I don’t know if writers are more prone to introspection than other people are. Perhaps other creative and artistic people also spend a lot of time in self-examination. Or maybe it’s just how I function.
My sense of who I am as a writer is undergoing another shift. For years, I thought I’d write mysteries. That’s what I loved to read, and I really wanted to write stories that puzzled readers the way my favorite writers intrigued me.
Then I wrote a draft of a mystery, which puzzled no one. And I promptly dropped that writing plan. Writing mysteries is hard. Writing great mysteries is even harder. And I didn’t have the confidence that I could write that well.
I shifted my attention to lesbian romances. I’ve literally read hundreds of les-fic titles, and I was sure I could craft a story like the ones I’d read. Since the romance genre requires either a happily-ever-after or a happy-for-now ending, the genre is accused of being formulaic and cookie-cutter.
Try writing a great romance. Go ahead. I dare you.
It’s not nearly as easy as it looks, provided you care that your characters are interesting, believable, and as original as you can make them. I have a revised draft of a romance that still needs a lot of work. I’d love to get it polished up and published, but I’m not sure I have any other romantic tales in me. And genre-switching tends to lead to lower sales.
My dream project is an epic fantasy series. I’ve been in love with that genre since I was a kid and read The Hobbit and The Chronicles of Narnia. Who wouldn’t want to join the ranks of Tolkien, Lewis, Le Guin, McCaffrey, Eddings, Jemisin, and Rothfuss? To create entire worlds, peoples, and languages would be a dream come true.
For the past year, I’ve been taking writing classes through The Writers Studio’s online program. They’re focused more on literary fiction, and I keep expecting that my genre interests will lead me to hit a wall with the program.
What I didn’t expect was that I’d find writing literary short stories so compelling. I don’t think I’ll be joining the ranks of Jennifer Egan or Michael Chabon anytime soon, but I have enjoyed modeling the literary short stories we use as narrator examples each week.
I still think I’ll hit a point when my tendency to include genre elements will mean that my work no longer fits in the WS program. But I’m learning that my writing isn’t as restricted as I had thought. I’m not sure what to do with that knowledge. It feels freeing and frightening at the same time.