I interviewed professional author, Nick Thacker, who delivers nonfiction and fiction with equal aplomb. Being a full-time writer in today’s world is not easy, but Nick manages it. I think you will find his answers interesting and instructive. I did.
You’ve been in the author business for several years. Where do you see it going in the future?
The biggest sea change coming is the ability to be advertised to in a way that’s not invasive, but welcomed. Artificial intelligence recommendation engines are growing more and more complex every day, and “big data” has a good handle on us as consumers. To me, that means we’ll start seeing places like Amazon able to recommend books and products to us that are exactly what we need, when we need it, and sometimes even before we realize it.
Through devices like Kindles and other e-readers, we also know that Amazon knows our reading speed, preferences, and possibly even the time of day we like to read. That could mean we start seeing recommendations for “a story you’ll love (because we know what you like to read) that you can read before bed (because we know you like to read at that time) and that won’t take too long (because we know you fall asleep in ten minutes).”
How did you get into being a writer in the first place?
I wrote a book for my dad – it was just a simple Christmas gift surprise. I wanted to produce something that “felt like a real book.” The story was good, but the writing was awful! I eventually got an editor, hired a cover designer, and released it on Amazon. I started learning the process and realized that I loved the whole process of book production, not just the writing. So, twelve books later, here I am!
Who is your favorite author/writer and why?
James Rollins – he’s a fantastic storyteller and a great guy, and I plowed through all of his books during a summer in college, and that got me hooked on the action-adventure thriller genre.
What is your process for writing?
I’m a planner, through and through. I outline, even though the story changes significantly from beginning to end, but I can’t write a thing without at least a simple skeleton of an outline. I’ll usually work on the outlines for months before I start writing, going through my characters’ profiles and trying to get in their heads a bit.
I do research before and during the writing process as well, but I try to limit the bulk of the research to beforehand. If I’m stuck in a sentence and am not sure about a detail, I’ll leave a note to myself that I’ll search for when I’m finished with the draft. That way I can write quickly and efficiently.
I also subscribe to Robert Heinlein’s “clean first draft” approach and methodology. I write fast, but I’m not crazy. My goal is to produce a nearly finished first draft that just needs basic editing and proofreading. That saves a vast amount of time, and with the current landscape of publishing, my works are iterative: I can improve them well after they’re released, so there’s not much sense in trying to get things perfect.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
Life is too short to worry.
What would your advice be for an aspiring writer?
Write the next book! It always seems like there’s more to it than that, but there’s really not.
Did you ever get told to get a “real job” rather than writing?
Not really – I was working a “real job” up until earlier this year, and we planned for it. We talked to my bosses, coworkers, family, etc., so it wasn’t really a surprise to anyone. If anyone thinks I need to get a “real job,” I’d point them to the changing landscape of what “real jobs” look like these days. I think I’m more secure now than I was back then!
What have you learned about writing that has surprised you?
Writing is an interesting and unbelievably challenging combination of business ownership, marketing, management, project planning, and – of course – a lot of writing. But there’s a balance, and I’ve never met a successful author who didn’t understand on a basic level all of the other things about this career.
How should a writer handle getting old?
I feel old when I see my kids growing up, so my way of preventing that is to watch them – to be with them, and to do life with them. No matter how much work there is to do, I hope I’ll always be able to look back and say, “I didn’t give up my kids’ childhoods for work. I got to be their dad.”
What gives you inspiration?
Knowing that there is a never-ending wealth of knowledge out there. There will never be too many stories in the world, and I’ll never know everything, which means there’s always something new to learn and write about.
Have you ever cheated death?
I don’t think so – I’ve been in a few close scrapes before, but if they were truly death-cheating incidents, I’d probably have more issues today than I do!
Not spending enough time with the people in my life that I’ve lost.
What skill should every man have?
I believe in a three-pronged approach to manhood: Love God, take care of your stuff, leave a legacy.
The first one is obvious, the second one is about taking care of the details and responsibilities life throws us, and the last one is about leaving the world a better place than you found it.
I also believe every man should be able to communicate well – with anyone, anywhere.
What skill should every writer have?
Start, and finish. That’s it. A writer should understand that they’re never going to be perfect. It’s far better to release a book that’s 90% “perfect” than never release anything because it’s not 100%. Get the next book out!
What is the biggest success you’ve achieved from your point of view?
I live a dream life, truly: a great family, a house, in a place we love to live, and my wife and I don’t work traditional jobs. I get to write from anywhere, at any time, and I get paid to do that! That’s an amazing feeling, and I’ll hold onto it for as long as I can!
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For more, read Mary Jo Smith-Obolensky’s interview with Nick Thacker as an entrepreneur.