Tag Archives: audience

The Cycle, an Explanation

There’s a method to the madness of becoming a well known author. To becoming an author. To be someone desired by publishing companies. Through the years, I’ve becoming increasingly more aware of the things that are needed to be done for exposure and to be recognized and sought after and have people like me.

My last post, Intimidated, was a reflection of my becoming overwhelmed by it all.

I feel like I’m sitting at the base of a cliff with only half of the supplies needed for my ascent in rock climbing, which I’ve only ever done indoors, in a controlled environment.

I see friends tackling things on their own in ways I have given up or gotten too shy for. Sharing my works on different blog sites hadn’t yielded much of anything by the time I realized it was a fruitless effort, but I’ve had this problem before.

There are many things I can say, I can write here, I can put it on Facebook or on Tumblr or even find a bigger platform, but who’s to say that it’s even going to get anywhere? On this blog, I’ve had stunted success with having an audience at all, which resonates everywhere else, and when I look at it, and look back at the cliff, my feelings are mixed.

Some days, I feel like conquering it with gritted teeth and a strong resolve. Other days I feel like I’m not going to get further than halfway up the cliff and fail.

Everyone is going to think that what they have to write and how they do it is interesting enough to be worth something. That their voice and style is perfect in a lot of ways and, of course, how could anyone not like it?

Even if I had finished my courses in creative writing, I doubt it would have mattered much. I’d have felt like I wasted money, and not even my money, on something I could have learned on my own in time.

I’m staring up at a cliff of trying to get myself out there more. I am ready to put my hand up on the first rock I can hold onto and hoist myself up, but whether my fingers slip or I keep pushing until the final pieces, to the very top, is dependent on people that I can’t control. I can write for a specific audience, but it’s difficult to tell who would like what, and simultaneously battling the thought that shouldn’t I be writing for myself anyway?

On top of it, my sister sent me a list of the different writing jobs I could get, and instead of making me feel like I could try  at something again, and maybe become better, it made me feel more like I wasn’t doing something right. Which is on me, of course, not on her.

But the only way to find out what will happen is for me to try, and I’ve been very happy keeping my writing between a few friends. Branching out is uncertain and sometimes painful, but I can do it. So many others have done it before, right?

That was the other part. So many others. You could get lost in all of the authors out there, and there are only a handful who are really well known, household names. It goes back to competing, but I need to remember, I think, that no matter how many others are out there, they don’t have a voice or style or ideas like mine.

We’re all unique, no matter how many in number we are. No matter how similar it might be, there’s always a difference.

So I guess it’s just time for me to swallow my pride and take the first step up the cliff. I have a decent support system, in the face of anything that may go wrong. I’ll be caught if I fall.

The Novice Wordsmith

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NaNoWriMo Prep: Intimidation Factor and How I’ve Never Finished a Novel

This past Saturday was a “kick off” party for NaNoWriMo in my area. It wasn’t kicking off into writing, but it served as a party for a lot of us to get to know the others who will be writing in November. It’s where you learn about everyone’s goals, how long they’ve been participating, what they hope to accomplish, how many novels they’ve finished, and where you eat cookie cake and mingle and talk about what a book might be about based on its cover.

It was also where I got incredibly intimidated by a lot of the people I came in contact with.

“I feel so unoriginal,” I told Friend as I was on my way out. “They have so many ideas. All of them are so creative.”

A few had even been published. One had brought in two of her own books to be raffled off, and she acted like it was nothing. Nonchalant. (“Don’t pick that book, I wrote that one eight years ago, the other one is much better.”)

My mind boggled. I felt so small within the group. In comparison to those who had books published, those who had even finished things, I have been staring at three NaNoWriMo projects that haven’t reached the finish line yet, though one is dangerously close. The other two I want to start all the way at the beginning again and re-write.

“Have you gotten published yet?” Was a big question around the room, and one a lot of people could answer quickly, whether it was out of hopefulness or because they’d actually done it.

