I just had to accept this challenge. Even being far pregnant, I can’t turn down something like this. So, here I am, eight months pregnant, racking my brain to come up with what to say about writing outside of your comfort zone.
First, I do want to acknowledge my friend and critter Nina Rose who organized this blog chain. She’s a wonderful writer, as are all of the writers who joined the chain. If you haven’t had a chance to check out what they have to say about the Discomfort Zone, I’ve got links at the bottom of this post.
Getting outside ones comfort zone is something I feel is important if you want to be even remotely successful–whether that’s in business, life, or, in our cases, writing. It takes guts to send your hard work out into the world, to be critiqued, criticized, pulled apart, and hopefully published. If you can come through all this and still stand with your head tall and planting one foot in front of the other, moving towards your goals, more power to you. Well done!
With writing, though, it can get pretty easy to get into a funk, especially if you write genre novels like I do. You follow a set pattern that’s generally acceptable to the genre (dead body, red herrings, near-death scene when your hero discovers the bad guy) and push repeat, changing scenarios as needed, but basically write the same story five, ten, fifteen or more times.
How do you get out of that funk though, even if you’re a multiple-published author?
Switch things up.
Change genres. Do something completely out of the ordinary.
For the better part of 15 years, I’ve been writing. For most of those years, I’ve written what most people would consider solid, traditional mysteries.
That is, until about two and a half years ago.
Having grown up on Star Wars movies and Star Trek television shows, my heart has always been in outer-space. I started wanting to write a book with a space setting. But, I had to have characters and plot to do that.
I’ve also been involved in politics for longer than I’ve been writing. I follow issues, politicians, and talk radio. For many years, one of my senators has given updates on human trafficking and ways he’s been working to stop it. All it took was one of those writerly moments and, Bam! I had a plot, characters, setting.
This is where the discomfort zone kicks in. I write what could be called a cozy mystery–maybe some violence, but not a ton. Not a lot of overt sexuality. Other than my occasional use of swear words, I tend to write a fairly clean book.
I found, at least in my first draft, that in order to tell this story, I had to get out of my comfort zone and write scenes that were very uncomfortable for me. I wanted to show what was happening through my victim’s eyes. It was almost impossible to accomplish without being graphic. Very different from what I usually write. There was more than one time that I wrote a scene that nearly turned my stomach.
But I pressed on. It was necessary for the story. While all of these scenes that turned my stomach in the first draft may not last the next round of edits and rewrites (when I can get them done with a toddler and an infant in the house!) I know that by writing these scenes, I’ve pushed my own bounds and, hopefully, made myself that much of a stronger writer.
So, what do you need to do to push your own boundaries? Do you need to take a certain risk in the story you’re writing? I challenge you to take that risk–you never know how it may impact your writing later on.
Until next time,
The following writers either have been or will be participating in the blog chain. Please check out their websites to see their thoughts, join their followers, and generally chime in. Some of the writers you should recognize as part of my ongoing summer substitute teachers. Enjoy!
Ruth Rockafield — July 1
Nina Rose — July 4
Edward Lewis — July 6
Tracy Kraus — July 7
Kat Connolly — July 8
Linda Yezak — July 9
Lynn Mosher — July 10
Nona King — July 11
Victor Travison — July 14
Janalyn Voigt — July 15
Adam Collings — July 17
Chris Solaas — July 27
Suzanne Hartmann — July 30