Friday, September 25, 2009

Outside your comfort zone

Do you write outside your comfort zone?

I don't mean just new styles of writing, new ways, new words...but new genres too? And do you feel it makes you stronger as a writer?

Me, I'm an MG writer. Straight up MG. But MG covers a lot of territory, and so far I've done literary MG, magical-realism, and slightly more commercial. The thing is, none of these have been through a conscious decision. I get the idea and there's basically no way of saying, "Well, Mr Brilliant-idea-shining-like-a-star, I don't really *do* so-and-so MG."

I just write it. And then revise at will (with the magical realism, this revising process has taken the form of nail pulling, but...who cares, right? All for the greater good.) And each of the books has helped me to grow as a writer inordinately; I wouldn't trade the experience for the world.

Which brings me to my current brouhaha.

I don't know how you all decide on your next idea, but mine generally comes when I'm 3/4 finished with the present MS in first draft stages. It sticks throughout the revisions process, and near the end of revisions, I usually know the first sentence, how it'll start, all characters, and a general idea of the first 1/3 of the book.

It's not any different in the new case, except...there are TWO books to revise before I can get to it.

And it's a mystery.

This makes me quiver in my boots. My protag is a boy, of all things (I've only ever done one other boy as protag, which went okay but still, yikes) and there must be clues. And wit. And of course, there are animals in it, which I'm most happy with, but yikes, a mystery.

When I first had the idea (in the midst of an excessively boring bus ride home) I was so excited. But a mystery?


Oh well. This time I'll be further out of my comfort zone than ever before. I must remember my mantra: "It is okay to write a first draft of utter poo."

And you? Do you ever go outside your comfort zones?


  1. I used to be all about Epic Fantasy - witches, wizards, elves, dragons, magic, magic, and more magic.

    Now, I'm more mainstream - here/now - commercial and literary fiction.

    I don't know why I suddenly switched genres. I just did. In many ways, the experience is kind of . . . freeing. It's neat to step outside my comfort zone, to dare something different, and to love writing the non-fantasy just as much as I enjoyed writing the fantasy.

    I haven't given mystery a shot, but next time I'm stumbling along for an idea, perhaps I'll give mystery a chance.


  2. I have always written anything and everything--mainstream, fantasy, picture book, novel, haiku, non-fiction. So I guess my comfort zone is pretty wide. Although, I must say I never tried a mystery and I know that would be tricky to pull off. Someday, if I get a good idea, I'll take that a challenge.

  3. I think many people start out with a clear idea of what they want to be writing, but if they stick with it, they settle in to what they should be writing. Those two things don't always match.

  4. There is a fantastic market for MG mystery out there. There are some great books out there on how to set up the whole mystery format. You are going to love it!

  5. If I was to jump into writing a mystery I would feel out of my comfort zone too. I like the idea of mysteries and enjoy the mystery element of movies and stories, but I am not a mystery reader, so I would need to get more familiar with the genre. A YA with a mystery structure would be more comfortable though, since I have read more YA and one of those was actually structured with a mystery format.

  6. I know what you mean by surprises in writing ideas. I've always thought of myself writing sci-fi. It's something I love, especially world building. Then up pops an historical fiction idea, it scared me to death. How on earth could I get it done? The thought of the necessary research intimidated me.

    It was an awesome process. The research turned out to be fun and consuming. I'd forget that it was about the writing and not the interesting facts I'd find.

    So now I guess I write sci-fi, contemporary, and historical, all YA. Go figure.

  7. While I tend towards writing YA fantasy (my current WIP), I also enjoy writing adult fiction and poetry as well as short stories. I'm a little like a pot luck that way, I guess. And I'd love to write a children's picture book as well.

    PS: Many of my 1st and 2nd and even 3rd drafts are poo, too. Good thing for revisions and the delete key!!


Join the conversation, add insight, or disagree with us! We welcome your thoughts.