Research Writer Interview With Victor
Literature & History
Greetings! Victor, how long have you been writing commercially as a freelancer?
Almost three years now.
Have you done any other kinds of writing?
I'm also a novelist. I have one of the world's truly impressive collections of rejection slips. Some people collect stamps; I collect rejection slips.
How did you get into commercial writing?
I needed money at the time: I was just starting a new teaching job: I also teach. I answered an ad in the Village Voice.
How many pieces have you written?
I keep pretty good records. The number is approaching four hundred.
What topics, typically, do you typically write about?
There's no one topic. Probably the topics I write about most are educational psychology, business and sociology. I know those are pretty broad, but it's hard both to generalize and be specific at the same time.
What's your favorite topic to write about?
Literature and history, but there isn't much call for either one. I'd prefer to write about Paradise Lost, Dickens or the Civil War, but I usually end up discussing things like recidivism or security systems.
What was the most unusual topic you ever wrote about?
Some guy wrote a very weird novel about spreadsheets that came alive for a class in creative writing. I had to write a summary of it. It was bizarre.
And the most enjoyable?
I had to do a critique of three movies directed by Michael Moore for someone taking a film class. Regardless of what you think of Moore politically, he is funny. I watched Roger and Me, Bowling for Columbine and Fahrenheit 911 over a weekend.
I may as well ask you: the least enjoyable?
Right when I started do this sort of thing. It was a business biography of Warren Buffet. It had been originally written by a client who wasn't a native speaker of English and then edited by another writer who did a bad job. And it was long: fifteen pages. It would have been easier to start from scratch, but the client wanted a rewrite. Unbelievable!
To change the topic, how do you do your academic research?
Almost entirely over the Internet. I do go to a library occasionally, but only when I can't avoid it. Frequently, clients will provide their own sources, especially if the job involves academic journals and, obviously, text books.
Do you enjoy working on the Internet?
Love it. In fact, I love it a little too much. I've developed a series of resources that I use that makes doing most research fairly straightforward.
What are some of them?
Well, probably the most useful, believe it or not, is Google. I also use Yahoo, and I'm experimenting with a new search engine called Quintura. It's graphically-oriented rather than text-oriented. It's useful sometimes when it's hard to find sources. I also use Questia, FindArticles and JStor. Then I have my personal favorites.
What are some of them?
One of them is called The Dead Sociologists Society. Despite its bizarre name, it's terrific for the classic sociologists: Weber, Durkheim, even Marx. I also like Wikipedia. I have to be careful using it, but it's often a good place to start. The links are worth the price of admission. Government sources are usually excellent. The Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Census Bureau sites are very well laid out and easy to use.
Any "tricks of the trade" you'd care to share in closing?
Sure. Most papers that are more than a page or two long, lend themselves to being divided into sections, with bold headings and all that. I find that treating each section as a separate document helps to move things along.
Thanks for the tip and for your time.
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