Writing with Integrity: Remaining True to Yourself and Others

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by Kathy Harris

For most of us, life is moving too quickly right now. We have what seems like a thousand things on our to-do list and little time to do them. Each moment of every day is about last minute detours, do-overs, and deadlines. And that’s without even thinking about writing.

And it’s not just during the holidays that life is rushed. In trying to get ahead, defense has become the new offense. Deciding what not to do has become just as important as deciding what to do. As Kenny Rogers once said, ‘You got to know when to hold ‘em and know when to fold ‘em.’ (The Gambler, Don Schlitz, 1976)

Kenny was right. There are times in life when it’s best to just walk away. Or, at least, step aside for a while, for whatever reason, including rest and refocus.

Learning to cry uncle—well before anyone gets hurt—is critical to a successful writing career. Meeting deadlines, and expectations, is crucial to establishing credibility, as well as maintaining integrity within our community.

Search Goodreads for quotes tagged integrity, and you’ll find more than twelve hundred entries—from Charlotte Bronte to J.K. Rowling. Integrity and writing go hand in hand. As Nicholas Sparks wrote in The Last Song, “In the end you should always do the right thing even if it’s hard.”

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines integrity in three, distinct ways. The first entry calls it “a firm adherence to a code of especially moral or artistic values.” As writers, how often do we assess our artistic integrity?

The second dictionary entry describes integrity as “an unimpaired condition.” Or soundness. Have we learned—and do we always apply—the basics of grammar, plot, and story arc?

The third definition equates integrity with “the quality or state of being complete or undivided.” Is the storyline of our working manuscript complete and cohesive? Do we tie up every plot thread in our story?

Complete, sound, and uncorrupted in motive. Integrity is the ultimate you. The writer who remains true to him- or herself, as well as to others, in all circumstances. It’s honesty and forthrightness. And it’s admitting when we can, and when we can’t. Integrity is being committed to the right thing and sticking with it, even when it’s hard.

In my new romantic suspense, Deadly Commitment (New Hope Publishers, October 2019), I write a lot about commitment. Deadly Commitment is the first book in a new series. And, as it so often happens, life has now thrown me a commitment quandary (or two) of my own. Did I learn enough from my book, specifically that commitments must be taken seriously, to make the right choices?

Book two of The Deadly Secrets series was originally due to release in October 2020, but I had to make the difficult decision to delay its release. Because, in the end, I owe my editor, my publisher, my agent, and everyone involved in the project the best book I can possibly write.

More importantly, I owe them an honest representation of when I can deliver the manuscript. And when life—and family—recently intervened, I knew the original timeline had to be adjusted.

Turning down a contract is hard. But failing to deliver is ultimately more destructive to my integrity as a writer. It’s also unfair to those who stand beside me. And with me.

As writers, we make spoken and unspoken promises to those who stand besides us. Not only to our agents, our editors, and our publishers, but also to our readers. Ultimately, the most important promise is to give them a great book.

As a writer, especially when you’re just starting out, it can be tempting to take shortcuts, which might include submitting, self-publishing, or even signing a contract before you’re ready. But shortcuts, and second best, rarely pay off.

Integrity sees the whole picture. It focuses on the ultimate outcome. And it cherishes the relationships it establishes along the way. It also sleeps well at night, knowing the right thing may be the hard thing.

Maintaining integrity as a writer. How do we keep the ultimate promise we make to our readers? @divinedetour #amwriting #ACFWblogs #writingtips Click To Tweet

Kathy Harris lives in Nashville, Tennessee, and writes romantic suspense and women’s fiction. She is represented by Julie Gwinn of The Seymour Agency. Read Kathy’s blog or follow her on FacebookTwitter, or Instagram.



Comments 8

  1. When I started writing,
    beguiled by that which I had seen,
    I found temptation too inviting
    and my career is now what might have been.
    I thought my work was brilliant,
    but no agent deigned to represent,
    and being not resilient,
    I went elsewhere to pitch my tent.
    I swallowed tales of indie fame,
    and thought, well, that’s the way,
    but now nobody knows my name,
    and I rue that fateful day.
    With sales too low to even rate,
    now I know – it’s much too late.

  2. I’m not a frequent flier on Facebook, but this was a must share to my author’s page!

    Thank you for this valuable gift to the heart,
    Christina M. Eder
    Oak Ridge, TN

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