Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Writers: Which Way To Write Signs

Season of Truth: Chloe, alias The Fireball, comes back to stir the dark past. Michael Bearclaw has waited to settle an old debt with her...

The other day, a friend and I were discussing our next writing projects. There are just some writing projects that I have to try, and I am.

But she had a problem: Her style and books are immensely popular now, but she didn’t want to continue writing in the same subgenre.

This is a Writer’s Big Deal. If you’ve built a readership, and you shift away from it, those readers may not follow; thus, income may not follow. At this point, writers have 2 choices: 1.) Try to keep on writing the same material—though it may not interest as much, feel as fresh and exciting as it once did. Or 2.) Take that leap into the unknown.

This is a Major Deal. The material MUST excite the writer, ignite him, to be good. That story has to pump along like a heartbeat, carrying the writer in a fast stream as the story grows. Sometimes it’s a slow start, filled with murky drek, and you just have to chug along, trying to find that pulse. Sometimes it’s a different POV (point of view), a dead body dropping in to change direction. Sometimes, it’s just pushing away the clutter to find that good strong stream to carry you.

I’m working with my backlist now and seeing that certain themes have held true in my writing, though I’ve been all over the romance subgenre landscape (except sci-fi and fantasy). I’ve usually written to please myself wherever I drifted. I’ve loved my stories like children. (I have some unpublished children’s stories, etc. right now, waiting for me to edit.)

But my friend-writer had some life struggles as we all do. Despite her popular style, she just didn’t feel the same about her stories. She’d tried to write in that same vein, flopped around in some other stuff, liked it, flopped around again, pushing for that good comfortable feel of her kind of story.

IMHO, flopping around is healthy. Try this, try that. Get comfortable. Settle into what you want to do. That may be an editor’s biggest fear, too, when that writer starts to explore, needing a change to stay fresh. Editors of publishing houses like predictability in their stable. It takes a while to build a readership, those sales, and starting anew with different material can endanger sales.

Some writers write the same story over and over. They sell well. They have an established readership who depend on the same kind of story from them. It’s valid, because their readers love it. And they're comfortable in that same basic story. But another writer might wonder and hope that their stuff stays “un-cookie cutter like”. So this is a fear for some, writing the same kind of novel, genre/subgenre.

The Bottom Line: We, my friend and I, talked about her situation and it came down to this—for her—SHE HAD CHANGED. Her life had changed, she’d been through some trauma and she did not FEEL that unique material as she once had. She wanted to move on. Or try to move on, to find that excitement again.

If we have changed from material written before our life changes dramatically, does that also change the need to write in different directions?

This is a huge decision for an established writer with a readership. But it's also a decision for any writer. If life has changed us, it may change the material we write.  Or not.

I hope this is helping someone out there, because these are tough decisions--where to lay down our time and energy. That's a big deposit, so we weigh it carefully, our own Season of Truth.

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