I’m not sure where I learned this, but I had it in my head that you write what you read.
That is, if you read a certain genre or enjoy a certain type of story, chances are that’s what you’re going to write in. At first I followed this notion-my favorites stories were set in Middle Earth and Narnia, so when I started writing, fantasy was the genre of choice.
But then time passed and I found myself getting, well…confused.
Because as I was writing my epic fantasy adventure, my characters started to change. My plot began to take shape. No longer were my kings and knights and princesses going on epic quests. No, instead they started falling in love with each other and got involved in drama. Lies, betrayal, a villain who started off as a background character suddenly deciding to manipulate herself to center-stage…yeah, it was a mess. My carefully planned epic fantasy started turning into a romance!
That’s when the genre-confusion first began.
I found myself scratching my head as my story changed genres. How did this happen? I read one romance novel in my entire life (a Christian prairie story I got for Christmas from a friend). Aside from that, I knew nothing of the genre. I didn’t watch soap operas. I never really got into romantic comedies. Even my personal life was void of inspiration for chick-lit gold (no shy girl dating the popular guy here!) And yet somehow, someway, I ended up writing a romance series.
How it happened, I’m not sure, but I can’t help but think fate is laughing that I’m writing in the one genre I swore I could never learn to write in.
But here’s the thing I’ve learned in my genre-confusion. Despite my setbacks, despite my willingness to run the other way and write a story that would make Tolkien proud, I found myself (dare I say it) enjoying my new genre. Sure, I may have entered it with no clue as to what I was doing, but as I continued to write and grow with my characters, I found that switching genres can actually be fun. Writing romance has taught me that experiencing a new genre can be a great learning experience, teaching me how to be a better writer by challenging me and making me step out of my comfort zone. Not only that, but I’ve learned that romance can be so much more than what I thought it could be. I’ve learned so much just by practice, and in the end, I found myself wanting to write more.
It hasn’t stopped there, either. I struggled with poetry in school, and through years of misinterpreting meanings of words and being the only kid in the class who didn’t get it, taking a poetry class and writing my own poems has made me appreciate an art form I (unfortunately) grew up loathing. I’ve learned to enjoy it so much that I’m actually starting to write poems to put in my books! And (slight spoiler here) I’ve been playing with other genres for future storylines, too. Mystery, suspense, action and adventure…there’s no limit to the worlds that can be explored and created through imagination.
But none of this learning, none of this adventure in writing, would have ever began had I not been a genre-confused writer. Sure, it was messy in the beginning when stepping out of my comfort zone. It was scary jumping into the unknown and not knowing how it was going to all turn out. But in the end, I learned more about myself as a writer and what it is I like to write. There’s still some genres I’m still hesitant to try just because I’m not sure I’ll be good at it or not, but that’s the adventure. It’s constantly learning and making yourself grow in your craft. It’s learning your strengths and weaknesses and growing in them. It’s learning who you are and striving for who you want to be.
So in the end, do I write what I read? Apparently not, but I guess that’s just me and my genre-confusion. There are writers out there who know their genre inside and out. They read what they write and they write what they read. Sticking with your preferred genre isn’t a bad thing, and many fantastic writers are made that way. Call me different, though. Why I read and write in different genres is beyond me, but that’s how it ended up.
And frankly, I wouldn’t have it any other way. 🙂