Profile and Background – I’m a Scotsman in his late sixties who has had full careers in the British Army, and as a Retail Manager.
In my military career, during the 1970s I patrolled the streets of Belfast and later worked in uniform and ‘civvies’ in Londonderry, Northern Ireland. Apart from units in West Germany, I served in West Berlin when there was still a dividing wall. In the mid-1980s I trained recruits and in 1991, late in my career, I served throughout the first Gulf War.
As a retailer, I managed stores, trained staff, closed failing stores, opened new ones and worked all over the UK. My greatest failing was always the tendency to deal with shoplifters rather than call for security or the police. 🙂
Why? – As an avid reader for most of my life, I held a secret desire to write stories. Yes, it’s that simple. I loved visiting other worlds in books and one day I thought, I’d love to write a novel. It did, of course, take longer than a day.
When? – I tried my hand at writing in 1996 a couple of years after leaving the military, but I didn’t need an expert to tell me I had a lot to learn. I abandoned writing and increased my reading. About ten years later I got the urge to try writing again and began with poetry. Things moved on steadily as I acquired new disciplines, tried different types of creative writing and increased my time on the keyboard. Since retiring in 2017, I write at least eight hours every day.
Where? – I’m in the envious position of being retired and because our grown son lives abroad it gave me the opportunity to convert a bedroom into a study. Since my early writing days, my haven has seen several upgrades. A couple of years ago I treated the room to an overhaul to create what I have now. It’s bright, airy and allows me to relax and be creative.
What? – I wrote poetry and Readers’ Letters to magazines before moving on to short stories and then novels. Due to my personal interests and choice of reading material, I began with thrillers and as my confidence grew I tried military, sci-fi, romance and erotica. I’ve more recently dabbled in horror, and post-apocalyptic. Fantasy will be next.
As many authors do, I allow aspects of my own personality to pervade my hero’s character which I find easy to do. When this is blended with my military experience, my keen sense of justice, and a lifelong interest in covert organisations and operations, my enthusiasm increases rapidly. My penchant for writing short tales is the result of a fertile imagination and the desire to tell stories. Erotica … ah, now there’s a topic best discussed in intimate surroundings.
How? – Fortunately, in my radio operator training in 1970 I learned to touch-type which didn’t take long to get back into. I treat my writing like a job so my first ‘shift’ is normally from 8 am until 1 pm. I have an hour-long lunch break and then write until 6 pm. At least every two hours I stop for fifteen minutes and get up to walk around. Occasionally, I sit my Mac on top of a large ‘Really Useful’ plastic container on my desk and stand up to write.
I have different tactics when it comes to method. In the case of a novel I am most likely to think of a scenario and then work backwards for a while to see how the characters arrived there. By the time I’ve got the story underway, I’m already listing directions for it to go. I make notes of possible titles and endings while I’m in the process of writing the story. I name my chapters too.
I get the first draft written rapidly, then it’s left aside for at least two weeks, but usually longer between the following drafts. From the third draft onwards, each time I print the manuscript, read it aloud, make edits with a red pen, update the manuscript, save and leave aside again.
In the case of short stories, key areas for me are a good ‘hook’ in the introduction, tight dialogue, good pace, and a twist at the end. The first draft of a short story might be 5,000 words before edits which will reduce it to 3,500 words by the final draft. Again, I will leave a short story for a couple of weeks in between drafts. This brings me back with a fresh outlook on what I’m seeing in the story.
If the writing is to be published I get it to a decent standard and then ask for beta readers. We always get too familiar with our work and don’t see issues. One thing I’ve discovered that helps with spotting issues is to beta read for other authors.
Writer’s Block? – This is an ailment I’ve never suffered from because I always have at least two or more writing projects on the go. I’ve found that by having more than one ‘Work in Progress’ I can easily go from one to another. My multi-project system has worked for me for a few years.
Other Interests? – Apart from reading widely, I draw and paint. I also enjoy watching natural history documentaries and have a collection of DVDs and books on the subject. To maintain my fitness I walk and cycle.
Author website: http://www.tombensonauthor.com
Katya Cumming: https://bit.ly/3aRlTKn