Writing Tip #5 – What We Write

So this is less a tip and more just something to think about.  This post has come about because of an online discussion that was started with some friends in an online writer’s form known as Nano Writer’s Mecca.  If you are not familiar with the NANO Writing forms I suggest you Google them and join (its free).
I have mentioned before that a good writer writes what he or she knows.  But here is what had us in a frenzied discussion.  How do we know what we know when we are writing what we know and how do we decide if we know it enough to write about it?

Yeah, mouthful.  But it’s a valid question for today’s writers.  How do we know what to write about?  How do we know our genre, know the standards for the genre and when we can “break the rules” for that genre and still be successful?

Old school thought tells us we know our genre because we are avid readers of the stuff.  People who write romance, read romance, people who write thrillers read thrillers and so on.  So we know the fundamentals because someone else laid them out and we followed.  So it begs to question, does this prevent the writers from creating new stories with new plots and new climaxes and new twisted ending for those readers who do not write?  If the standards have been set are they so strict as to restrict us from creating something new and exciting?

I mean think about it?  I use to like both reading and watching the James Bond stories by Ian Fleming.  I mean for the time they were the political, adventure, thrillers and the gadgets were pretty dang cool.  But after a while I stopped because I started to be able to predict the plot, to see the twist before it happened and really know the end before the end.  Reading and watching the same thing over and over is not really entertainment.  And besides, after Sean Connery the sex appeal kind of dropped away.
I think as a reader people are looking for something new, something that hasn’t been really done before, hence the success of JK Rowling and Harry Potter and Twilight fame of Stephenie Meyer.  I mean sure we all know the magic and vampire genres but these two ladies, artists, put a new twist and really shook off some of those “rules”.  Ms Meyer’s vampires are certainly not the embittered, monstrous murdering creature created by Stoker a century ago and yet it was Stoker who set the genre standards and those standards are what people learned before writing their own story.

And to use myself as an example, I write romance, that’s just the genre.  I can sub categorize it five or six times but the genre is romance.  And yes I do on occasion read romance.  I read more when I was younger before I thought about writing it and certainly for the same reasons I stopped liking Bond I stopped liking romance.  It was predictable.  It was the reason I started to write, I wanted to do something new and different with a genre I enjoyed at one time.  But I learned quickly the industry didn’t want “new” they liked their standards.  So I said “Okay” and set aside the idea for a while.  I started reading what I now read most of the time nonfiction history books.  But I still really loved to write romance.  So I did I wrote the historic romance that I as a reader would have enjoyed and when the industry still said NO I said then I will do it some other way.  And of course with the technology age I have found the platform to take that next step.
With so many more inlets and roads available to writers now will genres have to accept changes to their standards?  I think they will.   I know longer think you will have to know what “rules” apply you will be able to paste together your own and define your voice through your writing.  But this doesn’t change the fact you will still have to KNOW what you write.

What will change is how you know it.  It’s more likely you will know what you write from many varying sources.  Not just authors of your genre, but from movie and TV and certainly from the internet and World Wide Web.  You might write an action, thriller that has a sci-fi element.  Or maybe you will write a mystery with a horror element.  The combinations as well as the potential audience you will generate are going to open up for you as long as you have a good voice, solid GMC, developing characters and strong writing abilities.  It’s no longer you have to KNOW mysteries to write mysteries.  You can be a huge fan of sci-fi horror and still generate a great story.  But you will still have to know what you write.

So think about a little, let yourself imagine what kind of story you want to tell and then ask yourself does this story “fit” with eth genre standards or this going to be something that has no perfect match and then decide if you still want to write that story.  It might not fit, you might have to find an alternative way to get it out to an audience but if it’s a good story with good writing you will be successful.