I haven’t written any fiction since March. The avalanche of rejections got to me. All those agents can’t be wrong. Can they? Some people say that if you are truly a writer, you will write no matter what. Maybe I’m not really a writer. The lack of interest in my writing suggests that I may be delusional.

The other day, I had a thought. Maybe the problem is that I’m trying to write commercial fiction that neatly fits into a genre I like to read. I’ve been told that my writing has a good voice. Maybe, just maybe, that voice had nothing to say. I like light mysteries with quirky characters. I like female protagonists. That’s what I wrote.

I got feedback from one editor.

She said that I had the wrong protagonist. She thought that if I made one of my male characters the protagonist, the manuscript would be more marketable. I hated that idea when I read it. She had a point. The market is flooded with cute, quirky female detectives. I don’t need to create a protagonist who turns me on. I need to use my voice to reflect me, not someone I’m attracted to.

Many years ago, I had a great late-night snack with a famous sci-fi author. I asked him about his approach to writing. He said, “Never get sucked into your story. Stay above it and consciously create the emotions you want your readers to feel.” Oh, yeah. Those were profound words.

Consider what you read on the Web. Most of the kinky fiction is created by people who write what arouses them. The words describe physical activities and resulting emotional reactions. The appeal is limited to the people who also get turned on by the same things. It’s not a bad formula for a narrow market, but it is self-limited by the author’s involvement in the story.

What if I write something in my voice?

What if I call on my real-life experiences to drive a male character in a plot I design to involve reader without worrying about fitting my favorite genre? What will happen if nobody wants to buy that story? That’s the scary question. So far, I’ve written stories and created characters that I like, but don’t represent me. What happens if I invest myself and reflect who I am in my protagonist? Scary.

Some people say I should self-publish my work. the problem with that is I have no clue how to let the world know the book exists. Worse, if I self-publish something and then decide to go through traditional publishing on my next work, the agents and editors will judge my marketability on how well my self-published book sold. Since I know that I can’t promote a book I publish myself, chances are very good I won’t sell more than a few hundred copies. Not a good reference on my resume.

That’s what has kept me sending my query letters to agents. I’ve decided to start writing again. This time it will be my male voice. Maybe someone will want to buy this attempt.

Listen to this post.


  1. Maybe take a page from John Scalzi. His first book, Agent to the Stars, was published as essentially pay what you want as each chapter was released. It got him some recognition so that when he wrote Old Man’s War some people actually already knew who he was and that they liked his writing.

    1. Author

      The problem remains how to let people know that anything is for sale. Marketing is the big hurdle.

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