Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Stepping Out of the Box

Today my guest is author Joan Maze. Please welcome her to Terry's Place. She's going to explain why she can't seem to fit her writing into a single genre.

I’d like to thank Terry for the opportunity to appear on her blog. She has had quite a variety of interesting guests, and I feel honored to be among them. Today I will talk about breaking out of the box, spreading your wings.

On Monday, March 22, I talked to a middle school, 6th grade class about my first published novel, Murder By Mistake which, though it is a mystery, is actually my first departure from my original “straight mystery” genre. I am now, however, back to working on what I’d call a straight mystery again, though it is also a thriller. Suffice it to say it seems to be no longer possible for me to write something that fits in only one genre.

Have you ever wanted to do something different, perhaps take a big chance – do or die?

Well, I’m not talking about sky diving, climbing Mount Everest or anything else death-defying. I’m referring to writing in a genre that you’ve never tried before. It isn’t life threatening, but it can have a giant effect on your writing career.

There are definitely pros and cons. I’ve heard both the negative and positive. “Stick to one genre, become familiar with it, strive to be an expert.”

Or, “Spread your wings, stretch yourself.”

What should you do?

It seems there’s a saying and its reverse for everything you can think of. For example, “Absence makes the heart grow fonder,” and “Out of sight, out of mind.”

Having said that, I will concentrate mainly on the positive angle.

Okay, let’s say you’re a writer of historical romance and you’ve achieved success for those. Then you get an idea for a contemporary romantic suspense, and you simply cannot let it go. You believe this genre will allow you to call on and use your unique sense of humor, along with your love of figuring things out.

But, if your next book is a romantic suspense, will you lose your historical romance readers?

Now what?

One of the solutions could be to write the romantic suspense under a different name. This way, you could very well gain an entirely new readership, perhaps doubling what you had before, especially if you continue to do historical romances. This may require more hours at the keyboard, but hey, sleep is overrated, isn’t it? No, of course not. This is where you, hopefully, take up organizing. (I’ve been working at this for years.)

What if you’ve made the decision to branch out, but have no idea what to write about? Well, how about an area you’ve never paid much attention to, or even been interested in? Sounds crazy, right?

As an example, perhaps you’re like me, so bad at sports they made you the scorekeeper in high school gym classes. Not good, but on a whim you go with a friend to a bowling alley and discover you not only like it, but the manager invites you to join a team – even though you set the record for the lowest score ever. (That actually happened to me once and they even broadcast my score over the loud speaker.) What if one of the members is a police detective and you hear a snippet of a case that triggers a host of ideas?

Naturally, that might require research and perhaps classes, but could result in a book you had no idea you could write. Maybe even a historical mystery.

The question of whether or not to branch out is one only you can answer. However, if you choose to spread your wings, there may be some unexpected benefits. Elements of both genres could enrich each other, making for a book surprising in what it attains.

For my part, I started out as strictly a mystery writer, added romantic suspense, then thriller, and now am working on a time travel thriller with paranormal, mystery and romance all rolled up into one. A daunting task, and I’m a long way from finishing it. Then there’s the time-travel historical set in Scotland, inspired by a surprising bit of information about my heritage.

The jury is still out on whether or not I’ve made the right choice. But there’s one inescapable fact. I’m having a lot of fun.

Have any of you ever had the urge to try something different? It’s not rocket science, but it could blast you right out of your comfortable seat and send you to new heights.

To learn more about Joan and her writing, visit her website


Elizabeth Spann Craig/Riley Adams said...

I've definitely had the urge to try something different, but not for crossing over...yet. Right now, I want to play it safe for a few more books, then maybe I'll see! It's really early in my career, but I completely agree with your point.

Mystery Writing is Murder

Terry Odell said...

Elizabeth, I keep wondering if I should try crossing over while my other two projects are in limbo.

Debra St. John said...

Great post. Very inspirational...I am a contemporary romance author, but have always wanted to write a historical set during The Civil War. One of these days I'm going to branch out and take the risk!

J K Maze said...

