Why Do You Write?

Last 'pop up submissions' of the summer

34 Fabulous Writing Conferences in September 2017

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Paul Whybrow

Full Member
Jun 20, 2015
Why do you write? And, why do you write what you do? By that, I mean what are your motivations for writing and how did you come to choose one genre over another?

I write for the opposite reason that George Mallory gave when asked why he wanted to climb Mount Everest—"Because it's there." I write my stories because they're not there. I have a unique viewpoint on what I write about, which I believe deserves to be expressed and that readers would enjoy. All the same, creating a novel is comparable to climbing a mountain!

I've written hundreds of poems and song lyrics, twenty short stories and novellas and four novels in the last three years. I've been querying literary agents with the crime novels, so if I'm ever going to get anywhere commercially, that's what I'll be known for...and which may become a typecasting trap, that makes readers resistant to reading anything I write in a different genre.

Initially, I intended to write a literary novel about relationships, the state of society and how dating has changed through the use of technology in modern times, contrasting it with fifty years ago. Then, I read somewhere that literary novels were the hardest to sell, both as ebooks and when submitting a proposal to a literary agent or publisher. I'm not that commercially aware, but it was stupid to make things even harder, so I shifted my focus to writing in the crime genre. I can write about anything connected to lawbreaking in my plots, so have tackled inflammatory subjects including racism, slavery, illegal immigration, fox hunting, nudism, sexuality and terrorism.

It's not all doom and gloom, for, despite the murders and serious crimes my protagonist detective investigates, there are times of joy and cultural edification, and I'm giving him a sex life in the fifth novel—which should add to the feel-good factor.

It makes me feel optimistic to know that the crime genre is the second most popular after romance/erotica.


Having said that, the idea of actually making money from my writing appears to be fantasy. And, as for becoming famous from it, I'm really not interested—so that's not a motivation—I don't want to be fodder for the chattering (or Twittering) classes.

In novellas and short stories, I've written science-fiction, Westerns, ghost stories and tales based on real historical incidents, so I don't feel confined by my Cornish Detective series.

Essentially, writing provides me with a sense of achievement, some validation of my existence.

Why are you a writer?

I write like most do , probably, as the spirit moves me. Like all of us, I am trying to reach for something, to understand it, and the way I can do that, is to try and show it to somebody else. And if I can become invisible, I will have succeeded. You have to be 'it' to become it and that means walking in the dark to some degree, but with your eyes wide open.

Am I currently writing in the genre I read, myself? Yes and no. I read across genres. I don't read much crime, I read some, but the novel isn't actually a crime story...the police setting is just the vehicle. I have to get the reality believable, so that when we get into fantastical territory....the MC's reliability is clearly established, either to be relied upon, or called into question....
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EDIT: Removed my post as it was very downbeat and I don't want to kill off an interesting point of conversation. As you were, folks...
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I've been writing since I was 8. LOL! Seriously, I borrowed my mother's portable typewriter (no, I did not know how to type yet!), to bang out stories about animals or aliens. That progressed to carrying around a lined notebook all through school, stuffed full of hand-written stories about anything and everything. I never really stopped writing, but didn't get serious about it until after the EF4 tornado that touched down in the city where we were living at the time, in April of 2009. I had carried around the dream of being a published writer for over 40 years, at the time! If not now, when?

I joined the "old" Litopia, made some contacts (one of whom is my current editor at Evernight!), and learned my craft from the ground up again. I had always been told by teachers in school I could write, I should write, etc. But they don't teach you about the industry. And getting good grades in high school English class is not quite enough. :)

My first contract was in February of 2011, but my first published book was actually a different story than that one, published by Evernight in April of 2011. I haven't stopped since. :)

Three pen names later (long story), and inching toward 100 published books, I'm not even close to being done. :)

Why do I do it? Because it was my dream - my first real dream. It's the one thing I'd keep doing even if I never made another dime off it. I write because I have to. It's part of who I am. Who I've always been.

Why erotic romance? Well, it sells, for one thing. LOL! And because I kinda, sorta fell into it while writing my first serious attempts at novels, which were romance novels. It's the only genre I've ever written with the goal of publication in mind, although I do play around with other genres. And I read just about anything.
I never really considered myself a writer until a few years ago, though I published my first poetry when I was 8 or 9 (in Highlights and Cricket magazines, if I remember correctly), and even read my poetry aloud on a children's TV programme. I've always written, but never thought about it--it was simply something that I did. When I decided to 'become a writer', my intent was to write non-fiction, because I'd been doing that as a heritage interpreter for decades--same job, different title, no pesky clients to please was what I was thinking.

But I'd been working on a novel for years, so I figured I'd just finish that first...six novels and lots of short stories later, I find I've settled quite comfortably into MG/YA fantasy and scifi writing, which I never would have predicted. I haven't forgotten the non-fiction, and I did manage to pull together a teacher's guide I wanted to write, and a companion bug guide for kids, but the creative floodgates have been pouring out stories faster than non-fiction.

