What Wouldn't You Write?

Now THIS is a self- help title to reckon with....

October writing goals.

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Paul Whybrow

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Jun 20, 2015
Cornwall, UK
My chosen writing genre is Crime fiction. It's the second most popular genre, after Romance/Erotica, so seemed to be a sensible choice for me as an unknown writer. I've read a lot of crime novels and true crime stories, so knew what I wanted to do with my novels.

I originally intended to write a novel that would be highfalutin Literature, but then read that Literature is the hardest style of book to sell, so I migrated to genre writing. It's easier to be taken seriously with your heavyweight manuscript if you've already infiltrated the literary establishment by attending conferences, writing courses and winning a short story competition or two.

Apart from my crime novels, I've also written short stories and novellas, poetry and song lyrics. I'm halfway through a series of four novellas about an American Civil War veteran. Writing Historical fiction needs even more research than my contemporary crime stories, which has made me wary of doing more. Mind you, I well understand why crime novelists set their stories in olden days, where the most advanced technology is a magnifying glass, as it avoids the complicated nightmare of CCTV, Social Media, smartphones, surveillance by governments, computers etc.

I'm similarly wary of writing Science Fiction, as it strains my scientific knowledge. I wrote one novella which was set on Mars, and in the three months it took to complete, the Mars Exploration Rover kept on making discoveries forcing me to amend my plot. But, I was pleased in a cosmic way, when a fictional detail about dust devils I'd put in proved to be true!



Fantasy fiction intimidates me, probably for the very reasons that those of you who write it love it. That is the building of worlds, with all the complexity involved. I have trouble enough understanding the world I'm on, to want to construct a different one.

I've just introduced romance to my Cornish Detective series, which will be a challenge to integrate into the sixth story. I'm looking forward to it, as my protagonist's new love interest is as much a thorn as a rose, with a shady past that he doesn't know about.

All the same, I can't imagine myself writing a conventional Romance, the sort of thing that @Carol Rose does so well. Nor would I tackle Erotica, though each of my crime novels includes an unusual sexual incident (I'm trying to get a bad reputation! ;)). I'm not prudish about sex, but it's a crowded market.

I've had a few ghostly experiences, which I incorporated into a novella, but writing at length about a friendly or hostile ghost doesn't appeal. I'm more scared of terrors in real life, so have never been intimidated by Horror stories. That's not to say I wouldn't write one, as it's a real challenge to create a mood that ratchets up the tension, before throwing the reader into a situation where they're afraid to turn the next page.

I'd never write Religious/Inspirational fiction, though I hope that readers find the occasional uplifting and thought-provoking passage in my crime stories. With religion, I cleave to what the Dalai Lama said:

my-religion-is-very-simple-my-religion-is-kindness-~dalai-26848588.png


I've written about sixty poems for children, aged 5-10, which I enjoyed doing and that my young readers liked. I may pen a story but am intimidated by the craft of writing for young readers. The simpler a story becomes the more complicated the repercussions; it would be a great responsibility for me to communicate messages about life to children.

Writing funny fiction that would be classified in the Humour genre is more appealing. I prefer situational humour to slapstick on the page. I'm currently reading Patrick de Witt's French Exit which has brought a wry smile to my face, with its absurdist and rather dark plot. Humour is so subjective, but I'd like to have a go at amusing readers.

There can be resistance from readers loyal to what you normally write, should you attempt to shift genres, which is when pen names emerge. We discussed being trapped by genre a few months ago, but some successful authors hop around between genres:

J.K. Rowling, Stephen King, & 11 Others Who Have Mastered More Than One Genre

There's only so much time to write, so it's wise to play to one's strengths.

Writing is a brilliant way of getting to know yourself, finding out what you really believe. It's pieces of you that you're putting down on the page. :eek:

What wouldn't you write?

