By Laura Drake
Sorry to have been absent awhile; I was finishing my last book under contract. Now, before I jump into the next one, I’ve vowed to take a break. Not from writing – If I’m breathing, I’m writing. I’m taking a break from writing what I’m committed to. I’m stepping onto the wild side. I haven’t visited there in a long time.
I planned to try something new; maybe a short story, or a novella. Of course I assumed I’d write what I know; bull riding or motorcycles, romance or WF.
But I’ve had this random idea now and again over the past couple of years. I take it out, play with it for a few minutes, then get scared and shove it back in the box, tape it up, and cram it under some old furniture in the attic of my mind.
But now it’s clawed through the box, and is crawling up my leg. It’s a whole different genre, a setting I know nothing about, and a character so damaged, she scares even me! Yikes!
Have you ever done that? Been cruising along in the comfort zone, and all of a sudden, you get beamed down an idea that’s so ‘out there’ you think the Universe sent it to the wrong mailbox? But still, it intrigues me. Besides, the damned thing isn’t going back in the box, so I have to find a way to deal with it.
Maybe you’re starting you first novel. Maybe you’re querying for the first time. Or pitching, or . . .
Everyone gets scared when they try something new. I am so uncomfortable with this idea that I can’t even look at it, except out of the corner of my eye. I need tools to deal with the fear, so I’ve compiled the following. Hopefully, they’ll help you, too:
- Decode the message – Why does this idea intrigue me? There’s a kernel, under all the stuff I don’t know, that has captured my imagination. There’s a moral, or a high concept in there somewhere. Once I know what that is, I can put together a roadmap of where I want to go.
- You do know something – Start with the piece that IS in your comfort zone, and work out from there. What captured my imagination is the character. I know how to write a good, deep character. If I focus on that, it’ll give me a solid base to face the rest — the unknown.
- Play with the Research – Thank God for the internet. It costs you nothing but time, right? So go play. I’m going to look up details– decide what city to set the story in, then dig in and get a feel for those mean streets.
- Give yourself some time – Don’t expect that this will come as fast as your normal writing. My son married a Panamanian, so his kids were raised bilingual from birth. It took them longer to speak – but when they did, they not only spoke two languages, they knew which to speak to each person. Give yourself permission to crawl instead of run.
- No expectations — No one is making you do this; it’s not homework. It’s supposed to be fun. Remember when you were a little kid, and you didn’t know the definition of ‘fail?’ You tried something, and if it didn’t work, you dropped it, and tried something else. Give yourself permission to do that again – keep no scoreboard. If you don’t like it when you’re done – you have a ‘delete’ key – no one ever has to see it.
So, what do you think? Are you ready to walk on the wild side with me? Yeah, I’m scared too. But I’m going to try it anyway!
What are you dying to try that’s outside your comfort zone?
Laura’s debut book, THE SWEET SPOT, has been selected as a Top Pick by Romantic Times Magazine! Here’s the review: “From the cover and title you expect a sweet contemporary western, but this is a sensitive, honest look at a family destroyed by loss, a family that must try to rise from the ashes of their old life and see what they are now — different, certainly, but pieces or a unit? Drake’s characters are so real, and so like us, that you will look at your own life and count your treasures.”
THE SWEET SPOT releases May 28th! It’s available for preorder Here.