I was asked some time ago to explain the challenges and the rewards of writing Wandering West. Well, writing fiction is both challenging and rewarding–period. I think virtually all writers of fiction will attest to that. It is a grueling process. Writing fiction challenges the soul, if you will. For me, it is taxing emotionally. It requires such attention to detail, such a focus and a commitment, that I tend to become obsessed with my work. (Don’t take my word for it; ask my wife!) I tend to live within the bubble of the story with my characters until the last word is hammered out, and then, for a little longer still. Not until the story is complete do I feel any real sense of satisfaction, any real sense of achievement. Actually, it’s an overwhelming sense of relief that I experience at that point. Here I’ve created this monster and finally–finally–I can put it to bed! Did I mention that writing is a grueling process? That goes double for writing fiction.
So why do it? Why get up in the middle of the night–maybe repeatedly, night after night, month after month–to jot down a thought, to correct an incongruity, to change this, to improve that, etc.? Life is too short, and life offers up enough misery without creating that of my own making. Maybe so, but, for me, the rewards more than make up for these challenges. I think virtually all writers of fiction will agree with me when I say that the creative process itself is what I find so rewarding. It’s what makes writing fiction so worthwhile. The creative process is what drives me. It can send a lightning bolt flashing through my veins like few things on this Planet Earth–except for, well, maybe a lightning bolt. I really do get a charge out of fleshing out a character, working out a scene, and ultimately, building a storyline. It’s my thing, as they say.
But the question was: what did I find challenging and rewarding about writing Wandering West specifically? Well, specific to Wandering West, there is a hospital scene in the first third of the story that, I think, illustrates this idea of writing fiction being both a challenge and a reward. This scene was difficult for me to write emotionally. It is rather autobiographical in many respects, and so was a little painful to get into. But once I did, the words flowed as fast as my fat, arthritic fingers (Yes, that’s rather autobiographical, too, where Jack Stiler is concerned.) could hammer them out on the keyboard. Writing truly is the spontaneous overflow of human emotion, as Wordsworth put it. For me, writing this scene was evidence of that. I meant this scene to be poignant, and after reading it for the upteenth time, I think I succeeded. I hope so anyway. It still moves me.
For those who have read Wandering West, I hope that scene moved you, too. If you haven’t yet picked up the book to read it, well, as I often write on this blog, while you’re here, you might as well click onto the book section and make a purchase. And let me know what you think.