NON-FICTION RISK: SAY IT
Say the things– write the things– that you are afraid to say. I recently shared about my fear of, “Who would ever want to buy my book?” And earlier this week, I confessed not just a past sin that I’ve conquered (which would feel safer) but a current area where God is at work in my heart.
At the root of writing is a willingness to dropkick the fear and decide to SAY THE THING THAT FEELS RISKY.
I don’t mean that you go around, willy-nilly, saying anything and everything that pops into your head. But I mean, there are things that you KNOW are the right thing… that you KNOW you need to say, but fear and self-concern holds you back. In blogging, I’ve noticed that the things that I’m the most cautious about writing, and the things I’m the most passionate about, are the things that get the biggest reactions.
And even more than reactions, my tracking data confirms that they are the things that people still read. They are the articles that people write me about, that keep impacting people’s hearts & lives.
But I can’t accurately predict in advance which things will resonate, and which things won’t. And neither can you. The only way to know, and know for sure, is to RISK. If you want to write great non-fiction, you have to actually say the stuff that feels vulnerable.
FICTION RISK: TORTURE/KILL THE CHARACTER
My favorite thing about reading and watching Elisabeth Gaskell’s works (as opposed to Jane Austen, who I also love but for very different reasons) is the difficult reality of her world. Wonderful characters– characters you love– die. People you care about get injuries that threaten their livelihood and ruin their lives. Everyone suffers real loss, not just the “safe” peripheral characters.
It’s why people are nuts about Downton Abbey. People actually die. Main characters– the ones you love and care about– are jailed, attacked, lied about, jilted at the altar, and killed off. They face extreme tragedy and difficulty. The writers have no problem torturing and killing their characters.
If you want to write good fiction, be fierce. Don’t allow only your secondary or tertiary characters to suffer real loss. Cause your main characters to experience heart-wrenching pain– do it on purpose– and your work will be the better for it.
BECOME A BETTER WRITER: RISK
Whatever you’re writing, if you don’t risk, you’re withholding the vulnerability and reality that makes your voice different from others’.
Take some calculated risks with your writing. Write the blogpost about the issue you feel strongly about. Kill off the character that would throw the book into a whirlwind. Consider sharing the thing that feels vulnerable. Put your main character through emotional turmoil.
To become a better writer, risk. And I will too.