I don’t know why I write.

I don’t.

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The internet is filled to bursting with writers, and with on-line writing groups. I’m in a lot of those groups, and I read their stories, and bios, and Twitter posts on motivation.

To a man and woman, they seem to have known that they were writers from the moment they first encountered a book. To a man and woman, they know that writing is as necessary and natural to them as the oxygen-to-Co2 exchange they perform 12 or so times per minute.

I still don’t know why I write.

I know why I wrote my first novel. You can read about in detail here:


But TL;DR? Someone dared me to.

I think the next novel was just scratching a vague itch over a throwaway sentence in the first one (the bit about Keri being given her grandmother’s old chainmail shirt) and hearing from everyone in the self-publishing field that more books equal more sales.

The memoir? That was just me entertaining myself on cold winter nights in hotel rooms, because my job required me to go to and stay in every out-of-the-way small town in my province, and there was, literally, nothing else to do after 6pm.

(Well, I could have gotten drunk. Many of my co-workers did. But since the job also required me to be awake, dressed, and coherent at 6 AM (!) this seemed unwise.)

But even at that point, I didn’t think of myself as a writer.

Hell, even after deciding to self-publish, I had a hard time thinking of myself as a writer.

On the other hand, I have realized that I was “writing” all along: I just didn’t get it down on paper.

I created characters and sent them on adventures, but only in my head. Keri, Caoimhe, and now Tamar: these were people I had actually known and lived through vicariously in my imagination, for literally YEARS, as a way to get through long and boring hours of mindless employment. Like many another person in North America, I’ve had to take jobs that not only gave no personal satisfaction – they could be done using less than 3% of the brain power it takes to chew gum.

So maybe I was a writer all along?

No. I think I was Walter Mitty.

I think almost everyone is.

I’m just self-esteem-ey enough to think I can sell this stuff to other people.

But not so ego-driven that I can’t see it as the plain, unvarnished truth: I am not special. I’m not a sacred talent.

I’m just another girl with a laptop and internet access, and the nerve to throw my stuff onto Amazon..

Long may we wave.



Writing apps – Magic or Mayhem?

Writing apps. They’re a thing.


The big one is Scrivener. It’s a program designed to help writers. People I know use it. It’s talked about a lot on writers’ groups I’m involved with.

A lot of people swear by it.

It helps you structure your novel, with templates. It helps you plot, keep track of research notes via “virtual index cards”, compare various revisions, monitor your daily wordcounts/output.

It will even generate character names for you.

Way back in my pre-actually-having-written-a-novel days, I kind of wished for something like this. It seemed a bit awkward to have to stop and look at my handwritten notes or physically arrange and rearrange those actual index cards. I thought it interrupted my train of thought.

I cannot, of course, speak to anyone’s experience but my own, but I have to say that I have never, in the end, been all that interested in Scrivener. I looked at it with interest when it first came out. I’ve looked at it since. I’ve read the online reviews and heard friends’ opinions, good and bad, and I have come to feel…underwhelmed, and I have some reasons for that.

The first is purely physical. The way that it sets up on the screen just feels crowded. My computer screen isn’t big enough to use all that in any way that would be comfortable.

Maybe if you have two monitors, or 20-year-old eyes that can read really teeny-tiny font sizes, you could feel comfortable with it – but I have old lady eyes and a laptop, and even flipping from my manuscript to the Google tab to find out how strong the wind needs to be to rip a mature oak tree out of the wet ground by its roots is problematic these days.

The second reason is that while authors frequently want some kind of magic bullet that will just get them through to “The End”, I’ve discovered that I am not that kind of novelist.

I’m not a “pantser” – I used to say I was, but this was me lying to myself, because inside my head, the books actually do get fairly well-structured before I start.

And I do need notes. I need reminders about researching those wind speeds and what plot questions have to be resolved, and whose motives are at play in a particular way at a particular time.

I use a notebook for that stuff, and yes, it does mean that if I want to refer back to any of that, I have to take my attention from the computer and onto the actual words I wrote in my undeniably messy handwriting.

But here’s the thing: I write the notes, but I only rarely need to look at them after that. It’s as if the act of writing by hand imprints things more fully on my mind, in a way, but it also seems to open weird interior doors in my brain, and find solutions that might not occur to me otherwise.

It’s as if the process of scribbling down “Why would she say she was demon spawn? Why that phrase?” does something to my writer-brain: it frees something, or solidifies it, or sends me racing down memory lane to find the analogy in my own life, so that when I look back to the screen, it’s just there, ready to be typed in.

And when I do stop to look back at some inscrutable note to self, or to regroup and rethink the sequential stuff, the removal of my eyes from the screen is not anywhere near as annoying as trying to find the right tab on my screen and sort through the truncated nomenclature to find the bit I think I need. The break away – even for only a minute – helps clarify things, instead of feeling like an unnecessary interruption.

And finally, at least for me, the uniformity of the Scrivener experience, the way that a single program will assume that each user is essentially thinking in the same kinds of patterns, seeing things and organizing information and making neural connections in the same way, has begun to feel wrong.

