Complementing my interviews, today’s Author Spotlight, the two hundred and eighty-seventh, is of mystery author and interviewee Dale T Phillips. If you would like to take part in an author spotlight, take a look at author-spotlights.
Dale T. Phillips studied writing with Stephen King at the University of Maine at Orono, and has published three novels, over 25 short stories, collections, articles, jokes, and poetry. For over 20 years, he’s worked as a Technical Writer in a number of major industries.
He and has appeared on stage, television, and in an independent feature film, Throg. He co-wrote and acted in a short political satire film, The Nine. He competed on two nationally televised quiz shows, Jeopardy and Think Twice, and lost spectacularly both times.
Dale has had a number of colorful and interesting jobs: farm laborer, entrepreneurial bait salesman, yard worker, golf pro shop assistant, factory assembler, holiday Santa, construction worker, hotel worker, office assistant, theater apprentice, busboy, waiter, bartender, wine steward, assistant maitre’d, website designer, lab experiment subject, and blackjack dealer.
He was born in New England, spent his formative years in Maine, and has lived and worked in a number of different places.
And now from the author himself:
Famed writer John D. MacDonald said that to be a writer, you had to work at writing a million words or so of practice before you even begin to get good. And if you see studies on skill levels, it takes 5-10,000 hours of directed practice to master a skill. For writing, that’s a lot of time spent banging away at the keyboard.
There’s a lot of so-called writers who want shortcuts, who don’t think they have to practice their craft or work hard to get better. Some feel they don’t need to bother with good spelling, grammar, formatting, or even editing, because they can put up any piece of writing on the Web and declare themself a writer.
Readers, though, can quickly tell the difference between good writing and bad, between an author who has practiced and learned the craft, from someone who just posts anything slapped together. Most readers want a level of expertise in a storyteller. In addition to a good story, they want it told well. Sure, some will put up with sloppy, lazy prose, but most of the time you won’t make a living from those readers, if that’s your writing style. And it’s unlikely your writing will last very long.
There has never yet been the perfect writer, whose every word falls from the pen to shine like the sun. Even Shakespeare did a lot of revision, and some of his works are wretched. Hard to believe the same guy who wrote a number of the greatest works in our literature also wrote some really weak plays. Not to get down on ole Will, but it’s just to illustrate that no matter how good you think you are as a writer, there’s always room for improvement.
How does it sound? Too different from other work?
Join a critique group, in person or online. Get feedback from readers, not ones who care about your opinion.
Study what makes good writing good, and imitate it at first, then develop your own style. Imitation gives you the rhythm of the prose, and your brain absorbs the way the words are strung together to give meaning.
Write short pieces, like stories, and submit them to editors of magazines and online websites. When your work is getting bought and published, you’ve got validation of something worthy. When it’s not, they’ll often tell you why, and you can learn much from what they say.
Learn more about the craft of writing. There are many books and resources out there to help. Meet with other writers and edit each others’ work. By editing the words of others, you’ll get sharper about your own.
Remember, when your work goes out to the world, you’ll be judged on it. I told my daughter that publishing a book is like writing a term paper that the whole world gets to correct. Do you really want sloppy work out there with your name on it?
Most of all, have something to say, don’t just recycle tired old ideas with nothing new in them. For example, my Zack Taylor mystery series has a troubled man who is always striving to be a better person, but his demons and past weigh him down. Seeing how Zack deals with his struggles can help a reader understand their own.
You can find more about Dale and his writing his website: www.daletphillips.com.
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For writers / readers willing to give feedback and / or writers wanting feedback, take a look at this blog’s Feedback page.
As I post an interview a day (amongst other things) I can’t unfortunately review books but I have a list of those who do. If there’s anything you’d like to take part in, take a look at Opportunities on this blog.
I welcome items for critique for the online writing groups listed below:
Morgen’s Online Non-Fiction Writing Group
Morgen’s Online Novel Writing Group
Morgen’s Online Poetry Writing Group
Morgen’s Online Script Writing Group
Morgen’s Online Short Story Writing Group
We look forward to reading your comments.