Friday, March 20, 2009

Writing Beyond The Comfort Zone

I'd like to thank Sara for giving me the opportunity to post here today. I've been thinking a lot lately about the forces that drive us to write what we write. For years, my writing was confined to a single, very specific, sub-genre: contemporary, paranormal romantic suspense set in California. I was comfortable there. It was home. When I moved into erotic romance territory, it was a very small, very comfortable move. It was still contemporary, still set in California; nothing that might cause my regular readers to react with negativity.

But then a funny thing happened on my way to writing book number fifteen. I got an idea for a story that was a big departure for me. It wasn't set in California. It wasn't set in this century...or even the last one. In fact, thanks to the paranormal angle, it wasn't even set altogether in this universe.

That book, Iron, has just been accepted for publication and I suddenly find myself both more nervous and more excited than I've felt about any of my previous releases. I have no idea what the reaction to it will be. This is embracing the unknown in a big way; it's like that very first dive off the high board. It's a little intoxicating--and no, that's not just the Guinness talking! ;)

I've always advocated the idea that writers should emulate method actors in our craft--ie, that we should each find that place within ourselves where we're not entirely comfortable, where our emotions are raw and authentic and write from there. I've tried to stay true to that philosophy myself when I write, but I guess maybe I'd reached the point where I'd grown comfortable with the discomfort.

Maybe that's why I had to branch out in a new direction?

Market wisdom advises us against the idea of completely re-inventing ourselves over and over again. That's no way to establish a brand, make a name for yourself, or keep a devoted following. And I would truly hate to do anything that would alienate readers. But, I think it's also true that 'when you're bored, you're boring'. And boring is a good way to lose fans, too.

I think, on the whole, I'm going to side with Jack London who said: “I would rather be ashes than dust! I would rather that my spark should burn out in a brilliant blaze than it should be stifled by dry-rot. I would rather be a superb meteor, every atom of me in magnificent glow, than a sleepy and permanent planet. The function of man is to live, not to exist. I shall not waste my days trying to prolong them. I shall use my time.”

So, what about you? If you're an author, do you have any books that represent a somewhat uncomfortable change in direction? If you're a reader, how often do you take chances and try something new? I'd love to hear what you think about this!


Sara Humphreys said...

Love the post Pg! Thanks so much for teaming up with me!

April Robins, Author said...

Pg, I admire you being able to change directions in your writing. What an imagination.

Melissa said...

I find it very hard to change direction in my writing but I do try to read different genres. Maybe one day, once I feel comfortable in the world I write right now, I'll try out another one. Thanks for sharing with us and I look forward to reading your work.

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