Thursday, March 20, 2008

Writing outside the box

Good grief, I started this blog three different times, writing about three different subjects, and I just couldn't get into any of them. Aargh! I'm uninspired today. Then I started thinking about genres and how they're progressively changing, and I have strong opinions about this. Well, there you go. That's my topic for today's blog.

My name is Karen and I'm a genre bender. That's right, I admit it. I braid genres like a sailor braids knots in a rope. I twist adventure with mythology and thread romance through it while coloring the strands with paranormal elements ranging from the traditional to the totally made-up. I'm a crooked storyteller and proud of it.

I can't write a straight anything. I've tried. I get bored. I like to mix it up and I love reading other books that mix it up. I'm very excited to see more and more genre benders on the shelves and I feel this trend of multiple genre bending is on the rise, but it's a tough sell to agents and publishers who are afraid to take risks.

I think it's funny how so many of the small presses have taken on genre-benders when the big mass market publishers turned them away. If it's new, the big guys look at it askance, then wait and watch to see how the little guys do with it. When the new genre blend becomes popular, the big guys swoop in and make a killing. I just wish the smaller publishers could reap more reward than they do for taking the risk in the first place.

I'm thinking about all this genre stuff as I go through the sloooow and laborious process of finding an agent to champion my genre-bending book. Who will dare to take on something different? I mean, if any agent was to ask me what my book was similar to, all I could do is blink. My novel's not similar to anything else I've read. So does that mean it's the red-headed bastard step child of fiction? Or is it the proverbial diamond in the rough. For my sake, I hope it's the latter.

It's good to be fresh and original, and to write outside the box as long as you can still tell what the box is. I'm not exactly sure I've accomplished this, but I've sure tried. And I love the result. Question is, will an agent love it, too? How about you? What is it about your writing that makes your story unique?


Paty Jager said...

LOL- That's my problem- Agents like/love my stuff when they read it, but it isn't unique enough. Then I went for the Native American with paranormal elements and Native American stories aren't the in thing. Sheesh!

The book that won the EPPIE had nothing unique or unusual. It was just a book with good characters. Yet, I could sell it to a large press because it wasn't unique. However as one agent told me, "readers are going to love you".

Intersting subject.

Paty Jager said...

That's "Yet, I couldn't sell..."

Sorry typo!

Alice Sharpe said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Alice Sharpe said...

Karen -- I deleted my comment. Of course, then I realized it had already gone to the email of everybody signed up, so what's the point? Anyway, I don't think I stayed within the spirit of your bog, so I cut the sucker loose.

What I want to say is good for you! You have to write what you feel inside. Maybe someone knows how to be a hack and write things that sell easily (sure...) and doesn't make them happy, but I'd hate to be that person, and I imagine sooner or later it would get really, really old.

And nope, I don't push genres and make knots, etc... but I do find a way within every book to amuse or interest myself.

Fun blog, love your images.

Karen Duvall said...

Paty, it is a revolving door, isn't it? So subjective. But I guess that's a good thing, too.

Karen Duvall said...

Ha, ha, Alice. I did read your first post. 8^) And I figured you were just thinking out loud. I hope you didn't think I was putting down straight genre writing, because I'm not. I'd love to be able to write a straight genre book, but unfortunately, I'm not wired that. My cross to bear.

I enjoy reading category romance, and romantic suspense, and I envy your job as a working writer in this genre. I'd love to be able to do what you do. I also love to read sociological science fiction, but I can't write it. We write what we're good at writing, pure and simple. Or not so simple? Let's face it, writing a good story isn't simple at all.

Genene said...

Karen, I think it's awesome that you genre bend!

I also admire someone who can nail a particular line's tone time and time again. (Like Alice does.) I end up mutating my stories into something that's different enough to not quite fit a particular line, but not totally unique.

So I'm particularly grateful for smaller publishers who offer a wide range of books.

Danita Cahill said...

Yep, Karen. I'm a bender too. My latest book I call Paranormal Romantic Suspense, but it also has traces of the horror genre, women's fiction and chick lit. So far, no takers, in fact I got an R today. But there are many more fish out there swimming in the sea. I'm just hoping for that one "yes".

I think you and Alice are right -- we have to write what we write. I've thought about trying to write straight genre stuff, but like you, Karen, it's just not me.