Alternative titles: Why You Should Write Outside Your Comfort Zone or What To Do After You Dump Your Novel
This follows on from yesterday’s post which ended with the following sentence: ‘try not to resurrect it [the dead idea] in your next novel, in fact I’d recommend a completely new and clean document,’. Today I’d like to discuss this.
Firstly, congratulations, you’ve done it! You’ve dumped your novel, or maybe it dumped you, I don’t know, regardless, you’re free! Did you know that?
Now what do you do? Start on a novel that is remarkably similar to your last? Wrong.
After deciding to set aside my last novel and work on something else, my first instinct was to work on another, similar story that, I realise now, was just as lifeless. Whilst this might not be the case for you, there are several benefits to starting completely anew, namely the freedom of using what you have learnt in new exploratory ways.
But what does that mean and why should you care?
Think of it this way; if you start writing a story similar to the one you just finished, perhaps set in the same universe with like-minded characters, you’re probably going to get the same result which, if we’re on the same page, is an unfinished book (and frustration).
Why am I so sure of this?
Because remember how you thought your last novel was a fantastic idea and you clung to that thought for all those years? Yes, well, by returning to similar ideas (or even genres) so soon, you’re dragging your dead horse around with you.
And it’s a completely natural thing to want to do.
What tends to happen, I’ve found, is that the moment you find something you enjoy writing it, whatever the story can be compartmentalised into, becomes ‘your thing’. Other writers (and people in general) reinforce this with questions such as ‘what do you write?’. They’re not asking you what you’re working on, they’re, more often than not, wondering what genre you write in; hint: a valid response is one worded, examples include ‘Fantasy’ or ‘Romance’, try not to overcomplicate things by saying ‘dystopian urban-Fantasy set in the middle ages’.
These things stick.
They can very easily morph into an identity; I used to tell people I write Fantasy and boy has it stuck! So much so, that when I told my sister yesterday that I’m working on a contemporary romance, she said the following: ‘You? Writing contemporary romance? Really?’ But you write Fantasy,’.
It’s not all bad, of course, it’s actually an amazing tool, this way in which we identify as one kind of writer or another; it helps build amazing writing communities online and allows us to find like-minded writers with whom we can discuss our work, but that’s beside the point.
At the end of the day progress requires change.
You have just been given the opportunity to start something completely new, use it! It doesn’t need to be anything serious, you could consider this new project a ‘rebound’, after all you have just come out of a ‘serious relationship’.
Don’t settle for another Fantasy, Comedy, or Science Fiction, go after Romance! (Or some other genre you’ve yet to attempt)
Go and write something outrageous, funny, serious, sexy, boring, or whatever you’re into. Write for yourself. Now’s the time to flex those writing muscles and dive into a new pool! You never know, you might find something you like! And if not, you’ll approach your next ‘serious relationship’ with new experiences and ideas.
Write the story you want to write, not the one you want to read.
Now go forth and write something completely new!
And if you’re stuck and can’t think of any brand new ideas, visit this blog tomorrow and there will be a post waiting for you on creating, curating and thinking of some shiny new ideas!
The lovely image in this post is by Siyan Ren, and if you’re wondering as to the significance of it, your views, your perspective, changes by the second on a Ferris Wheel, as it should when switching between ideas.