This week it seems like I’ll do almost anything to avoid writing. I have a pending request for a full-manuscript from an agent, large chunks of commitment-free time when I could be writing, and a self-imposed deadline approaching and yet . . . *crickets* . . . nothing. I’m clearing out my office and deep cleaning the house – thinking, but most definitely not writing.
I blame it on short story competitions. As I’ve mentioned before, I have several short stories that I’ve been trying to release into the wild via submissions and competitions (no luck yet, but still working on it). Many publications I’ve targeted have been fairly vague in their guidelines, only specifying that stories must be “fiction,” but several I looked at submitting to in this current round were looking for specific types of short stories. My problem has been deciding where exactly my stories fit. Literary fiction, science fiction, horror, fantasy, romance, I’m really not sure.
I have a story featuring a woman who is slowly poisoning her husband that a beta reviewer said read like a “Stephen King short”, but I wouldn’t consider it a horror story. I have another story with a romantic couple in it. Sort of. But one of them is dead and the whole piece has a kind of surreal feel to it. It doesn’t really fall into the fantasy category, but I don’t know where it does fit. And for those publications that specify no “genre fiction,” what exactly are they looking for?
For the most part, my short stories have all been written with no plan or attention paid to genre or type. They just sort of happened. Some of them started out as class assignments while others just sort of evolved from a stray thought. That’s great, until it comes time to try and find them a home, then it helps to be able to target the right audience. So, that’s what I’ve been pondering this past week, which, it turns out, is not at all conducive to getting any actual writing done.
It’s not only my short stories that have got me pondering what exactly it is that I’m writing and what kind of writer I am – my WIP is raising questions of its own. I love romance novels and have shelves full that I’ve read and frequently re-read, so it seemed only logical that my book would be a romance, which it definitely started out as, but the suspense aspects keep threatening to overshadow the romantic elements. Romance with elements of suspense or suspense with romantic elements are both fine, but I need to decide which of those I’m writing. As we say at work, I just need to pick a lane and stay in it.
So that’s what I’ve been doing this week. Trying to pick a lane. Once I get my WIP back on track maybe I’ll see if I can figure out why so many of my short stories seem to be littered with dead bodies, because that really doesn’t seem to bode well for a “romance” writer.
So, does your writing ever wind up going in a different direction than you initially planned? If so, how do you handle it?