Time for a New Year’s Change

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If your present methods of work are producing you a stream of stories that are finding homes and an audience — as they say, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

But if there’s something that isn’t working for you, it’s time for a change.

This includes sheer boredom. If you want tedium, you can find plenty of wearisome ways to spend your time that are much easier work than writing fiction and marketing it, and probably bring in more money or status to boot. (Say, dumpster diving for items to sell on eBay. Game stores and upscale neighborhoods with designer label trash seem to rule YouTube dumpster vids.)

You could be feeling like, yeah, you totally have your genre sussed and can whip out a finished novel in three months that your fans will pounce on — and that may be the problem. I always thought the beauty of writing as an art is that, if you aren’t being formulaic, you never truly master it, and that’s good. Maybe you need to look at your work and pin down your dissatisfaction.

Maybe you got into this genre because you thought it would be easy to sell, and it was, but it’s not where your real heart and interest lies. If you’ve got the writing down solid, it could be time to finally go to where you wanted to be after you got a rep. Maybe your present comfort zone is the place you used to be, but after six Westerns, six serial-killer thrillers, six contemporary romances set in your home town, six whatever — you’ve worn it out. Some people can write fifty of the things, but apparently that’s not you. You need to move away. That could be a little — romance writer to suspense romance or historical romance — or a lot, and historical mysteries in the Median Empire are what you crave, or hard science fiction exploration of the solar system.

Maybe your system of writing isn’t quite working for you, or it isn’t working well any more. I promote the three axes of the writing brain — plotter vs. pantser, railroader vs. grasshopper, crafter vs. blitzer — but I never said they were hardwired. After being a pantser, you may find yourself sliding toward more and more pre-work — OMG, turning into a plotter! It’s okay. It’s not your identity: it’s just a method of production. The railroader may need to skip a few subplot scenes that haven’t jelled to follow the main plot that’s so clear to them. The blitzer, especially in revision, needs to buckle down to getting the scenes polished, while the crafter may need to leave more to revision and not spend all morning putting in a comma to spend all afternoon taking it out.

I know, you’re a little terrified of changing your axis and losing a really good project as a result because the change doesn’t work. Come up with some moderately intriguing idea just for the purpose of being different and let it take its chances. Doing that with a heroic fantasy short story, I found out that, yeah, plotting on paper kills the story for me, still. I feel sorry for the setting and characters, well written in a few good scenes, but stuck forever in limbo now. But it wasn’t a big loss.

Me, I’m looking at some possible major kicks in the butt for 2015.

• Going back to school. No, not some college. Strictly online, strictly writing courses. It might be worth a few benjamins just to shake up the old brain. The hard part is to truly open up to what’s new and will probably often seem “wrong.” Really, the worst part is dragging through the beginner stuff again. I know not to open with the character waking up and getting ready for the day, already. I know the difference between Show and Tell. That sort of stuff. It’s boring, already yet.
• Self-publishing. Really, when I consider the amount of formatting to get something ready for the publisher, it’s not much more prep. As for promotion — if you hadn’t caught on yet, if they aren’t advancing you at least $10,000.00, you’re going to be hustling all on your own anyway, kiddo.
• Moving into a semi-gaming format. Otome games and RenPy’ have taken my interest. Graphics, you say? It might do me a world of good to get another drawing table and unbury the art equipment. Maybe set up to airbrush out on the lanai.

So, are you happy with what you’re doing, or fighting back a nagging sense of dissatisfaction? What can you do, that you control, to change it up?

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