I have a new book out tomorrow.
It utterly terrified me to write.
I distinctly remember writing the opening scene (that takes place outside the main narrative) huddled over my PC keyboard. Shaking. Stomach churning. Crying. I had a few beers to loosen up, some liquid courage.
The one thing I didn't do was flinch.
This is something our Bad Horse has said before so I'm possibly not saying anything new because you're following her blog (right??), but I'll repeat my experience
Writers, you must go after the things you're scared of.
The stories that make you uncomfortable. The decisions you don't want you character to make. The horrible things you wouldn't want to face. Every deep, dark fear you have, every insecurity, every weakness: this is what must be woven onto the page.
It's hard. It's painful. It's utterly terrifying.
But I strongly believe the only way to write books that will leave a mark on readers--that have the POTENTIAL to stay with people--is to first cut yourself. Deep. To face the monsters under you bed, the things you want to turn away from.
This doesn't mean it'll stay with every reader, and it doesn't mean every reader will like it. It doesn't even mean the work will emotionally resonate with everyone. Also? It doesn't mean, "Here, let me show you all of my issues in a thinly veiled autobiography."
But it does mean that when you get that feeling while writing--a tightening in your chest, something uncomfortable wiggling through you, and the urge to step away from the keyboard--you must follow that fear and keep writing. Chase it. Confront it.
One of my most reader-beloved characters came from me realizing I was uncomfortable writing sex scenes and I avoided them at all costs--along came a heroine who was the sluttiest slut that ever slutted, and instead of ignoring her, I dove in to let her objectify men and hit on people and slut around. And guess what? A lot of readers connected with her. I never would've become a better writer without her.
Skyla's Standard Fangirl Example For Everything: Look at Buffy the Vampire Slayer--when you ask fans what their favourite episodes are, high on the list you'll find Hush and The Body. Hush came from Whedon deciding to NOT rely on dialogue because everyone said it was his strength; The Body, in addition to being a decidedly unflinching look at death, has a stark reality to it due in part to there being no music because, once again, someone suggested he just relied on music cues for emotion.
The book I have coming out tomorrow is about 98K words, and 75% of it is my tears.
I don't know that anyone is going to react to it the way I did--and only the people who know me very, very well would even start to guess what scared me in that book and why. And it's okay if some readers don't like it or don't 'get' it.
But I know the only way they COULD connect with the book is by me facing everything dark, and ugly, and painful that came up, everything that had me trembling bone-deep just contemplating writing it. That place just past uncomfortable, where real terror is--that is your direction when navigating the writing of a novel. As long as you follow that compass point and stare wide-eyed, without flinching, once you reach your destination, you'll have a chance of finding power.
Yes, there are some readers who want safe. But evil writers don't go for safe--we go for honesty and fear. Since, y'know, we're EVIL.
Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go offline and hide for a few days, because the one fear I haven't yet conquered (besides talking to boys) is Book Release Anxiety and Woe...