I have spent the last two years trying to write a horror novel. I spent the last two weeks working on a new poly romance chick lit novel.
I’ve written more for the latter in two weeks than I wrote for the former in two YEARS.
What does this tell you?
Well what I think it tells you is that you need to write what you know. However what you know and what you’ve experienced are not the same thing. What you know might be what you’ve read; if you read a lot of mystery, you know mystery. My mother knows more about getting away with murder than most murderers. Why? Because she reads mystery novels the way some people eat chips.
In my thesis I talked about my two novels. Well lets see why they had such different results:
First off: I don’t really read horror, I’m actually kind of a wimp when it comes to the genre. I can handle things like Zombies and Eldritch monsters, to some degree, but most horror is far far beyond my ability to deal with. I’m the kind of person who got nightmares from M. Knight Shamallama’s ‘The Village’. And not for the scenes you think. The scene in that movie that gave me nightmares was near the beginning, when the blind girl goes to hang up her coat in the closet and the village crazy dude is just standing in the closet watching her. Like who even does that? To this day the very idea sends shivers down my spine. I was teased in highschool for screaming bloody murder while watching Scary Movie 3. But its not something that’s completely consistent. For example, I ended up kind of addicted to the tv-show Scream Queens, but I still haven’t dared to read R.L. Stine’s Goosbumps book series, even though I am 28 years old and those books are aimed at 12 year olds. The TV show Supernatural scared me out of watching, but I can happily tell you about how my novel has a creepy killer clown who skins you alive.
I can’t tell you what these inconsistencies mean, but suffice to say, my genre knowledge is low, my ability to exist in the space is small, all in all Horror is a genre I have affairs with, but its not my main boo.
Contrast this with my new novel, a romantic polyamorous erotic chick lit novel. I say Chick Lit because my style is more chicklit and Romance as a genre is much more strictly policed in terms of arcs and themes and ideas. Chick lit is much more about women’s stories. This novel is flowing really nicely, I’ve written over 10k in two weeks, I’m enjoying writing it and its flowing really well.
What does this mean?
Well if I look at my reading habits its pretty clear: I basically only read erotic romance fanfiction. Fanfiction is a femme space (which I will explain in another blog post, but suffice to say its not male or female, but femme, as in creative and artistic and transformative and expressive.) Fanfiction is often women writing for women about what they envision relationships could be. Thats what writing this chick lit novel is to me.
However its excessively personal. Its like carving out a section of my brain and saying “Here, look at my desires, look at my insides, look at what I lust after and hope for and would like to see in the world”. I’m not sure if all romance writers feel this way but for me that’s what romance is. Its taking something so personal and vulnerable and embarrassing and sharing it with the world.
I guess its kind of like sharing your sexual fantasies with a partner, only its the whole scenario and your partner is your readers. I honestly think this is part of why romance is so compelling as a genre and as a theme in writing: we’re all just sharing our hidden fantasies.
I pretty much live in romance, its what I care most about in books and movies, the broken romance between Susan and Caspian in the Prince Caspian film made me cry for half an hour – something my family still won’t let me live down. Romance is where I’m comfortable, its where I care.
Why does this matter to you? Well it doesn’t.
But more importantly, what can YOU learn from my mistakes?
I think I’m basically trying to say that if you are having trouble with your writing, try writing in the genre that you read most often. If you read mostly horror, write horror because its clearly your interest and expertise. If you read mostly for the romance, write some romance. If you read kids books, write books for kids. If you read memoirs, write your own memoir or a biography.
Set yourself up for success by writing what flows from your soul.
Of course, now I feel like I’m going to jinx my success, so maybe don’t listen to me at all.