free opinion, can hook a reader on the first page.
11.) Out of the books on your profile, which one would you recommend to someone first finding your profile? Also, which one is your favorite?
A: ‘The Feud’ in both cases; it’s the best written. It’s a very long story (I’ve blogged about it, should that be of interest) but I wrote ‘The Kid’ and ‘The Silent Skater’ between 2002 and 2006, and self-published them only because it was finally free to do so and I wanted books I had written sitting on my shelf. ‘The Feud’ was the first thing I wrote after taking a decade off from writing fiction, with no expectation that I’d ever write again. It’s also the first story I ever wrote without the anchor of Getting It Perfect dragging behind me, and the joy I took in the writing shows in the narrative.
12.) From the warning you left on my profile from someone's self promotion, it seems you have experience in the publishing world. Any tips you have for people branching out to take the major step to getting their work published?
A: There’s three main branches of Publishing. One is free and really, really difficult to get into; one is free-to-relatively-cheap and anybody can do it (and far too many people do) and one should be avoided at all costs.
Traditional Publishing, where your beloved story is accepted by a publisher who provides the editing, cover design, proofreading, etc. either requires an agent to promote your book or a publisher willing to look at ‘unsolicited material.’ If someone wants to land an agent or a publishing deal, know that it’s a fiercely competitive field, so you need to bring your A-game. Make sure there’s no typos in the first ten pages, that the main character doesn’t wake up on the first page (agents hate that) and if you insist on having a Prologue (agents don’t like those either…) make sure it moves the plot forward or introduces a strong character (ideally both.) If your mother or child or roommate says it’s a great story, that’s wonderful—if at least half a dozen people not related to you say the same, you might be ready to start querying. (For those reading, you’re welcome to ask me to check out your first chapter; if you hook me, you might be agent ready)
Self-Publishing, of the Amazon variety (there are others, that’s just the one I know) can be completely free; all three of the books I have up on Inkitt plus two comedy-essay books are up on Amazon in Kindle, paperback and audio versions and I didn’t spend a dime except commissioning a drawing for ‘The Feud’.
If a person just wants to have books on their shelf that they’ve written, and maybe send a few copies around as Christmas gifts, you do not need to spend money. Even if a person has higher hopes, and is willing to market themselves and boost their social media profile and find ways to get their book out there, you still don’t have to spend money, although hiring a professional to design your cover and another to proofread your book are good ideas. As is getting a couple beta readers to look for flaws. I see many, many, many books on Amazon with typos in every sentence, and covers that look like they were created in MS Paint. These things do not sell books.
Then there’s the other option, and if you read nothing else read this: DO NOT PAY FOR PUBLISHING.
If you, dear writer, put the word out on social media, start asking around, there are hundreds of publishers who would be delighted to work with you. Who have attractive packages that include Copy Editing, and Cover Design, and Proofreading, for the low low price of thousands of dollars.
Yes, there are real, less-flashy-than-the-Big-5-but-still-real Independent Publishers; you’ll know them because your work will have to rise to a certain standard before they’ll accept it. And they won’t charge you money.
Vanity publishers may arguably be a good deal for public speakers or stand-up comics or social media Influencers, people that already have thousands of folks listening to them who will pony up for their book.
If you’re not one of those, signing with a vanity publisher is a terrible idea. At best, you’ll pay thousands of dollars for services you could get for hundreds of dollars, and lose the copyright to your own book. (Oh yes; they’ll take thousands from you and your copyright and very likely 75% of all royalties your book earns. And you’ll still be responsible for your own marketing. Does any of that sound like a good deal?)
At worst…look up any of the books Dorrance Publishing or AuthorHouse Publishing or Breaking Rules Publishing has on Amazon, check out the free Kindle Samples, and count the typos in the books authors paid thousands of dollars to have Professionally Edited. Read the reviews people are leaving after it’s too late.
And don’t pay for publishing.
Not even once.
13.) Your rejection letter for fellow author, Martha M's publishing house, Shattered Dreams, was hilarious. Not to reopen old scars, but did any of that come from prior experience?
A: Yes; my mother and sister are still mildly peeved at me that I never do explain why the fathers were fighting. (belated spoiler alert)
14.) You're judging in the Masters and Legends Awards, how has judging impacted your views on writing and reading as a whole? Have they helped or inspired your own skills?
A: Judging is a lot like reviewing; there’s more at stake for the author but it’s basically the same thing. And when I said earlier to read when you’re not writing, read everything—good and bad. When you read something that isn’t working for you, ask yourself why? And then see if you’re doing that in your writing…
15.) Have you read over any of your old work and been astonished whether it be good or bad?
A: In the first ten years, after giving up on the fifth-sixth grade story I never finished, I wrote eight books and two screenplays, not counting rewrites, and I can’t stand to read any of it unless I’m looking for stuff to laugh at.
