Elizabeth: Writer Identity Crisis

identitycrisisThis 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?

8 thoughts on “Elizabeth: Writer Identity Crisis

  1. My stories pretty much ALWAYS wind up going somewhere I didn’t expect. Demon’s Don’t was supposed to be this really serious story about a woman who has lost everything and is beset by a demon intent on her destruction. What I wound up with is this bizarro inspirational paranormal romantic black comedy with a fair amount of slapstick in it. I think you need to write what your heart/gut tells you and then submit the result everywhere it at all fits. So if the word “horror” is in the rules, submit your Stephen King-ish story there. If they like it enough, they’ll widen the net to include it. Or maybe they won’t, but you need to write what you need to write.

    My two cents.

    • Jeanne – glad to hear I’m not the only one who winds up with stories that seem to have a mind of their own. The evolution of your book sounds great. Can wait to read the final result.

      • Yes, yes, yes to what Jeanne said! If it’s cross-genre, that just means you have more places to submit it. If you are getting comments back, it means it’s pretty darn good. They do bend the rules.

        My beloved Bujold’s first novel was a cross-cultural romance that happened to be set in a sci-fi and military setting. Bujold goes through a lot of genres, and she blends them together extremely well. It just so happened that a military sci-fi publishing company saw her stuff and bent the rules for her. “Eh, it’s a military sci-fi adventure with LOTS of strong romance.” Potayto, potahto.

        (-: At least, since I write cross-genre stuff, too, that’s what I hope goes on. “Oh, OK. It’s a paranormal romance.” “No, it’s mine! It’s obviously an urban fantasy with loads of romance attached.” We can all hope for publishing wars!

  2. Uh, me too. I don’t think I have a big story without AT LEAST one dead body. I like too much variety also. I think I’m going to have some problems getting things sorted to the right spot also, or maybe it will open up additional spots!

    PS You may want to check out themysteryplace.com, the home of Alfred Hitchcock’s and Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazines… they might suit your story. I just picked up an Ellery Queen mag the other day and am looking there myself for a couple of stories. 😀

    • Penny – you have dead bodies too? Oh good, glad it’s not just me 🙂 Thanks for themysterplace.com recommendation. I’ll definitely check them out.

      • No dead bodies for me, and I’m pretty sure there never will be, but I enjoy reading other people’s 🙂

        I’m with the other gals. Write what you’ve gotta write, and figure the rest out later.

  3. I once pitched an idea to an editor and she told me to write it, and then when I wrote it, it came out so different that she didn’t recognize the story line at all when I sent it to her. And she didn’t like it, but…well, a girl’s gotta write what a girl’s gotta write! I think you should submit everything everywhere. What have you got to lose? You never know what will grab an editor’s attention. I agree with Penny about checking out The Mystery Place. The writing in those magazines is terrific, and of a wider variety than you’d initially think.

    • You’re right Kay, I just need to submit with a wide net. It will either be a hit or a miss, but I won’t know until I submit. As Penny said above, maybe new/different categories will open up as well.

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