For me, taking the risk was scary, but overshadowed by the fact that I absolutely had to do it. Then I found it fun and rewarding, especially when taking classes to help with the venture. I just wish, when doing historical, I could really go back in time. It's probably good I couldn't. As klutsy as I am, I'd probably make the wrong turn and end up back in the Flintstone era.


Watery Tart said...

I would think that a SIMILAR genre ought to be okay... I mean I know the publishers want to build on your reputation and branding on SAME genre, but if you establish that, then adding a twist seems like fair game.

I'm currently trying a new (but related) genre, but will be under a pen name, should it work. I am thinking though, that it will help me grow in writing my other stuff.

J K Maze said...

I agree about writing something different under a pen name. If my current WIP is ever accepted (should I say when) it will be under a pen name. To my way of thinking, that's necessary.


Petrina said...

Great post, Joan! Thanks for sharing.


Kathy said...

Hi Joan,
I have hopped all ove the place with my writing. I have tried paranormal which is fascinating, historical which won a contest. Now I'm trying a contemporary setting. But every one of these has an element of romantic suspense. I don't read just straight romance-throw in a mystery, event some intrigue to make it interesting. As a new witing person it's hard to follow the rule to write what you read, when I read all over the placee. I mainly read what is termed Single Titles. Maybe things will change from each book having to be inserted into one particular category someday.

Rebecca Zanetti said...

Hey - great post, Joan! I've written in different genres and just sold a paranormal romance. I'd like to sell my contemporary romance series next, and am just not sure about using a different name. I'd like to think readers are sophisticated enough to know that writers like to explore a bit. Though, if I sold a YA, I'd definitely use a pen name, just because my paranormal is a bit spicy... Thanks for the food for thought here! :)

J K Maze said...

Thanks to Rebecca, Kathy and Petrina. Doing this changes a scay venture (romoting) into soething fun, which I hadn't expected. I really don't know why I'm so into venturing outside the box because I'm not like that otherwise. Maybe I'm a frustrated adventurer. I do realize, though, that if I write something too different frm Murder By Mstake or Framed In Fear that I'll probably have to use a different name. I've picked up books by authors I was familiar with and discovered they were different and, in some cases, not particularly to my liking. As with anything else, there's pros and cons. I tend to look at the positive side, or he pros. Of course, I've been accused of not being realistic a time or two.


Tonya Kappes said...

I did take a big out of the box leap when I dropped everything I know and became a writer:)

J K Maze said...

Now that takes courage. Kudos to you. I didn't drop anything. I just added writing and jammed up my schedule.


Donnell said...

Joan, you mentioned something important. You're having a lot of fun! Life's too short to write something simply because that's where your peg landed. Your excitement shines through. Keep going and all best.

J K Maze said...


I agree. I know too many people who concentrate on the negative, the bad, etc., and while I don't shove those things under the rug, I prefer to set my sights on the positive. If I don't, I might miss something. Why else would I stay up half the night? Just kidding.


Terry Odell said...

Thanks to Joan for handling things here at Terry's Place. We had a busy day. I'll update tomorrow.

Jemi Fraser said...

Really good post :) I'm not that far along the curve yet - I'm still revising - but I've tried 2 (3 if we talk about that ms we never talk about) genres so far. You don't know what's going to work until you try it!

J K Maze said...

So true. I can't tell you how many partials I've thrown out. But one of them, which actually wasn't a partial, had the distinction of providing a good part to another mss, one that is working. I might even go back and rewrite the first one. Both, however, were clearly romantic suspense with no paranormal or anything else added. One thing I realized this past week is that things change sometimes when you least expect it. Someone asked me if I would be writing another book with the characters from Framed In Fear. I hadn't planned to. As soon as I responded to the comment with that statement, I thought of a second book to write. Not a true series, but different characters but related.

Sometimes it is simply time that eventually makes something work that didn't at first.


AuthorIsland.com said...

Life is full of chances and you never know where one single decision will take you.

Good for you Joan - keep it up and never be afraid to take a chance!