The Writing Life: Being True to Your Instincts

As I’ve said in other articles, I’ve known forever that I would be a writer, and that I would write fantasy stories. Apart from one cathartic journey into writing nursing fiction, which still had elements of the fantastical (how many nurses find themselves talking to the devil and questioning their own sanity?), all of my stories have been straight up fantasy with high, dark, epic, or grim twists. Those are just the stories I find myself drawn to tell, and the form of expression that comes most naturally to me.

I have read that it can be a mistake not to research your market in advance of writing your novel, and I can see that could be true if your aim is to catch a popular wave and find many readers quickly. Despite this undoubtedly wise advice, it never occurred to me to try to write to a specific market, or to aim at an open niche.

Instead, I worked hard at creating The Thief and The Demon, something I strongly believe in, and that I think many people will enjoy. (Some already have!) And I believe very strongly that for me, this was the right thing to do, that if I was going to produce and share my best writing, I needed to stay true to my instincts, the choices of subject and expression that made the most sense to me, and that I was best equipped to bring to life on the page.

With that same philosophy, I’ve already started to write my next book, The Killer and The Dead. It is not upbeat. It’s a grim story, set in a slum of people condemned to feed the dead. It’s a story about family, and sacrifice, and hate becoming something else, something better, if not actual love. This book, also set in the World Belt, is the one that demands to be written right now, and if I tried to write something else, then that other story would be poisoned by my thoughts returning to The Killer and The Dead, over and over again.

It is the spirit of Roger Zelazny telling me to experiment with my writing, to challenge myself, to become a better writer going forward. I want to try a first person perspective, so I will. Part of me would love to jump on to something else brighter in tone, and the book I plan to follow TKATD with hits that mark, but right now this is what draws and excites me, and to do anything else would be foolish. I need to stay true to my instincts, and own them, and accept that maybe The Killer and The Dead isn’t the wisest business choice of next book in my writing career, but it is the one I’m called to do. The bottom line that we are so often told in the maelstrom of writing and publishing advice is to write a great book, tell a strong story. Everything else is built upon that foundation. I think I have that in TKATD, so I’m pursing it with everything I’ve got.

I hope you all can find your way to the best expression of your selves in writing and in life, and find it filled with power and meaning, because that is the greatest feeling in the world. Good luck!

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