When I completed the exit interviews with my Writer’s Craft students, the overwhelming majority of them said they’d learned this about the process of developing a book: It’s hard.
This is why it’s so important to write for yourself, first. That in itself is a challenge. I’m one of those who constantly worries about how my readers will respond to certain things, waiting for criticism with both an expectation of severity and a hope that it will be mild. It’s like waiting to jump into a pool, knowing that there will be an unpleasant shock before you get used to the temperature.
There are things in Crystal and Wand that I’m sure are going to upset some people. Gross and horrible and frightening, despicable acts that you wouldn’t want to have happen in real life. So why did I write them? What is it about my personality that comes up with these awful things?
I had to put aside my fear of what some readers are going to think in order to finish the story and feel good about it. Satisfied. And it worked, because I found the ending I’d been searching for throughout the nine years it took to develop this project.
But dang, it was hard.
And the next project, I suspect, is going to push boundaries even further. It’s just how I roll. I want to write through my fear. Is that courageous, or foolhardy? I once was assigned to read a book in university that cautioned people in its blurb not to buy or read the book, because it was that raunchy.
Sadly, I go for raunch. I’m as attracted to the disgusting as I am to the sweet and the festive and the nostalgic. So some of that inevitably ends up in what I write.
The thing is, I firmly believe that if you start out intending to write something that is a best-seller and going to make you reams of cash, you’re not doing credit to the art. You’re not doing credit to yourself. I think it’s tangible in the words themselves, that you can see it and feel it in a book written purely for the money. Those books just seem to be . . . empty. Hollow. Void of passion and depth. Writing that avoids taking chances, that is geared solely toward following a trend or stringing out a series beyond its necessary story, just feels wrong.
If you want to be a writer, or you are currently wrapped in your own manuscript trying to find its head or its tail, I think you’ll find this to be the most common advice out there: Write the story that you want to read, that you would enjoy. Readers like you will find it. But you have to love your story first.
And dang it — that’s hard.