But to me, the answer was the same. They had something ready to publish. The one woman had said she’d done a bunch of research for it. The one who had two books, she had gotten a contract by putting one book out for an open call (I think that’s what they called it).

I felt– I feel– like a kid in a sea of adults, like this is just something I’m playing at still.

I started to think about it, though. That’s me in a room full of writers, maybe about 20 or so, give or take about five or ten. There’s an entire world out there filled with writers. How many people are even participating in NaNoWriMo? There’s got to be at least ten times more than that all over the world, every one of them having ideas and creativity and imagination that they want to let loose for the rest of the world to see.

What the fuck am I worried about? I’m one of those thousands, if not millions, of people. Whether I know what I’m doing or not shouldn’t matter right now, and on the other side, it is perfectly okay for someone else to be published, to know what they’re writing, and to do it well. Because it can happen, and it does, every day.

It’s back to my competitiveness. Back to my Type A personality, which tells me that I need to be the best forever.

But on the other hand… Isn’t it awesome to be in the middle of something like that? To be around people who are so creatively charged that you aren’t the only person in the room who has wild, crazy ideas that are all over the place, it’s another way of fitting in. It’s belonging. It’s finding your group.

It’s a common bond that brings us all together, no matter what our color, size, gender, etc.

They aren’t there to intimidate, they’re proud of what they’ve accomplished, because it’s still a ridiculously rough path for anyone who decides to take it. Those who publish, those who finish, are there to inspire, because for as many who have, there are just as many who have trouble finishing anything large (slowly raises hand).

So I’m going to try and embrace it, instead of letting it make me feel smaller. Because god dammit, just because I haven’t finished something yet doesn’t mean I won’t.

-The Novice Wordsmith

Live vs. Private

When it comes to writing, I know two versions. Writing with an audience while the words flow, live, in the moment, and private, when I do it on my own and go over the lines and dialogue carefully, constructing it to as near perfection as I can.

I’ve been musing over it idly for the past week or so, the differences between the two and how they feel. Some stories are just better when they’re live, when someone sees their development and how they change and taper and what you create on the fly, and you can see their feedback as you feed them written word. They are the stories of the moment. They have a lasting power as being right there.

Other stories, however, are best told, written in private and edited and preened and gone over a dozen times. They’re better when you can hold the full copy in an e-mail or a few pages in a journal somewhere. They read better as a cohesive piece, all at once.

Both have their merits. I like to write at Friend a lot because it helps me shape something while I’m thinking about, and also because I enjoy watching how he reacts. He also has an input, throwing ideas at me while I go. Sometimes it’s just because I’m too impatient to write it all in one piece, and I write faster when it’s at him instead of a full piece for him.

Usually, he’s my only audience. But that’s when private pieces come more in handy, if there’s more than just him that wants to see the piece or that I need to show it to. The traditional, cohesive piece in one place is easy, and reliable to find. It also lets me go back and scrap it if I decide it isn’t what I want.

I’ve had pieces I’ve worked on for days and ended up throwing in my scrap heap because re-reading it showed it just wasn’t working. I could try and try but there was no making it happen.

Then again, I’ve had live pieces I’ve started and had to stop early because it wasn’t coming out right, too. But jumping in on the moment and running with what you have spontaneously, improv-style, free-style, helps develop swiftness, I think. When you put yourself in a spot where you have to come up with something immediately, you get creative.

I don’t think I really prefer one or the other, though maybe there’s a bias toward Live, but they both have their ups and downs. It all depends on mood. But however the mood strikes, let it take you wherever it wants next time.

– The Novice Wordsmith

Guest Post: A House of Prose, and Don’t be The Lauren

Everyone’s a critic.

When you ask for an opinion from someone on something you’ve done, what you’re secretly asking is ‘do you like this?’ And you secretly want them to like what you’re showing them. It’s the author’s curse; we want to be published, but we need to write something that people can relate to enough to want to buy.

