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Thursday, June 14, 2012

Guest Post and Interview With Ray Gorham, Author of 77 Days In September

Living With Your Editor

As I came to the conclusion of the second draft of my book, I decided I had probably better have someone with better English skills than myself do a little bit of editing.  In school I had always been a good reader and decent speller, and strong in math and science, but for some reason the rules of English, beyond the basics, never made sense to me.  Fortunately, I have a very talented wife.

Feeling pretty good about my book, I approached her with a 2” stack of paper (I had managed to talk her into editing).   “Prepare to be amazed,” I said (or something equally witty, I’m sure).  She stuck her hand out for the manuscript.  “I’m pretty busy, but I’ll get to it as soon as I can,” she replied.  From the expression on her face, I could tell she wasn’t expecting to be amazed.

Being in need of affirmation after such a long project, I was very anxious to get her feedback.  It was probably only a week, but it seemed like a month before she announced she had the first chapter done.  I eagerly snatched the papers from her hand, expecting to see smiley faces on each page, an occasional missing comma fixed, and a mushy love note at the end of the chapter telling me how wonderful my writing was and how glad she was she married me.

She turned to go make dinner and missed seeing my legs buckle as I glanced down at the first page.  Red ink everywhere!  I stumbled to the bedroom and fell into my writing chair.  With shaking hands I fanned through the 20 or so pages in my hand, more red than black.  My head spun.  I had thought my wife was pretty smart, now I wasn’t so sure. 

Commas, apostrophes, possessives, verbiage, wording—you name it, she nailed me on it.  I opened the document on my computer and started making corrections.  Okay, maybe I need a comma there.  I guess that word fits better.  I’ll trust you on this one.  By the end of the night the first chapter was done, and it was looking and sounding quite a bit better than it had hours earlier.

We did make it through the book, and the final product is much, much better than my original version.  We liked the process so much that we went through it two more times for the book (just kidding about the like part).  In my defense, I can proudly report that there were some pages towards the end of the book that didn’t need any editing, but they were few and far between.

I learned a few things from the process.  A second set of eyes on your work is essential, because no matter how thorough you think you’ve been, you’ll miss a ton.  Editing isn’t personal.  Rules are rules, and no matter how good I think something is, it needs to be said the right way.  Also, English can be learned—she’s been through part of my second book and has commented that I’ve improved greatly on the technical side of writing (hooray for me!).

Finally, I’ve realized why we never hear about people falling in love with their editor.  Agent?  Yes.  Bodyguard?  Yes.  Backup dancer?  Yes.  Director?  Yes.  Fans?  Yes.  Editor?  Not on your life.  I don’t think it is humanly possible to fall madly in love with someone who points out everything you do wrong.  Fortunately for me, I had fallen in love with her years before, so we didn’t have that hurdle to cross.  So my life, and my writing, is much better for it.

Welcome today to Ray Gorham visiting with me at Reviews by Martha’s Bookshelf.

Hello Ray -
I thought your guest post was figurative until I read it and realized it was literal. That is great to have such support and assistance.

I have to tell you that I remember reading Alas Babylon back in the 1970s and I listened to it on Audible last year.  I enjoyed reading 77 Days in September as an updated perspective on an EMP attack against America through a very engaging story.

Q1.  What inspired you to write this particular story? 
RG: I had wanted to write a book for some time, but was tired of so many books with characters who were not moral people.  I don’t want saints, just people who try to do the right thing, even when it is really difficult.  In this story, I wanted to have people who, in the most difficult situation I could imagine, hold on to their decency, and try and do what’s right.
I very much appreciated the real characters you created and the morality aspects of your story.  
Q2.  What is the biggest obstacle you have to overcome when you want to write?
RG:  Finding the time to do it.  I have several ideas for books that I think could be quite enjoyable, but between work and family I don’t have the time I need to write.  I need to learn to do with less sleep I think, or things will never get done.
I can so relate to that problem. 
Q3.  Can you please share one thing you found surprising or unusual when researching or writing 77 Days in September?
RG:  The trigger in the story is an Electro Magnetic Pulse (EMP).  I found a report online that was prepared for congress a few years back, and reading their assessment of what would happen in with a low level EMP was way scary.  Most experts predict a mortality rate of over 50% for the entire population after the first year, and yet it is something we never hear about.  I ended up wanting to warn people as much as I wanted to entertain them.  Hopefully the book will inspire some people to become more prepared.
I agree that this is a threat that we tend to overlook or downplay.
Q4.  Do your work career/hobbies/interests influence your writing?
RG:  It’s not really a hobby, but I like to think about life, and God, and people, and some of my reflections come out in the characters and their conversations.  I thought I kept it pretty light, but there have been a few negative reviews referencing those sections.  Oh well, could be worse, I guess.
I was actually a little disappointed you did not include more faith in the ending of the story. Overall though I thought the tone was balanced.
Q5. What are some of the best tips you’ve received on writing and what one tip would you pass on to new authors?
RG:  It’s not really a tip, but I have Steven King’s book, On Writing, on audio book.  I’ve listened to it about three times and it helped give me the confidence I could do it.  In it, he compared writing a story to unearthing a dinosaur, said the writer does the digging and simply uncovers what is there.  It sounds kind of weird, but it worked for me.  For advice, I’d just say sit down and do it, but don’t expect a payback.  I’ve been pretty lucky, but most writers make next to nothing from their efforts. 
I am glad you are pleased with your efforts as I do think you are right that writing is a lot of work often with little monetary return.
Q6.  What do you normally read and what are you reading now? 
RG:  I like history and non-fiction.  I’m currently reading “How the Irish Saved Civilization,” by Thomas Cahill.  I also like Colleen McCulloch’s Masters of Rome series.  I really wish I had more time to read (and write, as well).
Thank you for sharing with my blog readers and me.

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