Cleansing the Palate

Last week, I finished a proposal for a new book, and I sent it off to its prospective editor.

Last week, I picked up my work-in-progress, BITE AFTER BITE, and I wrote a few thousand words in a new chapter.

Those  two sentences were very easy to type, but they don’t begin to capture the true nature of the writing work that I did last week.

The new book proposal is in a sub-genre greatly different from anything I’ve written before.  This sub-genre has a number of rigid conventions, leading to stylistic choices, plot decisions, character development, even the vocabulary used in the text — all different from my typical writing.  I studied those conventions by reading many books in-genre before I undertook my proposal.  I understood them well, and I daresay I captured the sub-genre to a T (if I do say so myself…)

My work-in-progress is in a sub-genre very familiar to me – light urban fantasy (or paranormal chicklit or comic women’s fiction or however we describe the flavor this week.)  Like my proposal, light urban fantasy has its own conventions.  I’m comfortable with the style of writing.  I understand the demands of plot.  I love the characters that I’ve developed, and I know how to use them to further this novel.

But I almost derailed my entire writing process, by jumping directly from Proposal Sub-Genre to Work-in-Progress Sub-Genre.  Repeatedly, I caught myself using writing techniques utterly inappropriate for BITE AFTER BITE.  My characters repeatedly jumped out of their own clearly defined skins and started talking and acting like characters in a totally different written universe.

In a perfect world, I would have taken a few days off between projects.  I would have read something completely different.  I would have delayed writing any new words.

But the freelance novelist’s world is rarely perfect.  I had no choice but to write when I did; I have deadlines to meet, and miles to go before I sleep.

In the end, I took a few extra breaks in my writing day.  I caught up on newspapers.  I even cheated my time management system and played a few games of Tetris.  And now, I’m back in the groove for the work-in-progress (although the battle was not easy!)

Do you shift between genres when you write?  How about when you read?  How do you cue your brain into the transition, to make yourself the most efficient writer or reader that you can be?

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  1. 1. Elias McClellan

    Ms. Klansky, no. Absolutely, un uh. Simply couldn’t imagine doing what you’re doing. One of my cohorts in the writing group is writing 4 novels at this time, all in the same genre, but, no.

    Currently, I’m workshoping my 2nd novel in crime. Can’t wait to start on my next, a supernatural crime novel (is there such?) or maybe it’s urban fantasy, dunno. Bottom line is I’m too narrow of brain and I don’t think I could keep the voices, traits, and little intimacies separate.

    You a bad girl, Ms. Klansky. That’s all I can say; you a bad girl. Respectfully,

    E.

  2. 2. Jaws

    Counsellor, was your ability to dissect the uncited precedents in New Subgenre perhaps helped by too much time in the library (all puns intended)?

    That’s actually a semiserious question; I find myself using legal analysis techniques on guidelines to help clients understand where they’ve, umm, gone astray.

    – CEP

  3. 3. Mindy Klasky

    Elias – Me? Bad? For juggling different projects? In a perfect world, I’d march each one through to completion, but in the real world, I need to layer them, so that I have a new project lined up when I finish the ones under contract!

    Jaws – I credit my legal background with all sorts of bizarre quirkiness about my writing. I’ve never thought about it, in terms of analyzing genres but it applies there (much as we write differently when we’re sending c&d letters, as opposed to writing briefs, as opposed to writing scholarly articles.) Mostly, I credit my legal career with giving me the ability to edit my text, especially taking edits from critique partners and/or editors.

  4. 4. Deborah Blake

    I am dealing with the same issue: my current WIP is in a completely different genre (contemp romance) from what I usually write. And I’ve been reading in the genre to try to get into the right voice.

    But at the same time, I need to sit down and work on the outline for the second book in a previous series.

    It really is tough. I’m much more comfortable focusing on just one area at a time; but as you said, life doesn’t always work out that way! So I’m just muddling through, and trying not to switch from one piece of writing directly into another without a break in between.

    I have a writer friend who works on 7 books at a time–one each day of the week. My head would explode.

  5. 5. Elias McClellan

    Obviously something was lost in translation. No offense was intended. What I intended was a colloquial expression of respect for your skill. I recognize real world constraints as I work for a living while trying to hammer out one book at a time.

    I marvel at the fine example you set.

    Ms. Blake, I know we’re supposed to gleen some inspiration from folks like your friend and my writing group peer. Unfortunately my head would explode as well. Good luck on your transition and selling the current work. Some where amid finishing this one, outlining the next one, and contemplating a 2nd job, I get to pitch to agents and buying editors through a meet and greet my writer’s group is hosting. So I get to see first hand that it’s hard out there for a pimp.

    Respectfully,

    E.

  6. 6. Mindy Klasky

    Deb – I actually find that outlines help – at least, to remind me of what I’m supposed to be writing. (I still have to make all those tonal adjustments, etc…) As for seven different books – I couldn’t do it. The most I’ve worked on in a week has been four – writing one, editing another, copy-editing a third, and sketching in a proposal on a fourth. And that’s nowhere near “normal” for me. (But what is?!?)

    Elias – I’ll take the colloquial expression of respect :-)

Author Information

Mindy Klasky

Mindy Klasky is the author of eleven novels, including WHEN GOOD WISHES GO BAD and HOW NOT TO MAKE A WISH in the As You Wish Series. She also wrote GIRL'S GUIDE TO WITCHCRAFT, SORCERY AND THE SINGLE GIRL, and MAGIC AND THE MODERN GIRL, about a librarian who finds out she's a witch. Mindy also wrote the award-winning, best-selling Glasswrights series and the stand-alone fantasy novel, SEASON OF SACRIFICE. Visit site.

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