The underpinnings of our society dictate that we have to ‘get along’, ‘be liked’, and ‘hold approval.’ Popular people are who we hear about; unpopular people are spoken about derisively or with hatred sometimes.

Books and writing our expressions of our writer’s soul. It is the innermost child (..or occasional lurking adult) seeking the light of day and the likes of others.

We pick our genre, the one we feel the most at home with, and we decorate the house of our novel home with the things that belong there. A family of characters, or a single person looking out the windows. A bunch of good-natured or mean neighbors to challenge the family. And then there are the things that try and burn the house down or break in and steal their stuff.

I say it’s a house here because the analogy is apt to me; we ‘live’ in the space of our novel when it’s going good, and then when it’s done, we do our best to spruce it up and invite guests to come visit.

I’ve lived in a few places over the years; that first moment when someone new sees my new place they always look around. Form impressions. Some of them look at the things I have on the walls, some of them look at my knickknacks, some of them look at my furniture, and a few of them poke their head in the bedroom.

“Nice place.” they say. Whether they’re being polite or not, I don’t know. But then again, I live in a rental, so it’s not a house I can do a lot of decoration with. I’ve been in a few houses that I’ve said, ‘this is a gorgeous place.’ I have things that I want in my house, so when I see one of those things, I appreciate it.

Now apply that idea back to books again.

Some folks can write an amazing epic tale that grabs you from the get go; some folks write a ramshackle tale that barely holds itself together; you can see the holes in the plot like you notice crayon marks or holes in the walls.

It is not a reflection on the owner/author; it is all about the _everything_ in the house/novel, rather than the bits that you notice that stick out to you.

I’ve got a friend that I’ll call Lauren. She wanted to be a writer, because I was one. She participated in the NaNoWriMo, because I did, and people really liked my first novel.

When she read it, the first thing she asked was, “Is this about you? Is that character there me?”

(The answer was no and no. Because I am not a six foot tall efficiency expert who drives a convertible.)

Then she started poking holes in the novel. Pointing out typos, a half-finished sentence here and there, that sort of thing.

“I know.’ I said, defensively. “It’s a first draft. Thanks.”

When she won NaNo for the first time, she gave me her first effort at writing a full length novel. Asked me what I thought.

It was a pretty good tale, but she got lost in the weeds when she hit Week 3 and there were two very similar characters that I kept getting mixed up, and there was another point where she was missing parts of the description because she was in what I call ‘fugue state’ — you can see the action in your head, and it’s rushing fast, but she didn’t put it all down on the page.

“Did you want me to make edits or did you just want an opinion?”

“Just an opinion. I know my writing sucks.”

“I liked it. It had some good suspense elements, and your heroine is genuinely likable. Your supernatural elements are solid, too. And your writing does not suck.”

“Do you think I could get it published?”

“I think it needs some work before you can get there. There are some elements that need more details, and your ending is a bit rushed. I’d like to see more of the world, too.”

“You hate it.” she said.

“No, I don’t hate it. It’s good! It’s a first draft and I like what I see here. That’s the nature of the Nano — nobody ever produces a perfect first draft, but the Nano makes you actually finish that first draft. If I didn’t like it, I wouldn’t have finished it.”

Later, I heard she’d shared it with some of her other friends, with the additional rider comment that she felt I didn’t like it, because I didn’t think it was good enough to get published. Of course, she was giving it to friends who liked her as a person, and since she had predetermined for them that she was looking for praise, not critique, by way of ‘Friend didn’t like it, I’m hoping you will’ — she was told what she wanted to hear, rather than the truth. And when one of her friends, who is usually bluntly honest, said that it was ‘scattered and disorganized’, Lauren was done showing people. The manuscript went somewhere dark and never saw the light of another person’s eyes again, for fear of disapproval.

She tried her hand at writing the sequel the next year, because like many first time successful novelists, they still have a story left to tell. And it’s easier to work within an existing world than it is to spin up a brand new one.

But she got sick the first week, and stopped writing, and because she was a week behind, she gave up. This was the same year I wrote 100K words in the month.

