Ensign Thomas W. Abbott.  Blue for programmers. Nobody grows up wanting to be a major geek. You just wake up one morning after enduring several grueling weeks of eighth-grade junior high, and you realize that your social life is hopeless.

Once you get over the shock, you kind of settle into a routine. The insults. The wedgies. The practical jokes. The girls that smirk at you, then shake their heads and walk away. To my credit, I only got beat up once, and that was because I shot my mouth off. As far as total geeks go I think survived the eighth grade rather well.

I can't tell what started me thinking I wanted to write fantasy or Science Fiction. It happened sometime in the eleventh grade. I'd read The Hobbit, Lord of the Rings, The Shannara series by Terry Brooks, and The Belgeriad series by David Eddings. To this day I don't know what I was thinking. I got Ds in English. Writing was my absolute worst subject, but for some reason the notion never left me and I always knew at some point in my life I had to try.

A woman in my writer's group recently told me, "Either you're writing is getting better, or I had no idea I liked fantasy!" Writer's groups are wonderful if you get the right people. Writing isn't like art or music, where your audience can enjoy in passing. Writing requires time from your audience, and when you're starting out there is literally no other way you can get people to read your stuff.

Reviewing after a grueling night with the critique group. At the beginning of 2012 I decided to make it my goal of e-publishing the two completed novelettes that I wrote. Both received honorable mention from the L. Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future contest. They're too long to try and publish in a short story magazine, and they're far too short to publish as hard-cover or paperback novels. So, I decided to try the e-publishing route. You can find them on this website, by clicking the Writing link above.

When I'm not writing, I watch a lot of movies. I'm always looking for a good story, and when I find one I take copious notes. I read a lot, too. Favorite authors are Jim Butcher, Brandon Mull, J. K. Rowling. Favorite local Utah authors are Dan Wells and Larry Correa.

In my day job I'm a senior developer at inContact, a software company that does call center hosting. I program phone systems. I have about ten years of experience developing in C/C++ and C#. I do embedded development, telephony, and a smattering of web development. In my spare time I've even written several games.

When I'm not working or writing, I am married and a father of five kids. I live near Salt Lake City, Utah.


In your opinion, what is the best advice you can give to people who want to get published and be a writer?

I have two pieces of good advice. The first is, join a writer's group. Classes and lectures and panels and workshops can only take you so far. Find one that is going to give you serious feedback. The worst advice you can get is, "Oooo, I loved it!"

The second piece of advice is, do it! In the words of John Dufresne, "Apply a** to chair." There are a lot of things in life with more immediate gratification, so the first question you ought to ask yourself is, "Do I really want to do this? If so, then why?"

If you want to write, you need to set goals and write a lot. I work with New Year's resolutions. The first one I set was in 2008: I will finish three short stories and get them in the mail. My 2009 resolution was to research plot ideas for a novel--which I did complete on a technicality. My 2010 goal was to complete a novel that I would feel proud to take to an editor or an agent.

What does the W in your name stand for?

That is a secret which I shall take to the grave.

Maybe I'll hold a contest someday. Be the first person to guess Tom's middle name, and you win a an autographed copy of my latest novel!

Do you work from an outline?

I do. In my point of view, you wouldn't build a house without a detailed set of blueprints. You wouldn't drive to Disneyland without consulting a map. You wouldn't bake a cake unless you had seen a recipie. Some people can turn out coherent prose by shooting from the hip. I am not one of those people.

I work best in three phases. I start by brainstorming, letting the thoughts come as fast as I can type them down. Ideas can come in any order they want. Eventually I get enough material that a story thread emerges. Next, I arrange the ideas into an outline sketch. The work is still pretty un-structured at this point. I don't bother with grammar or style or punctuation. I focus on dialog and what happens in each scene. In the third phase I take my sketch and I produce polished prose.

I rely on the creative process during all three phases. If anyone feels that working from an outline squelches their creativity then I would say that they're probably going about it the wrong way.

Do you like turtles?

I--what? Okay, serious questions only, please.

What are the odds of getting published traditionally?

That number is hard to nail down, but I can spout a few useful figures for you. Jim Butcher said on his website that roughly 3 in 1000 people who finish a novel get published. Out of those three, only one in ten makes enough money at it that they can write full-time instead of working.

Most people complete five to nine novels before getting their first publishing contract. They go through scores and scores of submissions and rejection letters. On top of it all, there's a certain element of luck.

Still feel like you want to be a writer?

Hey, no one's holding a gun to your head. If you want an easy sense of accomplishment, try World of Warcraft. If you want someone to think you're wonderful, get a puppy.

Why did you consider self-publishing?

To be clear, the type of self-publishing I'm interested in is e-publishing. The rising popularity of e-readers such as Kindle and Nook, combined with social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter, in conjunction with blogging and email have made it easier than ever to gain a following and publish your work on your own.

Would I take a contract with a traditional publisher? In a heartbeat. I think it would be a perfect way to get a little more marketing muscle behind my stories, and it would also lend a huge amount of credibility to my writing. Don't get me wrong. At this point I think there are advantages to both.

However, going the traditional route is far from any kind of guarantee of success. At the end of the day, the only thing that counts is whether or not your work is being read. I've seen a lot of writers get lucky with the traditional route. Some of them are personal friends of mine. The years have gone by and they never put out anything new. No matter which route you end up taking, the basic questions still apply. How well do you know your audience? How well do you connect with your readers? How good are you at getting your stories into the hands of new readers?

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