How long have you been writing? Has writing always been something you wanted to do?
I have been writing since I was a kid but, like a lot of authors, I took a great big hiatus from my teens to my 30s. I guess beer and girls were more important to me at the time than poetry and short stories. I have been back on the ink train seriously again since 2008. Writing is my full-time job and also my hobby.
I went through a plethora of meaningless, dead-end jobs before I finally reached my limit in mid-2008. I decided to get back into writing and did a search for writing forums one lazy Friday night, and came upon Accentuate Writers. The rest, as they say, is history.
What books or stories have you written?
I have two unfinished novels behind me, but quite a few short stories. I have been published with Twin Trinity Media a few times now in short-story anthologies and also with Circle 8 Writers. I’m focusing heavily on the short story because I feel that it is very important to have a good beginning, middle and end to each tale, and the short story provides an excellent platform to practice with.
What are some of the hardest things you’ve had to overcome as a writer, in order to be published?
First, grammar is very important. Sentence structure, tenses, and obeying the basic rules of English will get your story noticed much faster than pages full of glaring mistakes. Although I felt I was a pretty good writer before, I had a whole lot to learn before I was competitive and am learning more and more every day. Looking back at some of my earlier stuff now, I can see why it wasn’t placing in contests. The stories were just fine, but the execution needed some major work.
Write. Every day or as often as you possibly can. Read a lot, too, and not just in your favorite genre; read stuff you wouldn’t normally consider. The worst thing that can happen is you’ll read a bad book. The best thing is that you’ll become more well-rounded as a writer, and that is priceless. Stephen King noted that it’s a really cool moment when you realize the book you just read is utter crap and that you know you could do it better. Write a lot, read a lot: it’s what we do.
How do you get inspiration for your writing? Are there life lessons you have used as inspiration?
I draw a large portion of my inspiration from books and movies. Sometimes it’s the situation, but mostly it’s the characters. The way I see it, if we like watching them, we’ll like reading about them. So, I pay attention, both when reading a story or watching a movie, to what makes the characters good, and what makes them stand out as characters. I also draw from real-life and am big on people-watching. You might just be surprised what you can learn about someone you’ve never met just by intensely observing them for 10 minutes.
Do you think writing has any benefits, and if so what would they be?
I do think writing has benefits. I think that it keeps us sharp, keeps us observant, keeps us vigilant against that ugly monster known as boredom. I think it’s a great emotional outlet, and I think that authors are like snowflakes: No two seem to write exactly the same way or put the same spin on something. It’s a great way to find your original voice.
Has writing made you a better person? Was there a point in your life where writing helped you deal with something, a death or a problem relationship perhaps?
Oh yes. When I was a kid I would write poetry in highly emotional states. Some of that poetry I think is actually pretty darned good, and some of it is garbage. The point is, that I used it as a cheap and easy outlet for anything that happened in life. I wrote when I was happy, when I was sad, when I was angry or confused. To me, its therapeutic value is awesome; some turn to booze or drugs, but all I need is a pen and paper and a little time. How neat is that?
About Derek Odom
Derek is a professional freelance writer and author. He lives in southern California with his girlfriend and a few cats. He prefers the simple things in life, such as a good story or a night out with friends. He has been published with Twin Trinity Media and Circle 8 Writers, and is always trying to get his work accepted by Glimmer Train.
Check out Derek’s Yahoo! contributor page.