Ask the Author: Alex S. Avitabile

“Ask me a question.” Alex S. Avitabile

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Alex S. Avitabile The idea for my “most recent” book, OCCUPATIONAL HAZARD, which happens to be my very first published work of fiction and the first book of my Al and Mick Forte crime fiction series, came to me over 20 years before I would finally finish writing it. The germ of the idea—and it was just the germ of an idea, for what was finally written drifted away from the original inspiration—was sparked by a delay on the New York City subway. I feared I would be late for an administrative hearing, because the train taking me there was stalled in a tunnel. I decided that if I did not get to the hearing on time, I’d argue that my tardiness must be excused because it was due to an instrumentality of the City of New York, as the City was the opposing side at the hearing. This evolved into the eventual idea of having the book’s protagonists contend with the “dirty tricks” used by a powerful government official to thwart efforts to bring that same official to justice.
Alex S. Avitabile What inspires me to write? The short answer is “compulsion.” Ideas would pop into my head seemingly out of nowhere--the source of inspiration being mysterious, if you ask me—and I would feel compelled to make note of them and see where they take me.

This is what got me to do book reviews. I found that I would have something to say (or write) after reading a book; so, when I received an email in 2004 from the mostlyfiction.com website soliciting book reviewers, I responded and went on to review something like 50 books over a 7-year period.

With respect to OCCUPATIONAL HAZARD, when I finally sat down to write it in earnest, after a 17-year hiatus, I only had the beginning of the story worked out. I knew the “good guys” would prevail at the end, but did not have a clue as to how they would get there.

I had no choice but to proceed in a step by step manner to write the rest of the story. I would focus on each succeeding step, making sure each fit squarely into the overall story line and the developing facts. As each step was figured out and written, I would move on to the next. Being retired, my mind was free to focus and concentrate on the story and that was a major contributing factor which enabled me to finish the story.

I did benefit from certain “brainstorms” that came to me mostly while showering when there was nothing on my mind but where I was in the story and where I should go from there to move the story along.
Alex S. Avitabile I am currently working on book 2 of the Al and Mick Forte series of crime fiction stories. It is tentatively entitled, WHERE'S … ELI? In this story, a character mentioned briefly in Chapter 12 of OCCUPATIONAL HAZARD plays a significant role.

I am also finishing a piece entitled “If I can write a book, so can you!” which I hope AARP will publish. Retirement freed up my ability to focus and concentrate on writing which permitted me to finish the long festering story that would be published as OCCUPATIONAL HAZARD. By sharing my writing story, the piece seeks to encourage retirees to write.
Alex S. Avitabile Write. That is the only way to learn how to write, how to develop a style.

Read. You should already be reading a lot before you start to attempt serious writing.

Proofread. As boring and tedious as proofreading is, it cannot be done carefully enough. Just imagine how embarrassing it would be for your published product to be marred by even a few typos, grammatical errors, missing words and the like. Roll up your sleeves and put in the time and effort to ensure your published product is something you are proud of. And your proofreading method should include reading the text out loud, so that will force you to focus on each and every word and avoid taking shortcuts by skimming or glossing over what you think is all too familiar. Reading out loud also will assist you to edit as listening to your written words will give you a better sense of the flow of your writing.

Aim to possess the writing qualities lawyers (I am a retired lawyer) seek. Those qualities are--in no particular order--clarity, consistency, precision, and succinctness. Once you possess those, you have the foundation to add specialty qualities, depending on whether you are writing poetry, non-fiction, or fiction, and whether you are a poet, journalist, scientific writer, writer of general fiction, romance, science fiction, crime fiction, mystery, or whatever.
Alex S. Avitabile By enabling me to express what I feel compelled to state, to hit on the values/morals that are important to me, and to do what I like to do (like wordsmith, be fresh or funny or whatever), writing provides me with a sense of satisfaction, accomplishment and fulfilment,

Also, I have learned things about myself by reflecting on what I have written and through reader feedback. So, writing provides some helpful psychoanalysis without having to pay a shrink.

Alex S. Avitabile I was afflicted by writer’s block going back to my college days—decades ago. For me, it stemmed from my (1) wanting to write whatever I was writing in one fell swoop, which would immobilize me due to the impossibility of doing that, and (2) insecurity from the fear of failing.

This is what has helped me to overcome writer’s block:

• Writing is like building a building. It’s done one step at a time, little by little. So, if you approach it in that manner, you will overcome the foolishness of thinking you can figure it all out at once. Even if you have a robust outline and were somehow able to figure it all out upfront, you still must proceed—and make the inevitable adjustments along the way—a step at a time.

• Regarding the fear of failing, I focus not on the end but on the present, on the part of the piece or story that I am writing at the moment. I have developed trust in my abilities and confidence that it all will work out. For success is not in the incomplete steps along the way, but in the quality of the finished product. And I get to the finished product only after going through the entire process of getting something on paper and then going back to tinker and tinker and tinker with each part until I like what I see. I have learned that it is not useful to dwell on the possibility of failure. The important thing is to concentrate on finishing and then letting the chips fall where they may.

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