I'm wrapping up the final book of an urban fantasy trilogy that is nothing like what I typically write. The characters are a bit harder around the edges, there are angels and demons, things are being chased, heartbeats are always kicking up a notch, and characters are forever brandishing knives and guns and . . .
(Points Finger: Bang! Bang!)
There are authors who dabble in a variety of genres, but, for the rest of us, I think it's easy to fall into the trap of familiarity. We're comfortable, so we stick around. And there's nothing inherently wrong with that—writing a novel is difficult, anyway. Why make it any harder than it already is?
Still, after six or seven (or eight—no idea, I've lost count) contemporary YA manuscripts, this urban fantasy forced me to step outside my comfort zone. It affected my plotting, my pacing, my climaxes. . . . From the moment I typed the first words onto the page it has been one wild ride—mostly a roller coaster of doubt. Am I doing this right? Could I have done this better? Should this really happen?
Trying to piece together a trilogy has been a huge challenge for me—I envy those of you who make it look easy. I've had hits, and misses, and I still haven't quite figured it all out yet, but I know that, at the end of the day, my writing will be better for stepping off that ledge and seeing this project through to completion.
So . . . if you're in a rut, or between projects, or are just looking to spice up your writing routine, try picking a new genre from the proverbial hat: Romance! Mystery! Thriller! Fantasy! Science Fiction! Historical! Post-Apocalyptic Time Travel Space Opera! Either way, write something you wouldn't normally write—a short story, a novella, or even a trilogy—and stick with it, even when it gets hard.
Anything that stretches those boundaries and helps us grow as writers is a good thing. And you never know where it might lead. :)
Katie Klein's YA Contemporary Romance, Cross My Heart, spent more than 140 days on the Amazon Teen Top 100 bestseller list and was a 2011 Goodreads Reader's Choice Awards Finalist for Best YA Fiction. Lately, she's spent most of her time wondering why the heck she ever tried to write an urban fantasy trilogy. If you're supposed to be writing but would rather procrastinate, feel free to follow her on twitter: @katiekleinbooks and/or check out her blog.