And I finally realise that I write because I can't not write. Looking back, those university entomology essays that I wrote in verse should have been a dead giveaway. Anyone who explains the multiple evolution of wings in insects by way of a rhyming ballad is clearly unfit for anything but writing. ;)
I wrote many years ago, but then music and life got in the way.

Then a few years back my brain took a wobble. I returned to writing to keep a grasp on reality and get better (by way of monitoring progress and having focus). I write slowly, but do so every day, and struggle to read (but am working on that).

A Cornish detective series sounds awesome!
I love Cornwall...
This is strange, but in another life I was a management consultant (cue brickbats etc). However, besides solving problems I discovered that I enjoyed writing sales proposals and reports, I enjoyed refining them, improving them and delivering them. Crazy. I've loved reading all my life (well, except the first 2 years ;-)). Meld those two things plus always wanting to live on a boat and the dream emerged in my early 30s'.

I love writing stories and crafting the tale, coming up with plotlines and developing them (and solving the plot problems along the way), linking in topical news, researching locations and new technology. Then I get a kick out of the final production process.

In my idiocy I thought of it as way of earning some money, but boats consume cash like there's no tomorrow and my writing so far has a negative cash flow. However, I sail to some exotic places and write during my sojourns.

Oh yes, writing is something to fill in my time in my dotage.
I can't remember a time when I wasn't writing, making up stories, scribbling letters, keeping diaries, etc. I began my diaries when I was 11 years old and have kept notebooks and journals, blogs, tumblrs, bullet journals, etc, since then. I email friends daily, I write book reviews, travel pieces on commission, profiles, human-rights reports, art criticism, decor features and architecture articles for media and book publication. I've written speculative fiction, flash fiction, poetry for obscure experimental ezines online.

Because I enjoy close language work, I also trained as a text or copy editor for small presses and educational publishers. Like most of us here, I'm a voracious reader across fiction genres and non-fiction, several languages. I'm lucky enough to work with a number of translation collectives and groups in French, Afrikaans, Portuguese, vernacular Nguni languages. Unpublished manuscripts and drafts and wobbly beginnings fill drawers in desks at home and virtual filing cabinets online.

It's all failure until it isn't. And the pleasure of writing when it goes well is worth more than almost anything. One great lifelong learning curve.
I write because I enjoy it. Writing keeps me engaged and interested for hours at a time, and now that I'm retired, I have time. I've always made up stories in my head and been a daydreamer. Writing fiction is an extension of that and, then, a challenge to reshape the stream of consciousness into something others might want to read.

As an economist/policy analyst, I authored lots of dry, boring reports. That left me with a determination to write things that people read for pleasure and not because their job requires it. Few things make me happier than someone saying they enjoyed something I wrote. I write mostly mysteries because that's what I most enjoy reading.

Making money as an author would be lovely, but... I've been donating royalties from my mystery trilogy to the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Foundation, something I promised myself I'd do if they ever were published. It's not been a lot of money, but it keeps dribbling in. I also write short stories and just sold one for $25, the one before that brought me $15, and my first sale was $5. The trend is up, and if I live to be 150, I might be able to support myself with my writing.
And after the exhilaration, the despondency. The rejections waiting for you in the Inbox, the mornings when nothing goes right and every sentence comes out flatter than the last. Today is one of those days I wish I'd opted to become a botanist or a librarian or anything except a writer.

Are we able to escape the writing destiny?
You have to start thinking that there is something mildly masochistic about it all. You spend hours alone banging unrelentingly onto a keyboard, straining your eyes, getting angry because you feel your writing is on par with a three year old attempting a foreign language and then finally, hopefully, possibly, something comes out at the end. You then dress your new creation with a title page, synopsis and send it to a complete stranger who you hope, if the sun is shining and tea-leaves favour it, will scan briefly over your work, while all the time expecting a 'No, Thank you' response. But rather than learning the lesson that surely stamp collecting, watch-repairing, or hill-walking, would be a far more productive way to spend your hours , you do the whole thing over and over again.
And I finally realise that I write because I can't not write. Looking back, those university entomology essays that I wrote in verse should have been a dead giveaway. Anyone who explains the multiple evolution of wings in insects by way of a rhyming ballad is clearly unfit for anything but writing. ;)
Huzzahs! Now, that's the rub, ain't it? Trying to settle the spiraling voices in our heads into stories forces writing upon us. I also have no other choice... most of the time. Writing at times is the very best escape there is. If there is no muse pounding upon my shoulders, the desire to pound the keyboard dissipates pretty quickly, but if it's there, I must comply...
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Last 'pop up submissions' of the summer

34 Fabulous Writing Conferences in September 2017