To Thine Own Self Be True
Good advice - and apparently, some I haven't been taking. I had an epiphany last night as I geared up for NaNoWriMo. I was reading the book "No Plot, No Problem" by one of the NaNo founders, and there was an exercise in it that requires you to list some things that you think make a great novel, and some things that you hate. Once you've done that, you aren't allowed to let anything in the second list to creep into your nano book.
After I made my lists, I realized why I was having such trouble finishing a couple of my WIPs - I was not only writing outside my comfort zone, I was writing outside my "happy" zone. I'm neither a suspense nor mystery writer, so why have I been trying to write those stories? I rarely even read those types of books; occasionally, yes, but not often. This debate is nothing new; you can find it on most writers' blogs: do you write for yourself, or do you write for the market?
Mind you, I've known for a long time that we should "write what we like to read." But I still got lost along the way, since I'd noticed that most of the books that were selling were action, mystery and suspense; but the truth is, I like comedy.
I like fun, quirky characters. I like magic in books that makes you laugh, not magic that scares you to death. In fact, the story I just sold had magical characters, but they were fun. The suspense was whether the heroine would find the hero in time to make her wish come true -- no demons were chasing her, no one was murdered -- and I had fun writing it. The fact that it was accepted means there must still be some people out there who like reading those stories.
I have a WIP that I've put on hold for several months now, because I was afraid it might be a little too derivative, and that there might not be an audience for it. (You could say the high concept line for that one is "Bridget Jones goes to Hogwarts.") :) However, it's still one of my favorites - I love the characters and miss them. Another favorite is about a birthday fairy - I miss her, too. I think it's time to call them from the bench and put them into play. The vampires and werewolves can stick around, but they're going to have lighten up a bit if they want to play in my game.