Thursday, September 10, 2015

Writing Honestly

Long ago when I first set out to write and publish a book, I read through Stephen King's On Writing. I know a lot of writers pour through the pages of that book, just like I did, gleaning knowledge from the pages. While at the time I thought I was following the advice printed there, the reality is I violated one of the foundation rules King gives: to never lie in your writing.

With my first book, Shadow House, I lied big time. It wasn't the first book I had attempted to write - there were many others I had abandoned at various stages, dating all the way back to when I was in high school. Instead, it was the first book I vowed would be published, one way or another. When I couldn't get a publisher or agent to bite, I decided to take it to market myself.

The book did alright, although at the time I was hoping it would do wondrously (who doesn't wish that?). Now that I'm going through and reworking it for a second edition, I'm realizing that the big flaw was that I held back and actually lied in my storytelling. Looking back, at the time I was too concerned about how some people would view what I wrote, what they would think about it and me as a person. That's never a good way to craft your stories, but I did it and now I regret it. I've mentioned this to a few people close to me, and they all opened up and said that when they read the book, they felt like I was holding back.

The ironic thing is that some of the people for whom I was filtering my writing were still offended at what I wrote. I lost "friends" and other connections as a result, plus I butchered my story. It was a painful and potent lesson on the value of writing honestly, even if that writing rocks the boat (maybe especially if it does).

Since I published Shadow House, I've stopped caring what other people think. I've written many things that have fetched hate mail, threats, insults, etc. The conclusion I've drawn is that writing, when done properly, will offend at least some people. You'll never please everyone, and you just shouldn't even try. Be true to your story, to what's in your heart and to the craft of writing. Everything else is immaterial.

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