Thursday, February 22, 2007

A funny thing happened on the way to my empire...

The cool thing about developing your “empire” is this: it forces you to sit down and think, “Do I really want to be writing on this topic for the next five or six years?”

That’s a good question to ask yourself. Many of us newbies flit from genre to genre in search of our “niche.” The thing is, our niche usually ends up being the place we happen to be when we get a sale. Brandilyn Collins talks extensively, in her own special way, about branding. To sum it up, she says don’t hopscotch between genres. Your readers develop expectations as does your publisher, so don’t torque ‘em off (I thought "torque 'em off" was a phrase Brandilyn might use).

Now back to the previous problem. I get the feeling that some us will end up falling into a genre simply because that’s the door that opened up for us. Nothing wrong with that. Somebody wants to pay me real money to write romance, I’ll do it (under a pen name). That will never happen, because I just can’t get excited about romance. Well, you know, the written kind. Please disregard any further insertions of foot in mouth.

But I can get excited about several different genres-mystery, suspense, espionage thrillers, and several others. Now here’s the difference: what am I really passionate about? What gets my mojo running? If I were to look at my web browser history right now, what would most populate the list? Okay, after Dilbert and the Weather Channel. I won’t tell you what that is for me, because I’m still wrestling with it. And, oh yeah, praying about it.

Which brings me back to my empire. Not exactly the same as genre, but there will be some connection. So, I’ve taken a simple concept and confused the heck out of it. But maybe that’s a good thing. Are you settling on an empire because it happens to be what your current WIP is about?

Take a look at that browser history. Where ya been hangin’ out at? Chances are, that’s your empire, the one that will drive you out of a warm bed at 4am to catch up on the latest and, of course, write about.

Remember, this isn’t a race. We’ve been punching these keys for a loooong time. Let’s not rush into something we’ll regret in a few years.

1 comment:

Mark said...

What I sometimes think of as "THE IMPOSSIBLE BALANCE."

How do you balance what you're good at with what appeals to you most to what actually sells and your own creative impulses.

I think one thing writers might do is take a look at their own bookshelves and say, "What books do I reread. Why? What are the most common books on my shelf? Who's my favorite author? Why?"

If you read tons of technothrillers, there's a good chance that's what you should be writing.

If you read tons of PI novels, there's a good chance that's what you should be writing.

I note that my reading tends to shift a bit every 7 or 8 years (7 year itch?). There was a while when I was a big fan of sort of zany caper novels like those written by Carl Hiaasen and Joe Wambaugh (Finnegan's Week) and Ross Thomas.

Then I got into PIs (Sue Grafton, Robert B. Parker et al).

And espionage and...

But when I look hard at what I like most, I like mystery/thrillers with a lot of action, a fairly clear-cut hero with brains but a lot of physicality (think Lucas Davenport from John Sandford's novels or Doc Ford from Randy Wayne White's novels).

Hmmm, that sounds an awful lot like my series character Derek Stillwater.