Get ready to be pushed a little, y’all.
I am a firm believer that as writers, it’s really easy to settle into the things we are comfortable with. We stick with one type of work: novels, novellas, short stories, or flash fiction. We stay tucked safely into our particular genre, nestled neatly in our particular sub-genre if we can help it. We write the things that we feel we have a natural knack for, because it’s hard enough coming up with ideas and filling the page with words as it is, thank you very much, and there’s no need to go bouncing off into other types of writing.
I beg to differ.
Not that I don’t like writing safe things – and not that it isn’t a serious struggle to fill the page some days!! The other day I not only cleaned the apartment but I folded laundry, exercised, AND did half my homework before I finally got my 1000 words in for the day. It was that slow and painful. So I totally get it. But I also know it’s not the way to go.
If you have a genre and a length that’s write for you, that is fantastic! You should embrace that, but you shouldn’t let it hold you back. You have no idea what you might be capable of until you give it a shot. Your natural inclination IS going to be to stick to the things you know or feel mildly capable in, but for your own sake as a writer, you need to shove past those. No one is saying you have to become excellent, or be published, but you need to try.
In the past two years, I’ve written a YA historical fiction set in WWII, a contemporary novel comprised of short stories strung along a plot line, an NA romantic suspense, two YA fantasy novels, an NA suspense, several romance short stories, most contemporary but a few alternate history, horror, fantasy, and one I can’t identify whatsoever, a handful of flash fictions, and most recently an MG urban fantasy novel.
Most of these are complete garbage. They will never, never travel off of my computer, and I’d delete them altogether if it wasn’t so much fun looking back and laughing at them. But can I trace my progress as a writer through them? Ohhhhhhh yes.
I can see how my dialogue has improved. I see the places where I learned to drop using tags so often and start using action. I notice how my characterization has improved, I note the times where my plot still struggles or I have a terrible time keeping track of names and places. Most of these books and stories scared me when I started, because every time I was walking into a whole new paradigm completely blind and with absolutely no grounds for thinking I was going to succeed in the endeavor. But what an amazing couple of years it has been!
Without these words and experiences, I would never have become the writer I am today. I expect that unless I keep trying things, experimenting, combining, and risking, I won’t become the writer I’m capable of being in the future. Writing, any creative activity really, is all about the risk. What you’re willing to invest in your work. Yes, you might end up with a computer full of very lengthy punch lines, but you also might land on something amazing, and no matter the outcome of each manuscript, you will have built your craft.
What more could you ask for out of thousands and thousands of words?