Monday, February 22, 2016
Telling A Story
I guess it's time for an update.
If you're expecting a perky update about my latest WIP, you're shit out of luck.
This update is about that festive life event known as the "mid-life crisis." Although, technically, I'm not sure I'm really at the mid-life point. I'm about to turn fifty. I suppose this is payback since I've been making fun of my husband's mid-life crisis for years. (I think his started at quarter-life and continues to this day).
My mid-life crisis doesn't have anything to do with feeling time-challenged. I'm fine with growing older. My mid-life crisis concerns what path to take. Which is quite common for folks in this predicament.
So, what's the problem? Here's the problem. I'm at a fork in the road. It's possible this fork has more than two tines, but let's just pretend there are two for the moment.
I write stuff. And I'm an independent author. That means *I* get to decide what to write. No agent, no editor, no publisher tells me what to do. I make the decisions about my career.
On one side of the road is the path EVERYONE TELLS ME TO TAKE. Also known as "how to sell books, you big dumb-ass" and "market-driven" and "time to grow up, sweet cheeks." On this road we have series. Lots and lots of series. Because this is how romance authors sell books and gain a readership. We have books about popular topics, like NA angsty sports heroes with six-pack abs and tattoos. Interestingly enough, there's not a ton of romance in this romance (from my vantage point, old-school romance reader clinging fiercely to my Julie Garwood books). But the readers love it.
On the other side of the road is the PATH OF CREATIVE FREEDOM. This path has nothing to do with commercial success. You write any topic that interests you. You focus on craft and unique storytelling. It's not super popular at the moment. And it's hard to hook those readers when you keep jumping around different genres.
I know the "right" thing to do in order to sell more books. Write a series, nothing too weird. Jump on the bandwagon of popular topics. Be an aggressive promoter and learn how to game the system. If you think those books just pop up on Amazon with all 4/5 star reviews, hundreds of them, and it's just a natural and spontaneous occurrence, I have a bridge to sell you.
That's not how this works.
That's not how any of this works.
But I have never been market-driven. I've been story-driven. Even if my stories are weird, and blend genres, and push limits. That's how I've done things.
And now, at the ripe old age of almost-fifty, I have to decide if I'm trying to sell books. Or trying to write truly unique stories that might not fit into a tidy little marketable box.
And to add a bit of extra angst into the mix, the romance genre I fell in love with--twenty years ago...yep, I'm old--no longer exists.
What the hell am I going to do with this fork? Bend the tines? Throw it into a fire? Admit defeat and open a flower shop?
I feel like I've been banging my head against the wall for a long time, and I have a big fucking headache.
I've been getting great advice by many smart and wonderful people.
And I have an extremely cool, small, devoted group of readers. Clearly, folks who also like to think outside of the box of the typical romance novel. Folks who appreciate older characters, different types of stories, mixing Yeti into a holiday tale, and are not off-put by the occasional cuss word.
God bless us, everyone!
I have about a dozen books in the queue. A lot of the books are already partially written. Some of them are a sentence of an idea. Just one image that sparked something.
I know the ones I *should* write.
I know the ones that make rational, reasonable sense. That would continue to mold my "brand" and grow a consistent readership.
(You can see where this story is going, right?)
But the one that keeps nagging at me to write it doesn't fit in any tidy box. It's raw and intense and like nothing I have ever done before.
Like a tornado clearing a new path?
I'm not sure if Penny is going to write this one.
I'm pretty sure Nina is going to write this one.
Hi. My real name is Nina, and I'm going through a mofo mid-life crisis.
And so I climb into that Thelma-and-Louise convertible, perched on the edge of the cliff.
Surprisingly, I feel relief. Trying to squeeze into this box has been sort of stressful.
Jumping off the cliff is liberating.
Stay tuned for more...