Write the Best Thing You Can: Chuck Sambuchino On How Writers Can Improve Their Work

Chuck Sambuchino

Chuck Sambuchino

By Sean Tuohy

Are you an aspiring author frustrated by the publishing process?

Join the club.

However, there are plenty of agents and consultants out there willing to take the time to help up-and-coming writers fulfill their dream of being published.

One such person is Chuck Sambuchino, editor and published author who runs the Guide to Literary Agents Blog. Sambuchino answered some of my questions about the publishing biz and how writers can refine their writing processes.

Sean Tuohy: When did you know you wanted to be a writer?

Chuck Sambuchino: From when I was about 20 years old. I wrote a one-act play that won a contest at my college, and was produced. I also wrote some op-eds for my college paper that got attention. Once I saw that writing could actually get into the world, and not just remain a Word file on your computer, I was basically hooked. I suspect it's the same for other writers, as well.

ST: What is your writing process? Do you have any special rituals you have to do before you start writing?

CS: I have no process whatsoever. I just write whenever I have any time throughout the day, and tend to do things just before the deadline. Fiction writers have their own unique processes, and that makes sense because each day requires concentration and creation. Because I write nonfiction, it's all a matter of carving out time whenever I can—that's the key. Many people will say, "Oh, I have no time to write. Where does the time go??" But I personally know exactly where the time goes, and don't blame anyone but myself for when I don't produce enough.

ST: You have written in nearly every category; books, magazine articles, plays, and many other formats, what is your favorite format to write?

CS: Probably books, because they have the widest reach. Plays are great, especially because they are my fiction outlet, but they are extremely limited in terms of how many people see them. You can be all the way across the country and see your book in a bookstore. That's quite a thrill.

ST: Where did the idea for How to Survive a Garden Gnome Attack come from?

CS: I was thinking about a movie called “The Full Monty,” which is a U.K. comedy. In the movie, there is a quick, hilarious scene with a garden gnome. That got me thinking about garden gnomes, and how terrible and tacky they were. The more I dwelled on them, the more creeped out I became. I started to wonder if they were peeking in the windows at me right that moment. Then it hit me: Certainly if gnomes scare me, they must scare others. That was the genesis of the book.

ST: There are so many changes going on in the publishing world right now, how can a new writer stay ahead of the curve in this ever-changing market?

CS: On one hand, educate yourself and understand what opportunities exist in terms of self-publishing and e-publishing, because those growing channels may be right for you. On the other hand, don't worry too much about the changes, and continue to focus on the basics:

  1. Write the best thing you can. 
  2. Build a platform so you have some ability to sell your own work when it is released. 
  3. Keep writing and producing content to give yourself the best chance of success.

ST: In this new digital age of publishing do new writers still need an agent or publisher?

CS: Yes. Nowadays, there are two publishing paths you can choose: traditional publishing or self-publishing. If you decide to seek the traditional publishing route, you absolutely should seek an agent, because an agent fights to get you the best deal possible. The path of self-publishing has its merits, but I personally stick with traditionally publishing, and have enjoyed it.

ST: What are some of the most common errors you see in new writers’ work?

CS: New writers submit their work before it is ready. They need to recognize that the revision process takes time. It's a matter of sanding off many rough edges. New writers also have a bad habit of telling, not showing in their writing. Lastly, they don't have the best ability to self-edit their own work. As a freelance editor myself, one of my biggest tasks is showing writers where to cut.

ST: What advice would you give to up-and-coming writers?

CS: Educate yourself. Every hurdle you come across has been jumped by many before you, and those successful writers can explain how they conquered a problem and found success. Besides that, I would encourage people to get out to a writers conference. Conferences are the place where you educate yourself, charge your batteries, make writing friends for life, and meet agents and editors.

ST: Can you tell us one random fact about yourself?

CS: Last summer, I took up competitive gaming for retro video games from my childhood. It's going well, and I currently hold world records for games such as “Contra,” “Street Fighter 2,” and “Bubble Bobble.”

To learn more about Chuck Sambuchino, visit his blog or follow him on Twitter @ChuckSambuchino.

The Writer's Bone Interviews Archive