Your Opinions, Please


How do you know what you really want to write about?  How do you know you’re not just caught up in what seems fun and interesting at that moment?  I love fantasy.  I love folklore and mythology and magic and shamanism and all that good stuff.  I love ghost stories.  I wonder, though.  Just because I enjoy reading about these subjects, does that mean they’re also what I really want to write about?

How do I answer that question?  How do I explore my options in a manner that will lead me to an answer that contains authenticity, real gut level conviction?

Back when I started writing fiction my first few sales were horror stories.  My very first sale, “Fallen Idol,” includes something otherworldly and a certain amount of blood and gore.  After a while, I found I couldn’t keep writing horror.  The ideas that were coming to mind were freaking me out.  I suppose that’s a good thing, but I just couldn’t live with those thoughts and images during the writing, rewriting, and editing process.  It’s unfortunate to be good at something you find out you really don’t enjoy doing.  So I lightened up a little and moved into dark fantasy, along with the other subgenres of fantasy I’d been writing.

Now in addition to my short fiction work, I write historical romance.  Why?  I like history.  I like exploring other cultures and other time periods.  I enjoy embodying the political and social forces at work in my chosen time period in the characters of my hero and heroine.  What’s really fun about the Middle Ages is how most of the royal courts were related by blood if not by marriage as well.  In some parts of the world, everybody hated each other and owed each other money.  A little careful reading will yield enough material for at least half a dozen novels.  And yes, of course, in romance novels you have the ever-popular love scene, with fully adjustable levels of explicitness depending on the publisher and the imprint.

I wouldn’t be completely honest if I didn’t admit I got into writing romance because there’s money in it.  The high demand from readers creates a need that writers and publishers are willing to supply.  Unfortunately, this also results in a certain amount of burn-out among romance writers that creates a two-edged opportunity for authors looking to break into the field.

Today writers face so many considerations.  Building the platform.  Creating a following and maintaining it.  The whole “brand” dynamic.  In the midst of all this essential self-promotion, it’s so easy to lose touch with what we really want to write about.  How can I get back to that?  How can I be sure I’m writing with what’s best in me, giving my work the quality that comes from authentic pleasure in my subject matter and a sense of shared adventure with the reader?

I welcome your input.  Dos and Don’ts, how-to titles, links, flavors of tea, whatever works.  Bring it on!

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Filed under fantasy, Fiction, Horror, Writing

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