I’ve written two novels and a novella so far and I am currently working on editing a fourth book. This new book (What it means to be a man) is a little unusual though because it’s a blend of non-fiction essay style Q&A intertwined with a fictional story. The idea came to me because I wanted to write the fictional story but I found that it mirrored my real life (specifically my marriage) so I wanted to stir some real life juice from my relationship into the mix. I’m really excited about it because I love both the real life parts and the fictional parts, but I’m also a little nervous about it because it’s a departure from the norm.
When it comes to publishing there seems to be this idea of writing in your genre, sticking to a single style and building an audience that way, but to tell the truth every time I think about doing that it gives me an existential crisis. Who am I (style wise)? What kind of writer do I want to be? What if an audience would be unwilling to follow me on my journey though the different landscapes of what I want to try?
I started my fifth book (Nil) after I wrote my first draft of the one I’m currently editing (What it means to be a man) and I started out writing it in a pretty traditional way, I had an idea for a fictional story and I wrote it the way I had written the first two books. But halfway through I started to lose steam and then the whole thing started to depress the crap out of me because I hated its guts. So after flailing uselessly and trying to restructure it and being seriously depressed over the whole damn thing I eventually gave myself permission to walk away and a weight lifted.
I went back and focused on What it means to be a man and writing a few short stories and started thinking about diving into my travel memoirs from ten years ago to see if that is something worth pursuing (I even struggled through Eat, Pray, Love to try and see what a popular travel memoir looks like). But then, today, as I was writing some of the non-fiction for What it means to be a man I had a brainstorm. I found a way to fix the dreaded Nil. It will require a lot of research and some serious exploration of the concepts of the book, but it could be really cool. It could be really cool, but what it wouldn’t be is a traditional novel.
Cue the worry about building an audience and marketing etc…
So I bounce into the land of concern over doing the expected and then I think: stop being fettered by what you’re supposed to do! My biggest passion in stories is the intersection of the fantastic into everyday life. And what is more of an intersection then merging non-fiction with fiction? I love the idea of exploring story concepts in real life so why shouldn’t I think that other people might love it too? I love exploring new and unusual formats, styles and genres, so why shouldn’t I? I’m not saying I’m doing something completely crazy or totally unique here, but it’s just that it doesn’t follow the format of a traditional novel (of which I have already written two).
But I don’t want to be tied down to traditional concepts of novels just because I think I’m supposed to. There are plenty of people who have successful careers writing whatever moves them, so why should I be any different? I find the idea of being tied to one format of book very limiting and on the flip side I am intensely excited to think of all the ways I could branch out and approach a story differently!
So if you are ever stuck on a story, or stuck in a rut, why not consider ways you could alter the style, genre or narrative of the story to embrace your passions and find a new direction? Because finding your own way of writing and trying new things is so important and you shouldn’t be limited to what you think you’re supposed to do!