Something to say, a story to tell

I don’t write just for the sake of writing. I write because I have something to say that I may want to share with others, or which I do not want to forget. I write because I have stories I want to tell, and I want to tell them my way. In a certain sense, all my stories, that is novels, are exerimental.

This makes it difficult for me to get a traditional publisher. Most of the larger publishers want novels, or non-fiction, which is safe, that will almost certainly make back the expense of publication, if not a lot more. This makes perfectly good sense, from a certain point of view. But it means that any novel that isn’t instantly classifiable by the marketing department is difficult if not impossible to place. Marketing departments, after all, aren’t interested in literature. They’re interested in moving product.

Many writers, most published writers, have learned how to live and work with this situation, and produce good books, and sometimes excellent books. I have done it myself — well, the “good” part anyway. But it is becoming more important to me to write only the stories that I really want to read, stories which are truly my own even if they are outside the confines of marketability.

It’s not my intention to be deliberately experimental just for the sake of experiment. I just want to try new things, try better ways, learn what works and what doesn’t. And I don’t deliberately avoid marketability, they just come out that way. But neither do I make any effort to stay within the main stream of fantasy/science fiction/horror/weird. I go where I want to go, where my story takes me. And I give no consideration to strive to make my story fit a clear-cut genre, though I recognize that it can’t be easily classed as one thing or another.

When I have a story that I really want to tell, like Stroad’s Cross for example, I don’t want to force it into a mold created by salesmen. I want it to be my story, not theirs. And so once again I am limited to three choices. Not write it at all, write it and put it on a shelf, or write it and publish it myself. I’ll be doing a lot of that.


  1. You are one of a very tiny number of people whom I regard as actually being able to teach others how to write. (Two others are Elizabeth Massie and Monica Marier. Not sure I can name a third…) Have you ever felt moved to write a how-to-write book? Most of them seem frustratingly vague, to me. But you do such a fine job of giving practical guidance in plain language at your seminars that I’d expect such a book would be immensely popular.

    1. I have been asked this before. I know how much effort goes into a non-fiction book, I’ve done it way back in my early days. On computers, no less. That’s where/how I learned to write in plain language that even my editors could understand. Thank you for your compliment, it’s something I’m actually proud of.

      So my first response is — I can either write a book on writing, or I can work on my fiction, and I choose fiction.

      My second response is that I can put a lot of what I know into my blog, in bits and pieces, scatter-shot sort of, but it will all get there.

      I really don’t try to teach how to write. I try to help the writers understand what they have done and where they can improve. Each writer has to learn their own best working methods. Now, let me sit down with somebody face to face, one at a time, and I believe I could lead them, or guide them, to discovering how to write what they want to. But that would take an immense amount of time, and probably travel, so it isn’t likely to happen.

      Besides, you can’t afford me. (How much to you charge?) You can’t afford me.

      But I am thinking that, if the blog goes well, and I can see my way clear, I could add pages which specifically address the Writers’ Workshop, on how to get started, and the Plotting Workshop, on how to get from the beginning to the end. Or, at least, one day to do it.

      I don’t know Elisabeth that well, but I do know Monica. Next time I see her I’m going to ask about her teaching.

      Again, thank you for your kind words (I do know the difference between an honest compliment and flattery). I should be posting again tonight, but it needs to be edited.

      (Um, this reply is not edited. My posts go through several rounds of editing.)

      I meet so many people, sometimes more than a hundred at any given convention, so pleas for give me, but remind me where we have met before. And when we meet again, if we can sit down and talk, I’ll remember better next time.

    2. I’m still new at this blogging business. I sent a long reply on the comment page, but I don’t know if you’ll see it, because I can’t see it on my comments page.

      1. I can see it, and it makes a lot of sense.

        I’ve been to two of your seminars at Marscon, one in 2016 and one in 2014. At 2014, I asked for some advice on how to insert first-person subjective text into a story that was mostly first-person objective. I had been using italics to “punctuate” the protagonist’s thoughts, but my writing group partners claimed that was distracting. Your advice was not to punctuate, or otherwise highlight, it at all. Just put the subjective thought directly into the narrative and let it speak for itself. It took a bit of time for me to see how that can work, but it does.

        I quite understand that time is short and one must make choices. Here’s a possibility that might be useful: as you develop this blog, your posts might ultimately become numerous and voluminous enough to fill a book. Stephanie Pearl McPhee has published two or three non-fiction books (about knitting, no less) that are almost entirely transcripts from her blog (at

        Whether it becomes a book or not, I’m glad you’re doing this blog. I’ll be a regular reader.

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