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Fantasy fiction intimidates me, probably for the very reasons that those of you who write it love it. That is the building of worlds, with all the complexity involved. I have trouble enough understanding the world I'm on, to want to construct a different one.
Yes, quite! But I think worldbuilding is only one of the attractions. I write fantasy for the sense of wonder. That's the crux of it. Fantasy fiction also gives an author space to write about issues-that-matter-to-them without inciting a riot. Tolkien wrote about a group of super-humans called the Númenóreans, from whom The Lord of the Rings' character Aragorn was descended. The kings of these people could be killed, but they didn't die of disease or old age. Rather they simply reached a point where they felt their life's work was done, and then layed themselves down and died, when they chose. Now, I don't know if Tolkien was explicitly writing here about euthanasia, but I've always thought he might have been. And he identified as Catholic. And he was writing between the Wars. He gave himself space to write about things that he might not have wanted to tackle in a more realist work (perhaps; I speculate).

What wouldn't you write?
Funnily enough it's your genre. I don't think I could live with the darkness of crime fiction for the time it takes to write a whole novel. Reading it's one thing, but I don't think I could write it.
 
'Mind you, I well understand why crime novelists set their stories in olden days, where the most advanced technology is a magnifying glass, as it avoids the complicated nightmare of CCTV, Social Media, smartphones, surveillance by governments, computers etc.'
Yes, I was thinking today about a ghost story idea, and wondered if I should set it before the era of mobile phones. And then I wondered if apart from super contemporary fiction, people might be tempted to set all their fiction in that pre technological past for the same reason. But maybe writers used to baulk at phones and TV back in the day.
 
I have no real interest in writing genre fiction. My current book is my first foray into any form of narrative nonfiction (memoir). Prior to this, nearly all of my writing has been dry theoretical nonfiction. I did write one semi-science-fiction kind of thingie back when I was in my 20s, as an attempt to make a point by illustrating it via characters, their personalities, and how they behave within the book, but it felt heavy-handed and polemical and I abandoned it as a trunk novel almost immediately. My memoir is ALSO an attempt to illustrate a theoretical point, but I think it scores far higher on the "entertaining and fun to read" meter and doesn't beat the reader over the head mercilessly with a single blunt point.
 
I wouldn't write what
a) I felt couldn't write, as it was beyond my skills and
b) what I wouldn't want to have in my head space for X number of years. What might that be? Something unrelievedly sad, no glimmer of light.
Like Masai Dreaming. Tremendously good novel. I read it and admired it and doubt I could attempt such a story, but even if I could, I wouldn't want to take myself there. It haunts me quite enough as it is.
 
I've learned never to say 'never' (I swore I'd never be married, have kids, or keep goats ... I have all three). That said, I have a hard time imagining I'd ever be able to pull off romance or serious dystopian stuff (I tried a short story once, and it left me quivering in a puddle before I'd gotten to the worst part--too good an imagination in that department I think).
 
I wouldn't write what
a) I felt couldn't write, as it was beyond my skills and
b) what I wouldn't want to have in my head space for X number of years. What might that be? Something unrelievedly sad, no glimmer of light.
Like Masai Dreaming. Tremendously good novel. I read it and admired it and doubt I could attempt such a story, but even if I could, I wouldn't want to take myself there. It haunts me quite enough as it is.

Justin Cartwright is one of my favourite novelists, someone who should be more highly regarded, for he tells engrossing stories without being showy. I thought to write a family tale when I returned to creative writing in 2013, along the lines of his The Promise of Happiness, but realised that genre writing was easier (hah!) to place. At least I've retained the Cornish settings of much of Cartwright's work.
 
I'm not sure there is anything I wouldn't write. There are a number of genre I don't feel I could write well enough and would therefore rather leave alone such as romance, chick-lit, childrens books. And others such as historical fiction or war novels where I really don't have the time to do the necessary research, well at the moment anyway.
But aside from those I have tried my hand at wide range of topics including sci-fi, crime, horror, thriller and just general fiction. Some have gone better than others but I like to try new ideas out.
I guess I'm still looking to see which genre suits me best.
I also experiment with different POV styles in different books. I've even written a fair chunk of a novel in 2nd person, mainly to see if it worked. (It did, very well actually, but my plot for that one fizzled out.)
 
I don't like to say never either, but if I had to pick one, it would be crime. Mainly because it requires so much forward planning! But I agree with @Carol Rose, anything that my muse doesn't scream about is a challenge.
 
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Now THIS is a self- help title to reckon with....

October writing goals.

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