Write for Yourself First

I create my stories for myself, not for what I imagine a publisher might want, or what an editor wants. I’ve done that, but I’m not writing that kind of story any more. Even if I hope for traditional publication, I must satisfy my own inner vision first. Readers can tell if a writer’s heart is in it or not. One time I read two stories by a well-known writer, published in the same issue of a magazine. One of them he wrote because he believed in it, the other because it was what someone else wanted. I could tell the difference. 

But a story must also be what I want to read, not just what I want to write. A story without a reader (or a listener) is just mumbling in the dark. People who have read my stories enjoy them, so I write for readers, too, but I don’t cater to what I think might be their taste. I just work to make my stories the best stories they can be.

 When I was reading publishers’ guidelines to decide where to submit Sturgis, I found that it was too short to even submit to the publishers that looked at that kind of book. It was long enough for certain kinds of romances, but it certainly qualified on no other grounds. I could have added 10,000 words I suppose, but it would have been puff, or it would have been out of the style of the story, or it would have required adding things that didn’t belong. 

And Sturgis couldn’t be easily classified as a horror story, or a supernatural story, or a mystery story, because it was all three, and other things. At that time, there was nowhere I could even submit it without instant rejection for not following the publisher’s guidelines. But I do have readers, who don’t object to it being short, or multi-genre. They like the story for what it is.

Stroad’s Cross was far too long, and was something of a character story, a ghost story, a horror story, a romance, a mystery. I couldn’t decide which category predominated, maybe supernatural mystery, if that had been one of the genres I could pick from.

Dead Hand was too long. It had no chapters, just 97 scenes. It had fifty two viewpoint characters. (I was told once that I shouldn’t, that I couldn’t have that many.) I had once tried to drop a lot of scenes and characters to bring it down to a “reasonable” length. The story didn’t work at all, so I put them back. People who have read it really like it.

I don’t want to write the kind of stories that editors, and publishers, and marketing departments want, just to generate income. I write for myself first, and for those who have read my stories, my novels really, and who have enjoyed them.

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