Guest post by R. M. Strong
We all have our favorite genres to read and to write. In them, words come easily, character profiles are a cinch, and sometimes we can simply the same universe for everything we write.
My favorites are historical fiction and Young Adult. I love looking into the lives and times of people who lived long ago. The Young Adult genre is easy for me to write because I have been mentoring middle and high schoolers since I was in college. Those two genres are my home and I rarely stray from them.
How, though, do we grow as writers and step out of our comfort zones when they’re so comfy?
Don’t Be Afraid To Experiment
In March of this year, I started mapping out my Camp NaNoWriMo project. I wanted to try something new and different for Camp NaNo; I needed a challenge. The easiest way to challenge myself, I thought, would be to try a brand new genre. Immediately, my thoughts turned to romance.
I rarely read romance. I don’t like it. To me, it’s just fluffy and trite. Since I wanted to try something new, however, I figured romance would be the thing. There was only one problem: My brain, and my muse, revolted.
Keep Your Own Muse Engaged
At the beginning of my Camp NaNo project I had the worst time trying to hook my mind around the story. I don’t read romances, I don’t watch romantic movies, I don’t know how they are supposed to work and the story was not coming. So, I took something I knew and liked—the BBC Sci-Fi series Doctor Who—and incorporated it. Of course, I didn’t incorporate the time travel and the insane amounts of running, but every one of my characters’ names, save my main character, comes from the series. After that small change, the floodgates opened and the words began flowing. It also helped save time when it came to trying to find names for minor characters.
I set my story in Astoria, Oregon, and promised myself that when I finished it, I would treat myself (and my family) to a day at the beach as a reward—and more research to make sure I had my locations correct.
Be Willing to Adjust Your Expectations
At the beginning of Camp NaNo, I had the goal of writing 50,000 words. Unfortunately, the story only took 36,000 to complete. I could have always added more to make the original goal, but I would have simply had to remove them later in editing, so I adjusted my expectations and decided to be content with the story rather than the number of words.
Let Others In On Your Experiment
When I was in the planning stages, I told my writers groups that I was going to try something different in April—something absolutely divergent from my normal genres: A contemporary romance in which no one died. When I wanted to kill someone off, they were quick to encourage me to stick with my goals. When I wanted to give up, scrap it, and go on to something else, my writer friends were the people I turned to for help.
After I was done, I was positive that the story was crap. After all, what did I know about writing romance? I didn’t even like the stuff. So, in order to decide what to do with the story—whether it was even worth polishing—I gave the story to some people who were avid romance readers. To my utter shock, they loved the story. Even people who didn’t read romance liked it.
The end result of my experiment is Patient Love. Most of the time, experimenting in writing will result in that book that will be published posthumously, that you never want to see the light of day, but you keep around just out of nostalgia. Sometimes, however, trying something new can work out better than you ever hoped.
R.M. Strong grew up an hour from the Pacific Ocean, and her favorite childhood memories are the annual beach trips with Grandma and Grandpa. After nearly a decade in Potato Country, she and her family are once again an hour from the shoreline. Patient Love is Mrs. Strong’s fourth book, joining Young Adult novels Karis and Flash and historical fiction What Difference Does Seven Days Make? Patient Love is available now in print and electronically on Amazon and Smashwords.