Challenge,  On Writing,  publishing

Editing and Reading Observations… Part 9…

Bad Choices by the Writer…

In previous parts of this series, I have been talking about why I will stop reading a story. I have mostly focused on craft issues in the telling of the story.

Craft issues can be solved with learning and study and putting a lot of words through your fingers (combined at the same time with the learning and study).

But for this part, I want to talk about the lack of understanding by the reader of two major elements of commercial fiction…


In the early stages of writing, writers only focus on the words and sentences and detail stuff. It’s something they think they can control. We all go through that stage because we need to learn those basic rules.

Then in the middle stage, the writers start focusing on characters and plotting and pacing and so on.

It is not until the top stage of writing skills that the writer realizes the only reason they are writing is to entertain a reader, and the focus shifts from pretty words and sentences to storytelling to entertain.

Granted, a few writers get stuck thinking that pretty sentences are all that ever matters. They are called “literary writers” and university professors.

In other words, writers start off focusing on words, then sentences, then character and plot, then the top stage writer just puts that all away and tells a story for a reader.

So many stories I send back are obviously just the author focused on words and such. These are also often polished to death and have no life or originality. I call it “Manuscript Gazing.” Clearly the writer never a thought of the reader.


Now, I have no issue with a writer telling any story they want to tell. It’s just that a writer needs to be aware of when they are limiting audience by their topic choices.

This is often the same as manuscript gazing, with no awareness of readers on the other side of the story.

Sometimes it is just going with the first idea that crosses the mind.

Every anthology Kris edits, she has to put out a warning that she will not read a child in danger or animal in danger story. And yet writers still send those stories to her.

That kind of crap comes to me as well. If you have read any number of issues of Pulphouse, you know I do not publish young adult with only a few exceptions. Killing animals and children in danger I just automatically reject. Anything to do with Nazis I automatically reject.

Now I don’t care if you have a fetish to write those stories. Go for it. Just realize you will limit your audience.

Lately I have sent back a number of stories for topic. Every editor does.


  • Philip

    Many writers, especially nowadays, go for shock value. I believe they are so insecure about their writing that they hide it behind being “transgressive.” You also see this arise as lots of gratuitous sex and violence. It’s low-hanging fruit for weak-willed writers.