I am scared that the reason so many novels feel so similar – despite the outward trappings of new/different/twisted/morphed/reflected – is that the program is pushing us into a trough of “This is how fiction has to be”.

I’m scared that between the dictates of literary fashions of our times and the tyranny of the programming, we are being forced to believe that organized thinking can replace the wayward wandering of the mind.

And that would take all the fun out of it for me.



You’re Invited…

To the cover reveal party for “The Shades of Winter: online, today!


At 10 am and all through the day (Mountain Standard Time) – Go here:







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Here’s the thing about social media that a lot of writers – too many writers – seem to miss.

Everything you write – every word that goes out under your name – reflects on you as a writer.

All of it.

Those tweets, those Facebook memes, those email newsletters.


And there are two really important things that you need to recognize and deal with.


One is philosophical. How “real” do you want to be?


Some people will counsel you to remain innocuous. To self-censor and stay away from controversial topics (ie: politics) in order to not alienate potential readers.

However, since we are constantly reminded (sometimes by the very same people advocating bland, impersonal, never-offend-anyone posting habits) that we need to establish authentic relationships with those potential readers, this can present a quandary.

I cannot advise you. My own values preclude maintaining any sort of pretense, even by omission, that I am not a strong and confident fighter for justice, for equality, for universal compassion, and for us to become stewards of this tiny planet, rather than raping her for short-term and petty gain.

It’s entirely possible that I lose out in sales because of this. So be it. Your mileage might vary.


But the other important side of this is more technical.


Confidence in you as a writer is undermined by things you *should* be able to fix. Grammatical errors. Misspelled words.  Incorrect apostrophe usage.

I have deleted tweets seconds after posting, and redone them.

I constantly go back and make corrections on my FB posts and replies, to make sure that there are as few typos or incorrectly spelled words as possible.

I reread before posting (no, it never works 100%) to make sure I’m saying what I meant to in the best possible way.

These are the nuts and bolts of your craft. If you cannot manage these in a Twitter post – how will I trust you for something longer?

If your Facebook promos aren’t even slightly edited for these things – why should I believe you got a professional editor for your novel?

It goes to your credibility as a writer. Maybe it feels unfair (“All those other people get to write however they want to!”) but if you call yourself a writer, then every word you commit to the world at large is, essentially, your calling card as a professional.

People are judging your writing ability on – gasp! – your writing.

Every. Single. Word.


What do you mean, “it’s not original”

The first year I was in art school, one of my instructors said something that, at the time, we all thought was incredibly harsh. We resented the presumption, the “arrogance” (and I use the quotes advisedly here, as this post will show).


“Just do the assignment,” he said. “Don’t try to hoodwink me with flashy out-of-the-box thinking, and don’t try to expand the requirements. Don’t worry about being ‘original’. Just do the assignment.”

“You’re all under 30. Believe me, I don’t need you to re-interpret this. I don’t need your opinion, or your editorializing. Frankly, you’re just too young and inexperienced to have anything to actually say. Do the assignment and learn the damned technique.”

We were aghast. Shocked. Outraged.

How dare he?

We were artists.

But you know what?

He was, in the main, pretty dead-on.

Recently, I edited a manuscript of a novella (well, it is a longish short story, but the author thinks it is a full length novel, so let’s be generous here) that they started when they were fifteen. It’s not badly written, which is nice. They obviously have potential as a writer, which is also nice.

But it is, without question, one of the most obvious, cliche-ridden, and predictable pieces of fiction around, and very much a “Mary-Sue” product of a somewhat less than popular teen trying to rewrite their high school years to get back at those “popular kidz” and turn themselves into the hero.

And now I can see why my instructor told us what he did. The great revelations that we thought we could communicate visually were, looking back, much like this person’s writing.

We thought in simplistic ways. We did.

We were convinced that our own life was unique and special. That what we’d experienced so far in life had given us special insights into the human condition.

We assumed that because our sudden realizations about how the world worked were amazing to us, that we were the very first people to ever notice that things weren’t fair, that many decisions our political leaders made were predicated on “what’s good for me must be right”, that those decisions hurt others, that people are connected to each other, and so on down the list of well-known truisms that have dawned on every post-pubescent human since Lucy fell out of that tree and died 3.2 million years ago.

We not only assumed that we were the first people to ever notice any of this, we were convinced that we were incredibly brilliant for seeing it. This is, of course, a perfectly normal sensation.

It’s good that people start writing young, and keep on writing.

It’s wonderful that some people do know, from very early on, that writing is what they want to do.

And it is undeniably true that once in a mythical blue moon, there is that teen who really does think past the obvious and writes something worth reading – something that does shed new light on old questions, or sees this world in a wholly different way.

But the real arrogance – the arrogance that we blindly assigned to our tactless instructor – is believing that we are that person.

Now, I’m not saying that old people have something intrinsically more worthwhile to say to the world. Readers here will know how frequently I’ve pointed out the shortsighted and self-centred myopia of my own generation – how much I feel we have shortchanged both ourselves and future generations with our own lack of insight.