She hasn’t attempted the Nano since.

For me, the NaNoWriMo is one of my life’s passions. I’ve done it every year for the past twelve. I talk about it a lot. Whenever I’m with friends or family, and I bring up the idea of Nano and they like the idea and are impressed with someone who can write that much in that little time, none of them really ask, ‘Yes, but are they good novels?’ If they do, or they ask when I’m getting published, I just grin and say, “I’m still working on that part. It’s a first draft, and a story that needs to be told, and one of these years I’ll like something enough to edit it and try and get it published. But it’s great practice and a grand adventure that I willingly take every year.”

They are invariably encouraging.

Lauren, if she’s also present, frequently jumps into the conversation with the “Hey, I wrote for the Nano too…” (Subtext: I want some of the positive attention you’re getting.)

“Oh cool!” is the response. “What are you writing this year?”

“Oh, I’m not likely to. I did it once about six years ago.” she says. “I have a bunch of good ideas, but I don’t have the time.”

Predictably, that means the focus goes back to me shortly after, because I have Ideas and Advice and Encouragement That You Should Play This Year. Nano is my passion, and I believe everyone should play at least once — if not more than once — because everyone has that lurking story in the back of their heads, triumphs, troubles,tasks, thoughts, tribulations, trout that traversed the trawler’s tail temporarily, those things. Tall tales. Truth, too.

At the end of one of those days, Lauren asked, “How come they never acknowledge me as an author like they do you? Do I suck that badly?”

“You didn’t show them your work.” I said. “You can’t know that they won’t like it until you show them, and the people you showed all liked it.”

“You didn’t like it.” she said.

“I did. I’m sorry you don’t think I liked it because I offered constructive criticism.”

“Well, I’m not a writer anyway.” she said.

Don’t be the Lauren, ladies and gentlemen. Write because you want to. Write because you have an amazing idea that’s half-baked — and understand that it’s okay to write a story that goes awry in the first chapter, as long as you follow the prose wherever it goes.

Don’t write because you need to be loved vicariously through your writing. I’ve written some of my best work when I was miserable, because pain is a crazy good resource to write out of sometimes.

Do write because you have a world you want to share, no matter how big or how small the space is. Do write because you want to finish the story, or at least take it for a spin around the block. Or the galaxy.

You never publish what you never write.

Nobody will ever see the house that you’re afraid to invite them over to visit. And when you decorate the walls with your art, be it imitations of the Masters or kid macaroni art, when you get your furniture of gleaming chrome and exquisite silks, stuff you, personally, might never be able to afford, but your characters can?

Don’t expect everyone who visits to want to move in. It’s your house of prose. You wrote it. You made the installment payments of 50,000 words or more (or occasionally less). Maybe the back rooms aren’t done. Maybe the roof has leaks that you didn’t see. Maybe the patio door is hung upside down. But it’s your home, the home of the tale you had to build from the ground up, and you ought to be proud of it.

You can always redecorate later, but you’ve got to turn the key in the lock and drag the readers in, first.

Build your first story, and you have the beginnings of a homeworld that is uniquely yours.

The Tiniest Voice

“What’s the difference between showing only me something, and showing a bunch of people on a different website?” Friend asked, a few days ago, after I’d had an upset about my writing not being viewed or liked on a bigger platform.

“If I show you, you give me feedback,” I told him. “You read it. When I put it somewhere else, it’s likely to be ignored, and largely, it does.”

If you recall this post, about putting your writing out in the wild, I had just started to get back into a couple of writing blogs somewhere. I have always been sort of cocky about my writing when it’s up against others, thinking that it’s more than decent and that people would like it. So, getting little to no traffic made me feel self conscious, and discouraged.

It comes with a well known frustration for me, of wanting to make some change, do something, and being unable to have much of an influence at all because my voice is so small that it doesn’t reach anywhere. Like talking to myself in a large house and expecting someone in the basement to be interested in my murmurings they can barely hear. Letting out something you’re proud of and it gets sidestepped, no one says a thing, no one manages to look that way at all, and then suddenly you’re deciding to stop and move on to something that doesn’t make you feel like a failure.

