Monday, February 10, 2014

Exploring Writing Boundaries in Five Steps



Choices. We don’t always think about them consciously, but we make them many times within a day. The decision to read this post is a choice you made since you hit this page and right now you’re making another choice if you decide to stay with me.

We’ve come to writing through different avenues and have made various decisions on the way—whether it be choice of genre, publication route or marketing approach. If you’re struggling with venturing out and moving forward, here are some tips to get you on the road to change.

Know Your Strengths. It’s easy to get caught up in fads. When vampires and werewolves were the hot, new item on the block, many writers got in early and capitalized on the popularity of those stories. I suppose that worked for people with an understanding of fantasy and a handle on world building. Me? Didn’t bat an eyelid because I know what I write well. This is not meant to discourage you from exploring new boundaries, but if getting in on the bottom floor of a craze is going to take you away from something you do skilfully, I’d encourage you to build on what you know. You can get to the craze when you have time to spare and not act on it as a means of making immediate sales.

Weigh the Pros and Cons. What are the advantages and disadvantages to the steps you’re planning? It’s all well and good to follow your heart, but a list in black and white will help guide you toward making a choice that’s right for you. I’ve known people who shied away from making a pro and con list, but were grateful in the end to have made a decision based on head and not heart.

Share Your Vision. Is there a writer or two that you can bounce ideas off, or whose opinions you respect? A problem challenge shared in a challenge halved. It’s amazing how a discussion or an email can help clarify your thoughts and enhance your vision.

Study the Landscape. The major life changes I’ve made came after I did plenty of research. When I started writing again in 2004, I began by studying the craft and my first sale was an article to a writing e-zine. My first love is romance and although I’ve read hundreds of books from that genre—you guessed it—I took time to learn about the structure of a romance novel before I submitted my first manuscript to a publisher. Self-publishing has given us a faster route to publication, but if our novels don’t follow some conventions, then they aren’t likely to enjoy success. I’m a firm believer in finding out the rules and knowing them before I attempt to break them.

Believe in Yourself.  Every time we do something new, we face unique challenges, but nothing ventured is nothing gained. Recently, I’ve started taking keyboard lessons. It’s fun and challenging, but I wouldn’t be doing it if I didn’t think I have a chance of playing competently someday. There will always be the voice of doubt whispering that maybe (insert-name-of-new-pet-project here) isn’t your thing, but with a positive attitude and a willingness to learn, you can do anything.

Have you switched genres lately, just taken the plunge in self-publishing or are you looking at a new marketing angle? Do share your tips for dealing with change.

An aside here, Captain Alex’s book Cassafire is still on sale on Amazon until tonight. Hop on over if you haven’t picked up your copy yet.

19 comments:

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

Your advice is perfect for me. When I first starting submitting my very first book, I was told by many agents that publishers didn't want futuristic or paranormal romance. But it was what I liked to write. Now its a big chunk of the market. Fads come and go so I'll stay with what I like.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Everyone said science fiction was dead when I started my series, but I'm glad I wrote it anyway. Steampunk is popular and seems really interesting, but I know it's not a genre I could write. I'll stick to my strength, which is space opera.
Thanks for mentioning CassaFire!

Pat Hatt said...

Knowing the landscape is a good one, then you can top it and break on through

Linda King said...

Great post - very heartening! I'm going to read it again now and take the advice on-board!

J.L. Campbell said...

Susan, my thoughts exactly.

No worries, Alex. I will say that I have a lot of respect for people who write Sci-Fi and Fantasy. All of that world building would drive me around the bend.

Pat, true that. Nobody ever won a war without scoping out the territory first.

Glad this resonated with your, Linda.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

Yes, study the industry and the craft. Never go into it blindly.

Primo ArtSpa said...

Great advice today. Thanks

Lynda R Young said...

Believing in yourself makes a huge difference. I'll have to try a Pros and Cons list.

Christine Rains said...

Excellent post. I think many people forget to look at their strengths when it seems they aren't getting anywhere.

J.L. Campbell said...

Diane, that's one of things that keeps me moving forward. I try to stay abreast of what's happening in publishing.

PAS, thanks for stopping in.

True that, Lynda. It can make the difference between standing still and moving forward.

Christine, thanks. Very true that when we get down we forget the things we do well.

Joylene Nowell Butler said...

I love the idea of a pro and con list. It makes me smile when I realize I'm trying to add more things to the pro side to justify why I'm steering in that direction.

J.L. Campbell said...

Joylene,
I can so relate that that.I rack my brain, trying to come up with the positives.

Diane Burton said...

Great post. Believe in yourself. Absolutely. If you don't, who will? Write on.

Hilary said...

Great advice - especially the believe in yourself part :)

Michelle Wallace said...

A great post Joy!
I know my strength - flash fiction - but I'm not sure how that would translate into a mystery/suspense novella (my longer project...)
I suppose I have to take it a step at a time...

Sherry Ellis said...

Great advice! It's important to write what you enjoy!

Carrie-Anne said...

When I was younger, my mother was always trying to get me to write contemporary stories and short stories, instead of historical and book-length stories (novellas and novelettes, really). The closest I'll come to contemporary is when a story that began historically eventually moves into late contemporary historical territory.

J.L. Campbell said...

Well said, Diane.

Hilary, we have to believe we can before we get to the doing part.

Michelle, you're an awesome flash writer. I think you'll do well because you know all about how to use a small number of words to make a big impact. That's something I struggle with.

Sherry, true, our passions will keep us going strong.

Carrie-Ann, it's clear to me that you found the thing you loved early on. :)

Sandra Cox said...

Good article. A lot of the paranormal fads which are losing popularity are things I still enjoy writing about. And my thoughts are the pendulum eventually swings back.