One of the things I promised to myself when I began to consider myself a writer was that I would challenge myself to grow and change with every project.
A poet friend once told me that if I wasn't just a little bit uncomfortable with what I was writing, then I wasn't working hard enough. I can honestly say that some of my best work has been created on that bleeding edge.
With each of my 6 completed novels, I have tried to push my comfort zone a little bit further. To stretch myself as a writer. I don't want to be writing the same story in the same way over and over again. It would be boring for me as a writer. I can only imagine it would be boring for a reader.
My last project (Future Tense) was a first person POV story from a male, inner city teen, who has been in foster care since age 6, and who is in a community with people of color. Pretty far removed from my own story and upbringing, as a white, middle class girl, raised in suburbia in a 2 parent household. That members of a crit group who read the opening 3 chapters were convinced that I had a personal connection to my MC's life is strong testimony to the power of research, imagination, and empathy.
(An aside, but the writing advice "write what you know" doesn't mean that you have to write your own life in fictionalized terms. It does mean that you have to know your characters and their lives.)
So what do I do as an encore?
For the past several months, I really had no idea. Granted, I've been more than a bit distracted by real life events and crises, but a few days ago, I started to write again.
And this one is so far out of my comfort zone, I'm not sure how I got here.
The current story pushes entirely out of the YA realm and into erotic/paranormal fantasy. If it is marketable, I will have to sell it under a pen name, particularly since I want to write for the YA market. That last thing I want is to confuse potential readers, especially since the emotional/appropriateness gulf between what I consider my YA titles and the new story is huge.
And yet, the characters call to me in that familiar way that tells me this one is a keeper.
Despite my own discomfort, not with writing explicit scenes, but at the thought of anyone reading them (!), I will write this story. Another of the promises I made to myself was to finish what I started.
We're at >4,000 words of story, another 2K of background and outline. So far, so good.