Friend’s answer to me, though, was that I shouldn’t be writing for anyone but myself, which is echoed in a year-old post I made. That, in the end, I need to like what I write. The only person that matters when I write something is me. If I enjoy it, nothing should stop me– screw everyone else; if they don’t care for it, fine.

Sometimes it just gets harder to hold onto the sentiment. It’s harder to be okay with just that, especially if you’re looking seriously into getting published. For me, I write because I enjoy it, but I also want to know that other people like it as well. It helps me keep going if I have an audience.

So far, my only consistent audience is a handful of people here, and Friend.

I can write for myself, I’ve been doing it for a couple of years now robustly and I’ve enjoyed it from the beginning. When people get involved, though, it’s a slippery slope for me, and one I’m not entirely sure I like walking down, because even if I do some incredible things, it goes unwatched, unseen. It’s an empty course that you’re going on your own. Or you’re shouting out in the middle of a canyon that no one else occupies with you.

Unexpected frustration came from an infographic I saw, which was supposed to be inspirational. Rich and famous people, innovators, authors, who dropped out of high school or college and made a more than comfortable living, and when they made their money. I get that the message was, “You can do anything,” and “nothing should get you down,” but not everyone can reach that level, especially depending on the country you live in. More often than not, it’s going to be a huge struggle, and no one is guaranteed millions, or even any recognition.

Recognition is another huge chunk of my issue. My little existential crisis. No matter what I say in my life, how many people are even going to remember, or care? What mark am I going to make on the world?

For my writing, I don’t know. I’d like to publish. I’d like to see my work flourish, but I’m not sure it’ll even get very far.

The real understanding, I think, comes from seeing that and doing it anyway. You enjoy it, don’t let anything take the joy out of it for you. Don’t let people ruin it. No one else matters in this world. When everything goes to shit, those random strangers who liked your work aren’t going to do anything for you.

But the partner who supported you through it all, the mother or father or guardian or whoever, who was encouraging you when you were crawling through muck and upset, they will.

Even if my novels tank, no matter what kind of mark I make, as long as I enjoy the process and putting things together, writing it all out. It’s harder to block out, when you learn more about publishing and what will garner the numbers you want, tailoring to a group of people instead of how you see things.

It still gets to me that Stieg Larsson was dead by the time his books were published, and with a different set of names than he originally intended in the first place. He was so adamant about keeping the first book as “Men Who Hate Women,” and the publishers didn’t care for it, so it got changed.

But that’s how it goes, isn’t it? When you see or want one thing, and then you have to do another because it’s better for the audience, to get the numbers.

These two things just feel at great odds. If I ever get to the publishing point, I’m not sure what I’ll do. And, hey, it’s not like I have much knowledge of it, it could be a different beast than I’m imagining, but hearing about it during dentist visits and what I see from others.

Maybe I’ll just stick to writing for myself and Friend, and you lot. Things are much easier that way, and there’s less people to worry about pleasing.

-The Novice Wordsmith

Exposure

Something happens every time I join a website or start a writing project: I start to think about getting my work out there. Sharing more often, submitting it to places, finding a way to get it out there. There’s something about seeing other people succeed in getting the interest of others, and the quality writing all around, that makes me want to do more and go farther.

Then, rejection happens, or I realize that I’m not half as popular as I thought I would be, or as others. That I’m just sort of another cogwheel in the great scheme of things that gets overlooked because my work is hardly different or groundbreaking.

It is, however, my work. My sentence structure, how I write, the language I use, the tones and the feel of everything I go through in passages, that’s mine. That is unique to every writer, it’s something you seek out in an author. To be able to so easily dive into the book and its atmosphere and the protagonist and their troubles, to be in another world, whether it’s wildly out of this galaxy, or it has few differences.

