Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Survival Tip #10: Write What Makes You Happy

Today I'm bouncing off something I kinda, sorta half saw on the net.  I didn't read enough of it to see what it was about, so I'm not linking to it.  It just made me think of something I think is crucial to survival in this business.

You see, a person start off a question to a popular agent blog by referencing the crime novel they were shopping and the fantasy novel they were getting ready to write.  Whatever their question was, I could immediately see where it might be leading - and what the answer generally is in these situations.

So here's my made-up scenario:

A writer finishes a novel with a realistic crime-centered story.  What to write next?  Their heart is leaning toward a fantasy novel next, but everything we've been told points to writing another crime novel.  "Build a following" they say.  Kinda hard to build a following when you're unpublished, but I do get the sentiment.  If they love the first book and want to sign a contract to be your forever agent, they're going to want to see more of the same.

All well and good if more of the same is what's blowing your skirt up.

Personally, I write what makes me happy.  And I think that's what has kept me sane after 9 years of doing this.  My first couple books were in the same vein.  My next book was totally different.  And the next.  Then I tried my hand at something else.

Looking back, it might not have been the best way to approach my career, but I love my books.  I also love my writing.  Slogging through book after book the same old way without getting any gratification would've killed that.

And, by the way, if writing the same genre again is what makes you happy, do that, too.  I've heard the other side say that if one genre isn't working, try another.  If you don't want to try another, then don't.

As I've said before, there are a ton of opinions out there and you can only do what's right for you.  So, feel free to stretch your wings or not - whatever feels right.

What about you?  Do you always write the same type of books or do you spread yourself over several genres?  We can all probably point to plenty examples of both who succeeded in their own ways.  Who are some success stories you know of?


  1. I saw that post, too, B.E. - and I remember the answer to the question!

    As for me - I started off writing medieval, then, with all the information pointing to a continuation of that genre, basically stopped writing. I had written that story - another one in that genre just didn't exist in my head.

    I think, with you, you may have jumped around all over the place, BUT you've found your voice while jumping! I think that's important. And you've continued to put words on paper, therefore learning/honing your craft. I think that's more important than what I call 'branding'!

    Great topic!!

  2. I didn't stay for the answer or even the rest of the question, Janet. Was I right in my guess?

    I loved your medieval, Janet, but I also loved what came out of your head next. And it seemed to make you happy writing it.

    I'm never sure about 'voice' but that's a post for another day. I do know I still love my first books - even though they're more serious in tone. This newer snarkier me is fun, too, but maybe a writer can have more than one voice. Like Jim Butcher - whose Harry Dresden books have a totally different tone than his Codex Alera books. I wanna be like that.

  3. Great topic!

    I tend to write books with a suspense/mystery base, BUT some are reality-based, dark and gritty (like THE FIRST VICTIM) and some are silly, snarky, and have a paranormal/fantasy element (like the CONFESSIONS OF A SLIGHTLY NEUROTIC HITWOMAN series).

    I like switching things up because as a person, I'm not all "one" way or another.

  4. Uhm....cross-genre author here. I write the book that's beating me about the head shoulders demanding to get written. I've written light paranormal romance. I've written romantic suspense. I've written light contemporary romance. I've written paranormal thrillers. I've written urban fantasy. I have an unfinished horror novel hanging out there, along with a futuristic police procedural, and a SciFi/Fantasy--sort of swords and sorcerers with space travel.

    I'm a firm believer in telling the story that's in your heart and head. You may only be writing it for yourself but there just might be an audience out there wanting to read it, too.

    I'm curious as to what the agent's answer was....???

  5. I write romance and concentrate on romantic suspense. I work better when I have a primary focus. It helps me weed out story ideas and concentrate on the ones I want to write. Stories that will hopefully help me build a readership. Fingers and toes crossed.

  6. I have written all three types of fantasy: epic, heroic, and urban. Even George RR Martin did this, so I'm pretty confident it can work out. But my reason for switching out of writing epic fantasy and into urban was that I'm better at writing short, tight novels, and not so good with the politics in epic.


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