That bleeds into a lot of their writing, too – and I edit those mss. with as much annoyance and sarcastic commentary as I do the others. The world is awash in trite, observational, written-by-boomers fiction that is so damned self-serving  that I came very close to establishing a “maximum age” for writers I was willing to edit. Last year I edited no less than five pieces that were essentially thinly disguised rants against millenials – and the caricaturization and stereotyping was so blatant in one of them that I almost sent it back stamped with big red X’s across the entirety of every page.

At both ends of the age spectrum, it’s important – vital, even – to step back from your own ideas and beliefs, and see them for what they are.

When you are young, everything seems new and earthshattering.

It takes distance and experience to bring something new to the table.

When you’re old, of course, everything new seems confusing and dystopic.

It takes work and generosity to not fall into mental ruts.

All of us need to try a little harder to not succumb to easy writing, easy solutions, easy thinking.

And if you’re young, and starting to write, try really hard not to “write what you know” in plain terms, because if all you know is that high school is boring, and that some people are mean, that makes for really bad literature.


Who’s in charge here anyway?


I’ve written before about how I think a lot of writers ask the wrong questions.

Like here: https://morgansmithauthor.wordpress.com/2017/02/25/how-should-my-character-die/

It’s a serious problem.

Because it feels as if the writer asking thinks there is a “right” answer to things that someone who is not the writer should be able to tell them.

From “What should I name my Main Character?” to “Should the villain be allowed to have a pet?” – writers keep asking other people to do some serious heavy lifting for them.

First off, there is rarely One True Answer to any writing question…even the thing about “Use ‘said’ as your only dialogue tag” comes with editorial caveats, because there are occasions when that is not the answer at all. (But – mostly it is. Never mind what your grade nine English teacher told you. Unless they were a working editor for a major imprint, they have no more idea what editors like than you do, and very likely, a whole lot less.)

The writer should LOVE naming characters (and have an idea about how to do it. I mean, at the very least, you can google baby name sites, right?).

Writers should know their villain so thoroughly that they know that the meanie has a cat named Jewels and that Jewels is the only being on earth that Miz Nogoodnik cares for.

They should not be asking someone else to make those kinds of decisions for them.

The problem might go a lot deeper than the usual response I get when I raise this issue. Most of the time, I am chided about being uncharitable and too demanding when I point out that the whole joy of writing is in deciding for yourself about these exciting bits of trivia, and in the way that those bits inform not merely the characters, but the theme and the plot.

I am told that “beginners need help, not criticism”.

And – as you might have guessed – I beg to differ.

What concerns me is not that beginners might get discouraged by my words. Since every one of them assures me that not only have they known in their bones that they were a writer since they were in diapers, but that writing is as to breathing for them – they simply could not exist were writing to be taken from them – I am certain that no words of mine can deter them from their path.


What concerns me is that they think that someone else can and should be able to answer these kinds of questions, which suggests that they see “story” as some kind of analyzable, quantifiable *formula* that can be worked out, parsed, and then faithfully reproduced.


What concerns me is that they view writing not as an exploration of their own internal soul as a metaphor for the eternal human condition, but as yet another advertising algorithm that can be “mastered”.

And that’s not where any of us want this all to go, is it?



Twitter Don’ts

Or how not to win readers or influence people…


Totally, I’m telling you what not to do.

Generally, I try not to. I often *fail* at that endeavor, but I do try.

But this time? Oh, yes. Straight up, Imma tell you what not to do on Twitter. (And probably FB, as well, but YMMV.)


Stop with the non-stop self promos. That’s job 1, and you know it. Everyone keeps telling you to not do this, and every day I open my Twitter feed and start muting new followers because all I can see for the first screen-and-a-half is the same one or two promos (which their mom dutifully retweets immediately) (and that part I completely get, because what else are moms for?) five times for five minutes, before they go off to work or brunch or whatever.

Many experts have done the math for you. Bad Redhead shows it all here: http://badredheadmedia.com/2016/05/04/which-social-media-channel-sells-the-most-books/

And I know most of you have seen this and/or similar articles…and yet…

It doesn’t work. It doesn’t. The numbers tell you: Twitter is to build relationships and name recognition. Twitter doesn’t get you sales.

And doing it for someone else? You think somehow that’s going to work better?

Frankly, there’s a strong chance that when it comes to the annual Twitter cull (come on, you know you do it, too) you’ll be on the block, because when you do this for someone else, the immediate assumption is that you are a bot.

People want to follow other members of their own species, not some algorithmical construct formed solely for the purpose of begging for spare change on the corner of Bits Avenue and Byte Street.

I’m not saying you cannot ever post about your work. You absolutely should have your header and a pinned post that reflects your status as an author, and showcases at least one title available.

And occasionally, a cute or clever promo is no bad thing.

Even better are very infrequent “progress reports”, RTs of good reviews, and perhaps an announcement of a new release.

But note the caveat: “infrequent” means that AT THE VERY LEAST, you let a week or six go by between promos.

Because I swear to Cthulhu, if I have to scroll past 47 identical promos of your paranormal romance thriller with a hot sex scene concerning three government spies more than once in the same 24-hour cycle, not only will I mute you forever (I never block unless you suggest you are a Nazi I need to punch) but there is now no way in twenty-six separate hells that I will ever RT anything about your book.

And still less chance I will buy it.