There are many ways to get your work out in the world, depending on what it is you write. Websites and anthologies seek people to write anything from erotica to horror, fan fiction, non fiction, and news.

Last year, Friend and I submitted works to Crossed Genres web magazine, that specializes in minority characters and settings as the mains in non-stereotypical fashion. Another friend had gotten into freelance journalism for a major website. I was shown a website that was a database for erotica, where someone had written a 40+ chapter story and was still going. Forums exist for the purpose of sharing your writing an collaborating with others.

There will always be a way for you to showcase your art, so to speak. The real question is if that’s something you want to do.

A common reiteration is that you can still make money off of your writing. You can make it free and accessible, or you can go through self publishing, or even finding a publisher to take you on.  Whether it’s a buck a book, that can be anywhere from 5,000 to 25,000 words, or up to four dollars for a full novel, there’s a market to be taken advantage of.

Anthologies and web magazines, in my limited experience, have also paid for the work they use of yours. Crossed Genres offered six cents a word, I believe, and for any novels that they decided to take on, 6,000 for the entire thing.

Whether you’re paid for the work or not, the outcome is roughly the same: people see your talent. One is guaranteed to reach more people than the other. For free work, you can be lost in the stacks with hundreds of others. With work you’re paid for, you’re up at the front of the line.

Exposure comes in many flavors. Through the years, I have only felt like writing prose, and novels, fiction, have been harder to get recognition with than painting or drawing, because of the average attention span. If they see something they like in a glimpse, it’s easier, but making someone sit down for anything a hundred words or longer can be a task.

Which is why a thesis or grabbing statement can be so important. You’re tasked with making it as interesting as possible to hook them in and then the rest will follow.

Even something so much as this blog, which was made expressly to get my knowledge out while maybe getting some to see my talent for writing, is dependent a lot on an excerpt, typically right at the top of the post.

In the same vein, somewhat, is having a Twitter account, and getting into social media as a writer. According to a shortlived friend I had who was also an author, having a presence in social media helps your chances with publishers, because they see that you already have a bit of a following.

It can be tricky. I started this blog expecting not much, but even a small gathering of people who decide they like my stuff enough to follow me is a great accomplishment, honor, and flattery. I know I write well, but to write something that people like is a great feat, just as well. My track record for people liking my work, or what I have to say, or what I do, has been shoddy, so I usually end up expecting very little, and when trying new ways of getting it seen,  discouragement follows frequently.

It seems more likely, considering that, that I’ll end up like many others: only a couple thousand copies sold and then promptly dropped by the publisher.

That isn’t to say you shouldn’t try, of course. It’s always going to be worth it, but it’s easier to go in with the understanding that the road ahead will not be easy and to brace yourself for the bumps, however many or few they are.

– The Novice Wordsmith

(PS: Happy Easter for those celebrating!)

Feedback and Other Bits

As I was writing the entry “Preparation,” I paused, just as I was about to type in a question to those who read the blog. I stopped and went into something else instead, because the last time I tried a question, I didn’t get an answer back.

Of course, that was at the beginning of the blog. So I think I want to try again.

The point of this blog, in a lot of ways, is to learn. Not just for me to help teach people what I’ve learned, but to learn from everyone else, from the readers, from their insight and experience and apply it as needed. This blog may belong to me, but I want it to sprawl with information and different testimonies about certain ideas and thoughts, I want there to be more than just my touch.

Which is why I have a guest writer, and I wouldn’t mind having more. I’m admittedly a little nervous about reaching out for it, though, because I’m not sure what to expect or what kind of guidelines to set, but I am interested in more opinions and more of the blog being inspired by the people who love it.

I wanted to use now to thank everyone who does keep coming back for more, to see what I (and Friend) have to say. It helps me put more into this every day that I write for it. ❤

I sometimes struggle with my own confidence about what I say. I don’t want to lead anyone astray, but the worry gets to me enough that it’s caused me to trash a few posts. I have been writing for years, but I’m still learning. Eventually, I’ll get into the process of publishing and be able to share my experience and thoughts with that, but after seeing others tackling the subject before me, I get skittish and feel under prepared.

