Monday, March 15, 2010

Trying New Things

If you didn't know, I'm kinda sorta in the middle of writing a YA contemporary book. And by kinda sorta, I mean I WAS, but then I stopped to dig in on Transparent edits.

Now I'm terrified to get back to the WIP.

I always do this to myself! I think, "Oh, I'll try something new, just to stretch myself. Yeah, great idea! I need to grow as a writer." Then I kick myself about a month later when I discover that growing is HARD, and trying a newish genre is HARD, and why do I willingly put myself through this again?

I've done this several times, guys. Take Relax, I'm a Ninja—my first male MC. Or Hammered—my first attempt at YA sci-fi, about an organic girl living in a mostly cybernetic society. And Transparent—my first attempt at present tense, not to mention superhero-ish/alternate present-based-on-alternate-history...thing. This fall I went for my first true fantasy with Spork—my french-twisted steampunk adventure, plus elemental weapons.

Now I'm doing contemporary. Why? If I'm being honest, I was a little bored of the fantastical. I know, gasp. That's what I WRITE! But having experimented so much within contemporary fantasy (hello? dragons, zombies, ninjas, elves, super-powers, angels, wizards, etc.), I needed to see if I could write a book that didn't use fantastical elements.

Answer? I'm not sure if I can, and I really don't like that answer.

This contemporary business is hard and new and sometimes really fun, though maybe not right now. It's different, and I feel like a huge, flopping fish out of water—more than in any of my other writing experiments.

I have an intense admiration for contemporary YA authors, though. You guys are amazing, and you totally don't get the recognition you deserve. So I'm saying it here: YOU GUYS ROCK! And you work really hard to make your stories interesting and real and yet still magical, somehow. I'm jealous, because I suck at it.

But despite the suckage, I have committed to myself that I WILL finish this book. I will learn. I will stretch myself. Because no matter how hard my past stretching has been, good things have come from it. Great things, even.

I have grown as a writer, and allowing myself to try new things, I think, has played a big part in that. This book may never see the light of day, but I love it all the same. You know, when I'm not scared of it.


  1. You are braver than me! I think I'll stick with fantasy. Maybe one day I'll branch out into YA or urban... Then again, maybe not. Good luck with that growing business! ;) I'm sure life will find other ways to stretch me.

  2. Much braver than me too! I think that's why I tend to stick to anything BUT contemporary (historical, some fantasy...). But like you said, it's good to branch out and challenge ourselves as writers. I have an idea for a contemporary romantic suspense but I'm terrified to even think too long about it :P

    Good luck with the new project!

  3. Kudos for trying something new. Whenever you feel a panic attack coming on, remind yourself that no one ever has to see this book. No one. So write whatever you want!

    Whenever I stretch myself as a writer, I always like to include an element of familiarity in the story. So for you, the setting is the stretch, maybe you could include an element of the plot that speaks to your voice. For me, I tend to gravitate towards stories with a core conflict revolving around the relationships between various family members and friends. If it’s not the main conflict, it’s a strong subplot. Not every story I have deals with the MC’s daddy issues, but it’s a common enough thread in my stories that whenever I try something really foreign and scary, I attempt to place something comforting into the story.

    It doesn’t have to be favorite theme, either. It could be a certain personality type, or a job type, or a setting, just something you find yourself fascinated with. It helps the feeling of “OH-MY-GOODNESS-I-have-no-idea-what-I-am-doing!”

    Good luck!

  4. I needed this encouragement right now. I'm letting a cozy mystery (no romance planned) stew right now, and while it's not terribly far from what I write (romantic suspense, police procedural style), I'm psyching myself out with the I-don't-know-what-to-put-in-heres (which is dumb because I've been reading cozies since I was like 12).

    But I am a little confused. Are you really saying (gasp) that ninjas aren't . . . real?

  5. I'm finding myself in almost the exact same situation. I write historical and am now doing something contemporary. It's a big leap of faith but the characters keep leading me and talking me through it so it can't be too bad.

  6. Very brave of you, Natalie. I tend to stick to the YA fantasy/sci-fi arena myself, so I can relate.

    For me, the biggest difference between fantasy/sci-fi and contemporary lies in the plotting. When I read a (good) contemporary, I always have a clear sense of the forward-moving action, but when I try to plot out such stories myself, I always find myself wondering how I'm going to fill up an entire book without explosions, mind-sucking brain implants, and the like.

    We'll have to see if I ever figure it out...

  7. I've had this contemporary YA idea nagging me for months and even though I've made tons of notes and some vague plotting I keep sidestepping it for just the reasons you mentioned. It's SCARY!

    I keep thinking, what can I fill this with that's interesting if there's no sci-fi/fantasy/paranormal something going on?

    I agree that Contemporary is sorely underrated. I've been telling myself that when I finish this round of revisions, I'll give it a try, and I finished my revision yesterday. I have a couple free weeks til I hear back from my CPs. Maybe I'll be brave and finally go for it!

    Good luck with yours! I'm sure it's a thousand times better than you think it is!

  8. It's always good to push the envelope. :) Keep us posted on how you're doing with this new YA contemporary.

  9. Okay, I wanted to say something awesome, because I think it's awesome how much you love writing and push yourself to improve, and also because contemporary YA is awesome. That's a whole lot of awesome, you know?! And I wanted to contribute. But I haven't been this tired in a looooong time. So I'm going to save some awesomeness for my writing (which I will do right after this) so that I can collapse guilt-free into bed. Sorry!

    Just know that you're awesome, okay?

  10. So what kinda book is it?

    Someone who struggles with academics/popularity at school?

    Someone who's supercool?

    Someone who is dealing with family issues?

    Bf/gf issues?

    huh? huh? huh?

    (Im kinda excited, can you tell?)

  11. Man, sorry I didn't get to replying yesterday! I was kind of busy, in a weird way I can't exactly explain.

    Elizabeth, I actually am doing that:) The MC is a techie, and I spent my high school years in backstage theater. That's what makes this project fun.

    Jordan, try the cozy! You can do it:) Also, I didn't mean ninjas weren't real—I just meant I use some elements of the paranormal, which are based on Asian mythology.

    Valerie, exactly! Good luck if you decide to give it a try. It's definitely a challenge!

    Kristan, thanks. I actually really needed that for reasons I can't explain. Feeling a little more awesome now:)

    Claire, I'm not sure how much I want to say about it. Hmm, how about this: It's about a girl who lives for her future, instead of her present.

  12. Yes, but look how AMAZING all those "experiments" turned out -- Ninjas kicked butt (haha), Transparent was incredible, Hammered is one of my faves, and Sporks. Wow, Sporks. They're all awesome! Just trust yourself. Because you rock too :)

  13. You're braver than I. This is one reason that so many of my ideas have yet to make it out of my head and remain unrealized.

  14. Yes, please finish because you have a major fan waiting for more. Please. Give it to me. :) And for the record, you are doing a VERY good job of writing YA contemporary.

  15. I've been trying a contemporary setting for my current work in progress, but its a ya paranormal/horror novel so...yeah...the element of the fantastic is still there. lol. Its good to hear that you're spreading your wings though. The novel, especially novels you're a little on the uncomfortable side of writing, are unparalleled vehicles for self discovery.

    Anyway, I also wanted to let you know that I gave you the Honest Scrap award over at my blog:) Enjoy:)