Joseph Benedict lives and writes in Ypsilanti, Michigan.
1. How long have you been writing and what got you started?
I started writing way back in sixth grade and kept at it through high school. Then life got in the way, and I didn’t write anything for over ten years. I picked it up again in February of 2014 while I was between jobs, and I haven’t stopped since. I still don’t know what got me started again. I was driving home from the store when an idea formed in the back of my mind, and it nagged at me until I put fingers to keyboard. It turned out awful, but once that story came out the ideas began to flow.
2. What is the best piece of advice you have for new writers?
The best advice I ever got was to read a lot and write a lot. There is always something to learn from someone else’s writing, even if it’s what not to do. And don’t just stick to one genre, expand your palette. As for writing, the only way you’re going to improve is putting words to page. Even if they’re bad words. I have yet to write a first draft that didn’t make me cringe at least fifty times, but every building needs a foundation.
3. Are there any writing resources, such as books or websites, you’d like to recommend?
Talking with other writers and critiquing each other’s work, whether in person or online, is an invaluable resource. For me, the people in the Fiction Writing: Advice and Discussion thread on the Something Awful forums have been a tremendous help. I also recommend Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King.
4. What is your favorite type of fiction and who are your favorite authors?
I have always loved scary stories and horror since I saw Jaws at the ripe old age of three. I spent a lot of years sleeping with the lights on, but could never resist coming back for more. I also love fantasy and science fiction. Some of my favorite authors are Stephen King, Margaret Atwood, Cormac McCarthy, Susan Hill, Lauren Beukes, and Robert Jordan.
5. What tips do you have for finding time to write?
Don’t wait for inspiration to strike. Pick a time where you will always sit down and get down. For me, it’s lunch time. I spend about fifteen minutes eating and reading and the other forty-five working on whatever project is ongoing. On the weekends, I put aside at least an hour a day, whether it’s editing or new words.
6. Do you prefer to outline a story in advance or write on the fly? Why?
It depends entirely on the length of the piece. Short fiction is almost always writing on the fly. I go in with a character, a situation to stick them in, and a general idea of where it winds up, and see where the story takes me.
On the other hand, I’m working on the first draft of a novel, and I found that trying that approach got me backed into a corner with no idea where to go. I had to go back and get a general idea of where each section was going and how it all tied together. I also wrote a general outline for each chapter as I progressed. That let me still keep some spontaneity while still giving me a sense of direction.
7. How do you deal with rejections?
Rejection is just another form of feedback, and I love feedback. I keep a folder in my e-mail with every rejection notice I’ve received. It’s motivation. So the story didn’t work for that editor, but it might for the next. Or I need to go back and see what’s lacking. The important thing is to keep moving forward, because the rush of that acceptance letter is worth it when it finally comes.
8. What are your writing goals for the next twelve months?
First and foremost is finishing the first draft of my novel. It’s about 2/3rds of the way there, and I refuse to move on to another project until it’s finished. After that, I have a notebook of story ideas I’m dying to dig into.
9. For the next five years?
I have at least two more ideas for novels that I’m excited to start, but mostly it’s writing the stories I’d love to read and working on my craft. Where I go in terms of publication will be a pleasant surprise.
10. Is there anything you’d like to plug? Feel free to share a link.
I don’t have anything of mine at the moment, but, if I can get away with plugging another author’s work, if you haven’t read Seth Dickinson’s “The Traitor Baru Cormorant“, you really should. It’s an amazing gut-punch of a novel.