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.

I know.

(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...

Talk soon,



Laura K. Curtis said...

Hi, Nina! ;D

You know me, just out here not writing the popular, not sticking to a genre, giving all the advice I can't take myself... ;D

Penny Watson said...


Yeah. I know you. I have a good feeling about our new paths! *fist pump*

Unknown said...

I'm very excited to meet Nina! Unless royalties are what pays the mortgage, you have a lot of freedom to go on the path that's pulling you.

Katie O'Sullivan said...

Write what you love. Love what you write. Have fun.

Cuz yeah, unless it's paying the mortgage, it should be fun! And fulfilling!

Handy Man, Crafty Woman said...

I hope you figure it out. But I will read anything you write!

Carrie Nichols said...

I love what you write so I hope you love what you're writing. Would love more. :)

Heidenkind said...

That sounds like a pretty empowering midlife crisis :)

Steph from said...

If you write to sell, it is probably like "painting to sell:" The heart goes out of the work.

There are probably authors whose art just happens to match up what the market wants without losing the heart in the art, but that doesn't mean they are better or happier writers. All it means is that whatever they have written happens to be style. And, there may be others who can write with enough heart and to sell. It doesn't mean they are better writers, just that the story they tell is more marketable or they can push a story bursting in them with an alignment to the market.

If you are thinking about this it tells me all you can do is write what you want and work on your craft; you will not be happy with it any other way.

I think everyone can benefit from impartial editing, but even then you pay for it it is purely up to you to take the suggestions.

Julia Barrett said...

You already know my thoughts on this. Write your story. Any other story will ring false. Why do you think you don't read what currently constitutes romance?

Penny Watson said...

Stacey...good point about the royalties. Career management/development for me has more to do with finding readers than finding cash. But it all comes down to the same dilemma.

*she says as she drives the car off the cliff*


Penny Watson said...

Hi Katie! *embracing fun*

Penny Watson said...

HMCW--I lub you, man!

Penny Watson said...

Thank you, Carol!

Tasha...I am confused woman. HEAR ME ROAR! Hee!

Steph...the lucky ones have overlap, I guess.

Penny Watson said...

Julia, I know. You are right. And when you get that "this idea is something special" feeling you need to go with it.

JenM said...

As someone who's been on the "left" side of 50 for a few years now, I can tell you that living your life to please other people becomes more and more unsatisfying as you get older. If you haven't been doing what you really want to do, the regrets really start to eat at you. For many people (myself included) money represents freedom, and that's important enough to us that we choose to take the more lucrative path. However, you are the only person who can decide whether you want to make that trade-off. Anyway, trying to predict the next trend in publishing is virtually impossible, so you may end up in the middle of the next big trend purely by accident if you keep writing what you want to write. :-)

extraordinary ordinary whimsy said...

I love that you think outside the box.

But I get it.

And I'll read your work no matter what.

Because what you bring to your romances is a unique voice that is part keepin' it real and part funny as heck!

So I know you know this but you're gonna rock any path you take.

Part of me (the part that always wants not A or B or C or D but an E option) says why can you have both?

Maybe write a mainstream series that will bring in a larger audience and then go back to the wonderful stuff we all love you for.

I don't know. Just a thought.

Like I said, you're gonna rock whatever path you choose 'cause you keep it real' and keep it real funny and THAT is what makes you you.

Penny Watson said...

JenM--Those are wise words. Thank you!

Penny Watson said...

Hi Juju! That is another good idea. I have a super cute concept for a cozy mystery series, and I'm considering working on that one. It would be more mainstream for me.

Thanks for your support!