A few years back, I wrote books for TSTC Publishing. The first one was called TechCareers: Biomedical Equipment Technicians and the Department Chair's name is on the book. The second book was called TechCareers: Automotive Technicians. Then came TechCareers: Avionics and TechCareers: Computer Gaming. Those last three books have my name on the cover.
For the Biomedical Equipment Technicians book, I interviewed five people. For the remaining books, I upped the number of interviewees to at least 13. That meant a ton of transcribing, creating questions, typing and organizing. And it doesn't include the hours of researching schools in the U.S. that teach that career and what classes are required, etc. or travel time.
For each interview, I created a profile for each subject. In this case, a profile is not a life story of the person. It’s a brief bit about his or her background in the field, then some of his thoughts on an aspect of the field. To determine where in the book I’m going to put a particular person’s profile, I look at the transcription and see which person said something relevant to a certain topic or had something solid to contribute to the topic. Then I write his profile with that angle in mind. I can’t use everything the person said in an interview because each interview ran from 30 minutes to over an hour, one or two much longer. To interview subjects, I traveled from central Texas, to south Texas to the east and to the west and places in-between.
If you’ve not done this kind of writing, you might think this process would be easy. You just throw in the relevant quotes. Even if we don’t get into the actual interview and the hours it takes to transcribe, but only talk about creating the profile, it’s still not an easy task.
You have to decide what to include. Then you have to edit what the person said. And by edit, I don’t mean change what they said. Few people talk as succinctly as they might write. They ramble; they switch directions in the middle of a sentence; they use slang; they correct themselves; they spend three minutes saying what they could have said in fifteen seconds. Now, don’t get me wrong…you can learn a lot in those extra two minutes and forty-five seconds. And slang and speech patterns say a whole lot about the person. As I re-read my transcription of an interview, I can actually hear that person speaking.
So, unless you write for a magazine whose purpose is to lampoon, you have to learn how to quote. It’s something I struggled with for the first book, but learned how to do. Have any of you done this kind of interviewing and writing? Do you think you'd like to?
Helen Ginger is an author, blogger, and writing coach. She teaches public speaking as well as writing and marketing workshops. You can follow Helen on Twitter or connect with her on Facebook and LinkedIn. Helen is the author of 3 books in TSTC Publishing’s TechCareers series, Angel Sometimes, and two of her short stories can be found in the anthology, The Corner Cafe. Her next book, Dismembering the Past, is due out in Spring 2014.