Before I regretfully canceled my appearance at this year’s Necronomicon due to my mother’s health, I was scheduled for a “coffee klatch,” a tradition at some genre conventions where an author meets with a smaller group of fans and shoots the shit with them for an hour.

Assuming anybody came to mine (by no means guaranteed), I was planning to discuss my top five writing career regrets and my top five accidental good ideas. So as not to leave all of you hanging, here they are. Get your own coffee.

Top Five Writing Career Regrets (Not Ranked)

  • Not writing every day or starting on novels much sooner.
  • Majoring in English where I learned to write turgid prose ABOUT fiction instead of the fiction itself.
  • Worrying so much about back-up plans and careers (English professor, lawyer, teacher, programmer) instead of diving headlong into writing and not caring much about how a job made me feel or what class it made me.
  • Approaching the genre through fandom where I was too eager to bend my work toward whatever would make me part of a community instead of pursuing the weird things I liked that didn’t quite fit.
  • Working so hard to make writing easy and foolproof instead of training myself to keep working under any circumstances.

Top Five Things I Accidentally Did Right

  • Stopped (after the first year or so) submitting to shitty magazines that nobody reads , opting instead for the ones that I enjoyed and that were noticed by readers and awards. (Not always a 100% correlation to quality, but better than a listing in Writer’s Market).
  • Went to Clarion. The specific advice I got there wasn’t too helpful, but the rededication to the work — Am I going to really do this or keep fucking around? — was a turning point for me.
  • Carefully considered what I did well in my work (voice) and what I didn’t (plot, description), and then decided what I would fix or hide in my work going forward.
  • Plumbed my past and the things I’d experienced to tinge lightly with the supernatural instead of trying to write about shit like spaceships and dragons that I could never quite believe in.
  • Lightened the fuck up and gave up on being important or famous, at least on purpose.

That’s what I would have said at my Caughieeklotsch, and then I would have opened it to questions like, “Who are you?” and “Is this the world’s most boring LARP?” and “Where can I find your work for free?”