I’ve actually met Michael IN PERSON! We met at the Willamette Writer’s conference (which is actually happening Aug. 3-5!)in Portland, Ore. about two years ago, I think that’s right. Time flies! Since that conference, we’ve kept in touch with updates on our writing and that’s why I invited him to participate in this Q and A. Okay, let’s learn more about Michael
Michael Mohr is a Bay Area writer, former literary agent’s assistant and freelance book editor. His fiction has been published in the following: Adelaide Literary Magazine; Fiction Magazines; Tincture; Flash: The International Short Short Story Magazine; Aaduna; MacGuffin; Alfie Dog Press; and more. His blog pieces have been included in Writers’ Digest, Creative Penn, Writer Unboxed and MASH.
What do you write/edit (specialties)? I tend to write gritty, raw, autobiographical stories about my lurid, anarchic twenties. (For fiction.) Or I write essays about writing/editing or memoir pieces about travel or specific, foundational life experiences.
As far as editing*, I will developmentally edit close to “anything” although I specialize in memoir, adult literary novels, autobiographical novels, YA, and commercial fiction. I have to give a plug, too, for my recent client, former-neo-Nazi-turned anti-hate activist Christian Picciolini, whose memoir, WHITE AMERICAN YOUTH was published by Hachette Books in December 2017. He has since been on 60 Minutes, Sarah Silverman, Megyn Kelly, Sam Harris, NPR, did a TED TALK, and more. I am very proud. We’re working on Book #2 now.
*Please note: Michael’s editing services are booked through October if you’d like to get in with him.
Favorite book that you think is underrated? “Jesus’ Son,” Denis Johnson. Incredible short story collection from 1992.
Favorite book from childhood? Well, I’m not sure re childhood but the book that changed my life, when I was 22, was Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road.” I read that book and then lived that life.
As an editor, what are the top three mistakes writers make/that you see when editing? (feel free to direct us to a blog post or article you wrote about this) Oh, that’s easy. I could do a Top 50 List on this. First: Impatience. (A serious book takes time.) Second: Not understanding the different types of editing and when those types come in the process. (Developmental; line; copy; proofreading; etc.) Third: Thinking that after one round (especially when the book is a very early draft) they’ll be done. Here’s an article I wrote for NYT bestselling author Joanna Penn’s website about the basics of book writing: https://www.thecreativepenn.com/2018/03/09/fiction-techniques-writing-memoir/
What do you think being an editor brings to your own writing practice? It can make me incredibly neurotic, haha. But no. The real answer is that it definitely helps me think of the overarching bigger picture much more: Plot; ARC; character-development; etc. And it makes me remember to keep using SCENE instead of telling/info dump, things like that. Certainly being an editor assists in terms of remembering to always use sensory detail to paint a picture in the reader’s mind, to consistently consider setting (The 5 Ws, etc). And so on. It helps a lot.
Use three words to describe what keeps you writing and persevering? Calling, Curiosity, Discovery
Where do you draw your inspiration to keep writing? I wouldn’t even call it inspiration. I’m one of those people that is, as Gore Vidal put it, “doomed” to be a writer. I’ve always known I was born to write. My mom is a writer. She published her novel in 2015 and used to write for a national magazine. My uncle is a writer. I grew up reading the classics and writing from a very young age. It’s deep inside of me. I write. It’s just what I do.
What was one of the hardest scenes for you to write? The opening chapter of my literary YA novel which is currently (again) being read by several agents. It was “easy” the first round, in 2008 (!!!) when I started the rough draft. But over the years it got harder to make it as strong as possible. I learned to be a serious writer over the ensuing decade. It wasn’t until 2015, I think, that I finally started getting requests to read the full MS, based on the first chapter or two. Then more. And more. It’s been three years since then. Still going. It’s a long, slow road, usually.
What helps you to become a better writer besides a consistent writing schedule?Like Stephen King said in “On Writing” (read this book!): Read a lot and write a lot. The more you write the more you’ll discover your own voice. That’s key. Establish a routine. Have discipline. Don’t make excuses for skipping it. Read online forums like “Writer Unboxed” (here’s one of my articles on WU: http://writerunboxed.com/2017/10/15/sexual-tension-in-fiction/ and Creative Penn (https://www.thecreativepenn.com/2018/03/09/fiction-techniques-writing-memoir/) .
Also read how-to books like “Bird by Bird” (Anne Lamott) and Mary Karr’s “The Art of Memoir,” or David Corbett’s “The Art of Character.” Get curious and jump in!