On Writing, Publishing

Now, your first question/critique is probably “What does a writer who has never been published know about writing for publication?”, which is a fair critique. I know what I’ve read, but secondhand knowledge isn’t worth very much. What I can tell you is my approach, and the reasons behind it. They may not be yours. That’s fine.

Let me say this: I am not writing to be published. I mean that very specifically (which is not that unusual for me), so let me explain.

I would love to be published. I will one day (hopefully sooner rather than later) pursue it quite seriously. I would love to be paid obscenely large amounts of money for my books (and will settle for “I can eat with this” amounts). These are not pie in the sky dreams, these are goals that I am working towards.

But I am not writing to be published.

There are two quotes that tie together to sum up my thoughts here:

“You don’t do it for the money, or you’re a monkey. You don’t think of the bottom line, or you’re a monkey. You don’t think of it in terms of hourly wage, yearly wage, even lifetime wage, or you’re a monkey.” – Stephen King

“The book is the boss.” – Alfred Bester

I write to tell a story.  That story, the integrity of that story, comes before anything else.  It comes before personal preferences, it comes before reader reactions, and it comes before publication guidelines.  Period.  I will not bend on this rule.  I am not writing for the money; I have a good job that I enjoy, that pays the bills well enough.  I am writing because I have stories to share with the world.

And really, I think you can tell when a story has been changed for one of those reasons.  I’ve read books where the ending was just wrong, and I knew it was because the audience would like it more, or that it was an early work and couldn’t be published the way that it was, but it shows.  It glares at you.

This kind of stuff comes up a lot for me.  I hear all the time about length requirements for publication, or how multiple perspectives are not generally as favorable, or that this is the now topic.  Do I worry about that stuff?  Of course.  It’s part of wanting to share my story with the world.  I worry that my stories are often too long, or too weird, or not matching the pulse of the interest of the great mass of readers, but I do my best to not let it stop me.

If (when) I am published, I want to share my story with the world, not a story.  And in the moment, of writing or revision, I do my best to block out all those other thoughts.  “The story is the boss.”  I want to make the story the best it can be, and that is my #1, #2, and #3 goal (#4 is to have fun).

Does that mean that I’m going to submit a 300k word epic for first publication?  No, almost certainly not.  I will choose the most likely of my novels to be published for my first run, but I have not, do not, and will not write or revise my novel in a way that shoehorns it into a form more fit for public consumption.

I won’t judge you if you do, but that just isn’t my approach to writing.

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