Courage in Writing

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by Suzanne D. Williams

When I decided to write fiction, I didn’t have any idea what I was getting into and, along the way, have learned a few important things about the writing process. The greatest came when I arrived at a scene in my first novel, MISSING. It was a sweet wedding night scene, the couple having an awkward moment because this was her second marriage and she didn’t know how to behave. I sat there staring at my screen, unsure how far to push the boundaries.

Which brings me to the point of this article and a few how-to’s for your first draft. Keep in mind this is for the FIRST draft, the copy no one sees but you.

Write what’s daring.

Write what you’re afraid of.

Write what makes you uncomfortable.

Write all of it the first time. Draw back later.

A lot depends on your genre and whether you’re writing general fiction for the secular market or Christian fiction for housewives or YA for teens. You must know that because it will affect what you include before you release the story to the public. But behind closed doors, where it’s just you and the screen it’s best to go all out.

If you’re sitting there asking yourself if you should include a more graphic or racy scene, that’s a key moment when you need to start writing.

I had to get past my embarrassment at writing certain elements of romance. Let’s be honest, when people ask what I do, and I say I write romance, the automatically assume that means sex. And, yes, it does mean sex, even in Christian stories. (Though not every story requires it, it is always implied.) But this thought also extends to violence in novels, including common triggers, crime scenes, and depictions of death. All of those can be nerve-wracking to pen, and a writer SHOULD be constantly asking if it’s necessary and how far to go.

In your first draft, however, GO ALL THE WAY. Include the outbursts, the cursing, the sex scene. Write like there’s no holds barred. Set aside the condemning voices, including your own, and anything telling you to pull back. You will do that in edits. Push yourself to pen things that make you uneasy.

As a side note:  I make sure I’m in the right frame of mind, in the most comfortable writing position for me, with the right atmosphere when I have to face scenes like that. I like to be alone and to not have other voices distracting me. I have a particular chair I sit in, and I choose a time of day when I’m feeling awake and without the need to do other things. I don’t worry about overall word count or have any hourly word count goal. I am strictly there to stretch my creativity as far as possible, whether that’s two sentences or twenty.

Other writers may have their own methods, but that’s what works for me. I’d rather write one really good paragraph staring at the issue than two pages of bunk that skirts around it.

Which is another good point:  Be direct. I’ve gotten more and more direct, the more books I’ve written. There are things I fought over at the beginning of my career that I don’t think about at all now. I have no problem writing wedding night scenes, for instance, and that particular one in MISSING is very tame, almost non-existent by comparison to others later on.

If you blush when you write it, good. If you sweat and are nervous, good. And when you do get to edits, don’t delete it unless you’re sure it isn’t necessary. I’ve taken out good scenes that didn’t fit. I’ve left scenes I knew needed to be there but had struggled to write.

Every story is different. I always consider the market. For general fiction, for instance, I put in way more sensuality because that’s what readers expect. For teens, I take it out for the most part or tame it down. Nothing bugs me worse than YA that sounds like adult erotica. Yes, that exists, sadly. You should always tailor your edits to who you want to read your book.

But … do what’s best for the story. And give the story time to develop. If the story is edgier than you usually write, set it aside and let it percolate before you release it. Whenever I rush to release something that I’m unsure of, I make mistakes. I’ve found my perspective changes greatly over time, and I can see a better overall picture when I come back to it.

In the end, you, the writer, have to be happy and at peace with your story, but don’t let other people’s expectations stop you from writing what needs to be in it. As a Christian, I lean a lot on prayer and the morality of God’s Word to decide my final draft. (There is always a line I won’t cross.) I listen to what God is speaking to me for that story. Then, when I am done and the editor has weighed in on it (You should have an editor that knows YOUR STYLE), I can put the book on sale because me and God aren’t arguing over it.

I’ve poured my effort into the story. I’ve put myself into every word I selected, and any negativity I receive afterward doesn’t bother me because I KNOW I did my best. Readers have their own perspective, of course, and you’ll get a few crackerjacks who comment. But my conscience is clear, and that’s the most important thing. My conscience not simply from a moral side either, but in that I wasn’t too soft or afraid to say what needed to be said.

Writing takes courage and too often people don’t realize it.

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Suzanne  D. WilliamsBest-selling author, Suzanne D. Williams, is a native Floridian, wife, mother, and photographer. She is the author of both nonfiction and fiction books. She writes devotionals and instructional articles for various blogs. She also does graphic design for self-publishing authors. She is co-founder of THE EDGE.

To learn more about what she’s doing and check out her extensive catalog of stories, visit

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