Thursday, May 7, 2009

Blog Chain - When You're Feeling Less Than Fresh

Quote for the day: There is probably some long-standing "rule" among writers, journalists, and other word-mongers that says: "When you start stealing from your own work you're in trouble." And it may be true. ~Hunter S. Thompson

Time again for the blog chain. Christine posted an excellent answer before me, so be sure to head to her blog if you missed it.

Carolyn hit us with a good one this week:

How do you keep from telling the same story over and over? What are your tips and tricks for finding fresh ideas and adding new twists to your work?

My first reaction....ummm, I don't know :D Second reaction.....*shudders in fear* maybe I don't! Third reaction....calmed down, thought about it, and came up with this.

I just do.

Ha! Well, I guess it's not that simple. To be honest, this isn't something I've run into much yet. I just started "seriously" writing a couple years ago. And though I have been writing my whole life, the only projects I put a lot of work into were my non fiction projects. My fiction was just for fun, for family, and for me.

But I did notice, just the other day, that I had my character in a situation and the words that came out of her mouth were what I would say...not what she would say. And incidentally, they were something my last MC might have said (as she is based in part on me). So I had to stop and think about how Kesi would react...not Min, not me, but Kesi. (Christine had a great discussion on voice of characters in the post before me).

As for not telling the same story over and over...well, so far it hasn't been an issue for me. I like to explore new settings and time periods. Setting one book in 1855 and another in 2009 gives you a ton of room for new ideas.

But even if the particular theme in a book is similar...angst over relationships, romance and the thrill of first love, bad guy trying to kill good guy...I try to explore it in a different way. I give the characters different motivations for what they are doing, give them different reactions to what is going on. In one book, a character might be staring down the barrel of a gun and be terrified and in the next book they might be laughing, knowing they can take the guy down before he fires off a shot. The bad guy holding the gun might be there out of hate and jealousy in one book and out of pain and despair in the other. Either have a similar situation with different characters or similar characters with different situations. When you are talking about human (or non human...gotta love fiction writing!!) emotions...the possibilities are endless!

And, I think this is where genre hopping helps me out. I know a lot of publishers frown on genre hopping - though perhaps not if you use a pen name for the different genres. But for me, switching genres keeps me fresh, keeps me interested. When I was working on TREASURED LIES and I'd start to get burned out, I'd take a break for a week or so and write a couple children's picture books. It was fun, it was something totally different that allowed me to explore a different part of my creativity.

I've found a few times with my new book, if I start to feel burned out, start running out of ideas, I take a break for a day or two and work on a non fiction project. Working on something so completely different allows me to continue working, but I can come back to my fiction project fresh, with new ideas and new perspectives.

My next book will be another change of pace for me. Still YA, still Urban Fantasy, but instead of focusing on the teen angsty dangerous stuff, it will be more of a comedy. Something totally different for me to explore in a genre I am familiar with.

The fabulous Elana is up next, so head to her blog for her thoughts on keeping fresh!


Tess said...

I have a hard time if I try to write too many things at once. For me, writing is a bit like playing a part in theatre and I have to be 'in character' to catch the voice of the MC. If I start flipping around between MC's - I'm certain to flub it up :)

Michelle McLean said...

I completely understand that. I don't ever switch back and forth between fiction novel projects. Fiction and non fiction are totally separated for me...and with non fiction there are no characters to get confused (unless I'm writing a personal essay/memoir type project...but then "I" am the character so it works out okay) :)

With the picture books, they are usually based on my children, so again, I don't really see them as characters. Just recording the funny things my kids do and say :)

I think I would have problems if I tried to switch back and forth between fiction novels - elements of each story would probably start getting mixed up where they don't belong.

But non fiction and kids' books...those are safe zones for me :D

Sandra Ulbrich Almazan said...

Your subtitle makes me think of a deodorant ad. ;) I agree with you in that having characters who react differently in the same situation is an important part of keeping stories fresh.

Kate Karyus Quinn said...

I agree that genre hopping is fun - although I can't hop around mid-project. But I think, especially before you are published, that playing in around in different genres not only let's us stay fresh, but also helps us figure out where our particular voice and style might work most effectively.

Anonymous said...

Great that you use genre hoping as a way to deal with being burnt out. Brilliant!!! (and a very good way to deal with creativity and have fun with new voices!)

Elana Johnson said...

You are so hopperific! Moving from genre to genre must totally help. I'm sort of stuck in a rut and can't get out. Cool post.

I think you hit it when you said, "I just do."

Kathryn Hupp-Harris said...

There are writers out there whose books I love, and I wish they would do a little bit of genre hopping.

Oh well. :-S

Great post!

Mary Lindsey / Marissa Clarke said...

I jump back and forth between genres when I start to get burned out. I'm delighted you are writing a comedy. Nice post.

Carolyn Kaufman | @CMKaufman said...

The quote at the beginning made me quake in terror! ;-)

You make lovely points about different motivations and such. Thank you for your contributions to this chain -- I am learning a lot!

Annie Louden said...

I think genre-hopping is great, and I would be cool with it if more authors did it. But I see how it gets difficult from a marketing standpoint.
And my characters often sound alike. It's a major thing I need to work on.