Then there’s that maybe I should post less. I drew up a prompt sheet when I made this blog, and even while I keep adding to it, I’ve done just about everything on it. Like writing, though, I suppose I can never really run out of ideas.

So, feedback, what do you think? More posting, less posting, is there a topic you want me to cover in specific? Is there something I should go back over because I wasn’t clear enough? And, since I didn’t get to ask it before, what are you plans for November? How do you prepare, if you’re going to do NaNoWriMo?

I look forward to hearing back from you!

-The Novice Wordsmith

Guest Post: You and Your Genre Shadow

As the Novice Wordsmith and I start gearing up for this year’s NaNoWriMo in November, I always start playing with genre ideas. And whenever someone asks what they should write about, I always answer with this:

“Well, what’s your genre?”

Without knowing the answer to that question, your novel is going to be an orphan plot idea and a character in search of a direction. You can have a great character concept, but without knowing what genre the story they star in falls into, you’re going to be going through the motions of living without much plot potential.

(Slice of Life is actually a genre type. It’s used for sitcoms most often.)

Some genres define the universe (Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Steampunk for example), and some define the type of plot (Mystery, Drama, Crime, Romance), and others classify the expectations of how the novel is written (Journal, Young Adult, Advice). It’s a box that when someone opens the cover, they know what kind of things lie inside the pages.

It’s easy to pick your favorite genre and write in it exclusively. Your writing voice is all about comfort, because if you aren’t comfortable with what you’re writing, you won’t want to write it, usually. But as Wordsmith alluded to in a previous post, you can push the envelope of your comfort zone. Why write what you usually write, especially when you’re just getting started? The first novel or story you write is to prove that you can finish what you start. But that doesn’t have to be your genre.

Some folks like writing along similar lines. They have a favorite genre that they live in, because their writing flows naturally to that place. They fall in love with their personally crafted universe and stay there. They become a genre author without even realizing it, because they think, ‘Oh, why stop at one novel, why not a trilogy, or a series?’

The best and worst thing to be is known as a specific genre author, because you wind up writing more and more of that genre. You wind up with fans of your work and they judge your new book in the same genre (if not the same universe) by the previous ones. If you write something new in a different genre, it will be compared to your other genre and you will be measured. “Eh, so and so writes better SF books than fantasy.” This is nothing wrong, necessarily, because sometimes _readers_ prefer one genre over others, and when you, ‘their’ author, write out of their genre, they’re going to be a harder sell.

My advice to you is to push yourself. Deliberately write in different genres just to see if other ones work for you. Don’t just write in the same space of your favorite authors – go to the library or bookstore and go to a different section. Pick out a book by an author that has a lot of titles on the shelf, and flip through a few pages. See if the style and feel is alien to you, or makes sense.

Then write in that genre the next time you put pen (electronic or otherwise) to paper (ditto). See what happens.

If you want to get fancy and go for even more challenging? Do a mashup of genres. Don’t just say, ‘I’m writing a horror novel.’ Try ‘steampunk/mystery’ or ‘horror/journal’, or go out on a limb and try ‘science-fiction/advice/journal’ — that last one, by the way, is how I would classify the Zombie Survival Guide.’

The point of getting out of ‘your’ genre is not just to push you to do something different, by the way – it’s a growth experiment. If you want to be a paid author, but the market that your genre fits into is saturated, you should be able to shift gears and write in spaces where the market needs stories.

Not only that? It avoids getting into novels that are superficially similar to each other; some series authors fall into that sort of trap. Expanding your repertoire of writable genres means that you can get away from ‘home’ and find an adventure waiting to happen by the side of the proverbial author’s road, no matter how alien it may seem at first.

When I participate in the NaNoWriMo, I look at what I did last year — genre first, and say, “I am not doing that genre this year.” It’s another way of writing without looking back.