I'm working on my second novel, and right now, I am writing a scene involving the Ku Klux Klan and a soon to be burned down chicken coop full of chickens. Right now, I feel tortured by the writing. I both want to run to it, and run away from it. Writing is HARD. Don’t let anyone tell you different. Sometimes, I wonder why I put myself through this process. Don’t get me wrong, I love being a writer, but it can wreak havoc on one’s mental state. There are times when the writing seems to be pushing me to the edge. It is no wonder to me that many writers turn to the bottle and other coping mechanisms.
When I wrote some of the tougher scenes in my debut novel, Drinking From A Bitter Cup, I had to mentally prepare myself for some of the more graphic moments involving my young heroine, Sylvia Renee Butler. I loved that little imaginary girl and as her creator, I wanted to step in, and “fix” her life. I wanted her mother to stay and not abandon her, but writers have to honor the story. Once the story starts to reveal itself to us, we have no choice but to write the story the way it was meant to be written. If we don’t, the story will come across as contrived and boring. Readers can tell when you don’t write the story the way it was meant to be written. The characters come across as weak and cookie cutter. The prose sounds flat. The scenes feel forced and uninteresting. Real writers go into the deep because there is where the story exists. The trick is to not stay there. The trick is to be able to separate these characters and their world from the world that is made up of our family, friends, job, etc. When writers go in to the depths of a story...and I mean, really go in...they are often left feeling like a puddle of water on the floor, when it is all said and done. Below is one of the pieces of dialogue from my next novel that has left me tossing and turning at night, but I knew when I typed those words, they were the words the character HAD to say.
“Hey in there. Y’all niggers come on out,” a loud male voice yelled. “We about to make y’all some fried chicken. We know how much you darkies love yourself some fried chicken.”
Typing those words broke my heart. In my mind I questioned myself. I asked myself, How can you put your characters through such pain and degradation? My response was simple: Because I have to. Writing in the deep is not easy. New York Times and Times of London bestselling author, Raymond E. Feist, says: “Writing is hard work; it’s also the best job I’ve ever had.” I have to say, I concur.