Sunday, September 15, 2013

Honesty in Writing

Honesty played a big part in writing Wrath of the Fallen, the fourth and last installment of my epic fantasy series Heirs of the Fallen. Not that I tried to inject any super-secret wisdom or life affirming lessons into the novel, but the end result had to stay true to the storyline, and yet still allow me to more fully embrace my natural writing style. All this without upsetting the three or four fans of the series by not going full-bore Grimdark, as is my wont.

So … honesty in writing.

In my last post I talked about settling for what feels safe and comfortable in writing, and why that is hazardous for me. The problem is that cozy gets boring. When I’m bored, I often find myself doing anything I can to avoid the task of creating stories. Dusting the ceiling fans in my house (even my neighbor’s, if they’d let me) becomes a quest for the Holy Grail and El Dorado, all in one. Scrubbing the toilet bowl is like grabbing a trident and standing tall next to Poseidon. Picking up dog poo? Well, now, that is akin to curing every disease known to humankind—you didn’t really expect me to make a landmine joke, did you?

Okay, so I wrote Wrath of the Fallen, and to some degree it ended up being a blend of how I’ve forced myself to write over the last several years, and how I write when no one is looking. The result? I’m happy with the book, and hope others will be, too.

But more than that, I’m excited about writing again, because now that Heirs is finished, I can go full-blown, no holds barred, James A West. No more boxes, no more boundaries, no more ill-conceived ideas about what the market wants. From now on, I’ll write what I want to read, because writing that way is fun. Will I sell books? Well, the way I figure it, very few of us are so unique that something we enjoy is not equally enjoyed by thousands of other people, and maybe even millions. Of course, finding those likeminded souls is another matter altogether. Marketing, I believe some people call it. I name it HELL.

Back on point. Honesty. I’m convinced that if we are not honest about writing, along with everything else we do in life, it will end up being a chore that is far too easy to avoid.  

Now, I’ve heard that writing fiction is lying, but I disagree. A lie can be defined as an invention, but that type of invention is meant to deceive. Fiction is invention, but it is also creation. And for me, creation is fun, even when I’m writing darker stuff—which, according to many of my reviews, darkness is where I reside. Since we’re being honest, perhaps fun is the wrong word. I should say engaging. When I’m engaged with a story, it flows fast and hot, and I find myself having difficulty getting to sleep at night, and then jumping out of bed in the morning, eager to get cracking.

What does all this mean for the future of James A. West? Hell if I know. But the cool thing is, I’m not as worried about it as I used to be. Oh, I hope to become a millionaire several hundred times over, and that Stephen King will come to my house looking for an autograph, and that everyone will love me and want to make movies about my life and preserve my brain for scientific study, but those are small hopes imagined in the pale gray territory between sleeping and waking. Seriously though, I don’t think like that. Ever.

In the harsh light of day, I’m just happy that I’ve relearned how to be honest with myself as a writer. However,  as I’ve discovered with publishing Beasts of the Field—the first entirely honest thing I’ve written in many years—that kind of honesty turns you into a great big target for a lot of people who seem to go far afield in the hunt to criticize and tear down others they disagree with. But more importantly, that kind of honesty also makes you accessible to future fans who like you just the way you are.   

Now I’m off to enjoy some engaging story creation. In my next post, I think I’ll go ahead and define just who I am as a writer, that way I can warn lovers of tender romance tales and children’s books to run away from everything I write.

Until then, live true! And if you have any thoughts or comments, please feel free to share.

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  1. Didn't know there was another fantasy writer in Montana. Saw The God King on one of the advertisers, maybe BookBub or BookBlast, can't remember which. Great covers!

    1. Nice to meet a fellow writer! Thanks for the kind words about the covers, and best of luck to you :)