Since emerging from the cave of anonymity, I have been reading some advice posts/books/articles on how to choose what to write. Recently, I saw the advice to write what one likes to read. It makes perfect sense, but I like to read very nearly everything; that doesn’t narrow it down for me. I adore YA fiction; I also adore fantasy; I adore mysteries, but I think if I tried to write any of those genres, I would be awful at it. Sure, every so often, I’ll think to myself, well, I could write this better than he/she did! But could I really?
An author I admired once told me to write what I know. Hmm. What do I know? I know a lot about medieval literature, history, religious thought and philosophy. All right, then. I’m observant, and describe things well. This isn’t getting any better, is it?
I like finding authors that no one reads anymore, or works by well-known authors that no one reads anymore. It’s analogous to how I absolutely love reading debut novels. I will go to the library to get books from newly-minted authors, because it’s uncharted territory. I find wonderful books by wonderful authors, many of whom I follow for years, long after they are well-established.
I suspect that my inability to find a niche genre is rooted in fear. Fear and perfectionism. What if I can’t write what I want to write; what if I can write it, but it stinks? Better not to try. While in college, I entered a poem in a regional contest. The finalists had to stand one by one on stage while three published poets, comfortably seated, “critiqued” the work. The quotation marks are included because I did not hear one, single, helpful comment for any of the works, not even the one that won. Notice I didn’t say positive; even that early in my pursuits, I knew helpful was not always positive. One of the other finalists was helpful to me, by asking, why did I write a blank verse poem? I replied that I did not know how to rhyme. She suggested that I try to write a sonnet, or some other highly structured form, just for fun. I managed not to goggle at her, thinking that writing a sonnet was not fun. Regrettably, I didn’t try it either.
So which direction do I go? I’m reluctant about what I know, to be totally honest. Shall I jump head-first into a genre I enjoy, and damn the torpedoes? I’d love to know the process that others have gone through, and the decisions made.