Conversely, every time I start anywhere in ‘The Feud’, I usually have to make myself break off after a couple chapters. In all honesty, that story still draws me in, even though I’ve read it countless times in the process of writing it thrice.
And it only took thirty-one years to get to that level.
16.) Any final words?
A: Twirlblast. Chork. Throttlebottom. Ultracrepidarian. (wink)
That was the best advice/encouragement I've received in thirty years of good, solid advice/encouragement. My professor in Community College, in the Creative Writing class I took for needed credits after failing my English class (irony, anyone?) wrote 'Please keep writing' at the top of one of my papers.
When people ask for reviews, I am honest and I am critical but it's not because I take joy in tearing down others' work.
I'm honest and I'm critical because I want others' work to be the very best it can be.
I was a very lonely child who didn't get the rules of social interaction, was desperate for affection and acceptance and found solace in reading.
I read in the car to and from school and church and National Parks. I read on the bus to and from field trips. I loved Standardized Testing week because I could quickly fill in all the bubbles and then sit in class and read.
'From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankwiler' fell me in love with New York and Claudia Kincaid.
'The Phantom Tollbooth' fell me in love with quirky adventure and delightful wordplay, not to mention Milo.
'Dear Mr. Henshaw' fell me in love with writing and Leigh Botts.
'The Hobbit' fell me in love with adventure and dragons and wizards and Bilbo Baggins.
If I've done my job right 'The Feud' and 'The Kid' and 'The Silent Skater' will fall readers in love with Shakespeare and baseball and ice-dancing...not to mention Andromeda Sharpe, Jason Stiller and Charlene Oakshue.
I said earlier that it took ten years to get to where I was writing anything remotely readable and yet I'll admit that every time I completed a story, I thought that story was marvelous.
I sent an excerpt from my very first completed work to the editor of a teen boys magazine, thinking they'd love to print my stuff. (Said magazine was not looking for submissions.)
That editor kindly and wildly unlikely-ly wrote back and while he of course said 'we can't use these,' he also praised and encouraged.
So I wrote another story. That one I shared with a published writer friend, who gave me the huge gift of constructive criticism. (Looking back, most of his comments were about the first few pages, and that's probably all he read. Which was above and beyond the call of duty; the tale was terribly told)
So I wrote another story.
And I'm not saying any of this because I'm looking for praise or encouragement right now; if everybody I had shared that first and second and third story with had given me nothing but praise, and 'this is really good's and five-star reviews...maybe I would still be writing today at the level I was writing then.
There's a writer who has stuff on Inkitt who claims forty years of writing experience. And they may indeed have been writing for four decades but their work doesn't reflect that. The stories have plot inconsistencies, weak characterization, and one would think forty years would at least encourage learning the writing rules but even grammar, punctuation are given but passing notice. (And if you're wondering whether or not the Inkitt stories are works-in-progress I should go easier on, they also have multiple books for sale on Amazon, are asking money of people, and the writing is no better)
They don't have forty years of writing experience.
They have one year of writing experience repeated forty times.
I don't leave 'brutal' reviews because I want to be the Simon Cowell of Inkitt. Sometimes he's just mean for the sake of mean, and I don't ever want to do that. Ever.
One thing I think we can all agree on; if Simon Cowell tells someone they're a great singer, they can take that to the bank. It means something.
I want to read good stories.
I want you to write at the top of your game, best beloved.
If you're already doing that, and I didn't fancy your story...not every story is for every person. Maybe it's me.
If you're already doing that, and you honestly consider points I make in a review, give them a minute, and say 'No, he's wrong,' I very likely am. Writing is much more subjective a thing than singing on-key; not everybody gets my writing and maybe I didn't get yours.
But are you really pushing yourself as a writer? If you've written more than one story, was the second better than the first? The third better than the second?
My wife has been creating our third child for the past nine months, just about, and Ryan Christopher will hopefully take his first breath later today.
There are parallels between childbirth and writing.
For one thing, it's lonely. I have been there as much as possible for Tiffany throughout the process and I will be right by her side in the delivery room but...she's still, in some aspects, completely on her own. I can't have the baby for her.
Conversely, she supported me over the past three months as I wrote the first draft of a novel and while she listened throughout the process, she's always ready to hear me blather on about the latest scene...I was still, am still, writing alone.
We all are.
Another parallel is how wonderful creation can be. The joy of birth is nothing I need to explain--and as writers we all (should) understand the joy and pain of birthing a story.
It's why I always encourage people when they tell me they thought about writing a book once. Creation is always positive. Too many people live only to destroy, to tear down; writers get to create.
I really just want to challenge you to make that creation as good as you can.
Please keep writing.
Even if it's about werewolves.
If the story is burning inside, demanding you tell it, by all means get it out of you.
If it grabs me on the first page, you might even get five stars.'
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