Guest Post: Terry Persun

Today I have a wonderful post about the integrity of writing by Terry Persun, author Cathedral of Dreams. Terry’s most recent book, Cathedral of Dreams was recently named a finalist for ForeWord Magazine‘s Book of the Year Award in the Science Fiction category at the American Library Association Conference. Before I give him the floor, I’ll give you the blurb, but don’t miss out on this guest post – you may learn something!


In Newcity, everyone is content. Bad feelings are not allowed, because your monitoring chip will alert the police to bring you in for treatment. Getting better is mandatory. Unchecked emotions made the world outside Newcity dangerous, unruly, and violent. At least that’s the official story in Newcity.

Keith knows something is wrong. Strange visions lead him to become one of the few who escapes Newcity. He fi nds freedom and companionship outside, but pressure building to revolt against the city’s insidious regime of social control. Leadership is thrust upon him, with only his visions for guidance, only a small band of friends for support—and the fates of both Newcity and the outside world at stake.

Cathedral of Dreams is a compelling tale of a dystopian future and personal heroism


Now, here’s Terry with some good words of advice to all you writers out there.

Writing with Integrity

If you’re reading this, you probably know a lot of my story. For instance, I write for a living; have been writing for over thirty years; and hope never to stop. And so when I talk about writing with integrity, I have specific ideas in mind. A fair amount of the writing I do includes the novels I write – at least a thousand words a day when I’m working on a project. My income arrives primarily through my technical and science writing.

Integrity first arrives on the scene while writing technical pieces. Research is important, asking the right questions of the right people is also important. I never believe everything I read on the Internet, for example. I always over-source my pieces through interviews and outside reading. I know to ask an engineer an engineering question, and not believe what a marketing official tells me. I know to ask a competitor what the differences are between products, as well as the employees. Integrity along these lines means that I do everything in my power to find the truth, and when it’s a bit fuzzy, I say so.

When writing fiction or poetry, integrity means something a little different. There are still those facts that can be researched, like what kinds of fish traveled up and down the Susquahanna River in the 1860s, and what types of trees grow in New Mexico. But with fiction, there’s another type of integrity that has to do with the story itself. When you’re writing about a character and they run into a challenge, the author has to know the truth of the character in order to write with integrity. Overly plotted stories can go awry at this point. If the character is supposed to do one thing to feed the plot arc, but the character of the character – as he or she has been written to this point – would do something completely different, then there is a problem.

Stepping into the life of another person, as authors must do in order to write a novel, means following that character wherever they might go, whether you agree with them or not. Too many authors allow their own moral compass to interfere with their characters. Or they “stick to the plot of the story.” Neither of these methods have the right amount of integrity behind them. These turning points are important to the book and the author. Everyone, I believe, knows what integrity feels like. We all have a sense for it. We know when we’re slacking, or adjusting, or giving in. We also know when we’re doing the right thing. I’ve been there. I know. And when I choose to ignore my integrity, my book suffers and I have to do larger rewrites to put it back on track.

My suggestion to people just starting out with their writing careers is to beware of adjusting your integrity just to get to the end of the book. Look at following your character as a way to be surprised by the book. Do what your character tells you to do. You won’t go wrong, and you may learn something new about how you view the world.


Terry Persun writes in many genres, including historical fiction, mainstream, literary, and science fiction/fantasy. His latest novel, Cathedral of Dreams is a ForeWord magazine Book of the Year finalist in the Science Fiction category. His novel Sweet Song just won a Silver IPPY Award, too. Terry’s website is: or you can find him on Amazon at:

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