What Chasing Squirrels Taught Me About Genre

13 Dec

I’ve heard other writers say that getting started is the hardest part. Not for me. It’s the middle and ending that are elusive. New story lines are to me what a squirrel is to a dog. Not only am I easily distracted and constantly chasing new ideas but I also engage in some serious genre jumping.

The first story beginning that I shared with my critique group could best be classified as a young-adult paranormal dystopian mystery romance. Did I lose you? Let’s call it a yaparadysmystro to make things easier. No? I quickly learned that each genre had specific guidelines that drove them and that it would probably be best if I chose one to focus on. It wasn’t long before my critique partners forbade me from showing them any new beginnings (and rightly so I might add). Thus, I began working diligently on my more genre-focused paranormal romance. About three quarters of the way through the rough draft I ran into a rather large problem. I like to refer to it as “the great computer crash of 2012.” Despite having an external hard drive for backup, as of this moment, I still have not been able to retrieve my work from the writing program I had been using.

After a few days of self-pity and a lot of chocolate, I decided to ditch the paranormal and start working on a contemporary romance story that I had been mulling over for a while. I was surprised to find the writing process so much more enjoyable this time. It was a relief to be free of the complexities involved in the type of worldbuilding that requires you to redefine universal laws. There was no more pondering whether vampires danced in the sun, shriveled up like a raisin or even sparkled because vampires didn’t exist! It turned out to be just what my overloaded newbie brain needed. Don’t get me wrong. It’s still incredibly hard work. It’s just that it feels like a better fit for me right now. I guess you could say that I’m not feeling as prone to chasing squirrels at the moment.

I’m curious to know what other writer’s experiences have been with genre. Were you always drawn to one? Or did you try out several before finding your niche?


Posted by on December 13, 2012 in Idaho, romance


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13 responses to “What Chasing Squirrels Taught Me About Genre

  1. Janis McCurry

    December 13, 2012 at 7:17 AM

    Oh my, what you have unleashed with your question! My first love for reading came from historicals. My first book (still unfinished) is a historical in 1600’s Ireland about an abandoned infant who grows up not fitting in. She’s the result of a forbidden love between a druid and another priestess. I researched extensively every facet of the time. Location, weather, clothing, food, agriculture, etc. About 20,000 words in, I couldn’t find a particular piece of research I desperately needed. As a newbie, I didn’t think to put in a blank space and continue on with the story. I stopped. I was a failure.

    I then went to category contemporary about a story and details I knew (place, career, etc.). About five years later, I found what I needed for that historical while browsing in a bookstore. I haven’t been back to my historical, but I plan to…some day.

    As for niche, I’m beginning to think it’s the story I want to tell. Not very focused, but as my skills increase, I think I have to write the story that grips me.

    • Jennifer

      December 13, 2012 at 8:13 AM

      Janis, I’m willing to bet that your trip is going to elicit renewed inspiration in that historical. I think you’re right about writing what grips you. Writing is hard either way but it’s even more so when the story is forced.

  2. Judith Keim

    December 13, 2012 at 7:41 AM

    I started out writing adult stories, romance mostly, and then stopped when life got in the way. I had an idea for a kid’s story one day, went home, wrote it, sent it in and sold it to Highlights for Children. I loved the idea of such an easy way to write and sell! Sold a couple more kid stories to magazines and when we moved to Florida went back to writing adult novels, WF/Romance types, joined RWA and have worked on those stories for a few years. I learned a lot about writing through RWA but I recently decided my true love lies in writing for children and now I’m concentrating my work in that area. I don’t advise doing things my way. I think it makes it harder to get published. However, the learning along the way has been terrific!

    • Jennifer

      December 13, 2012 at 8:26 AM

      Judith, I suppose the learning along the way is what matters most. One thing about the RWA is that you learn so much about the craft regardless of your genre. Sometimes I think we have to venture away from something in order to reaffirm that it was right for us in the first place.

  3. ValRoberts

    December 13, 2012 at 7:59 AM

    Hi, my name is Valerie and I write science fiction romance.

    My first manuscript was a category romance about research scientists, one of whom has just been awarded her first patent for a new gene-splicing technique. May it rest in peace.

    After that, I tried a thriller that required the heroine to create an anti-compiler to turn commercial software back into source code in order to prove the UAE was unwittingly selling banned Iranian oil — a romance with a marriage of convenience sneaked into it. Hey, that wasn’t supposed to happen.

    Then I wrote a paranormal romance…about a programmer who was building a new kind of project management software and his (deceased) college roommate’s sister. Said deceased person was playing matchmaker. At least this time the romance was deliberate.

    I started a high fanstasy novel, with elves! They morphed into Engineered Life Forms (ELFs, get it?) colonizing a planet orbiting a blue-white star called Faerie…. This is where I gave up.

    My name is Valerie and I write science fiction romance, whether I want to or not. Sigh.

  4. Jennifer

    December 13, 2012 at 8:46 AM

    Val, You alway crack me up. I think you should try your hand at comedy too. I guess your ultimate surrender to science fiction romance confirms the theory that we don’t choose our genre but rather it chooses us.

  5. stephaniebergets

    December 13, 2012 at 9:06 AM

    I’ve always admired writers who could world build. I just don’t have enough imagination, I guess. Although, there is this little time travel under the bed . . .

    • Jennifer

      December 13, 2012 at 10:20 AM

      It isn’t easy but it can be fun to be the master of a universe where you make all the rules. You’re more than capable Steph. I can’t wait to see what you do with your time travel when you get around to it.

  6. Clarissa Southwick

    December 13, 2012 at 9:11 AM

    As someone who has always struggled to stick with one genre, I love the squirrel analogy. Don’t worry too much about genre though. A lot of the bestsellers are popular because they reach across genres and therefore find a broad audience. 🙂

  7. Jennifer

    December 13, 2012 at 10:24 AM

    Thanks Clarissa. I like the idea of reaching out and capturing the attention of all different kinds of readers. It seems that the main school of thought is to stick to one genre while you’re getting established so that your readers find you reliable, so to speak. After that, they will be more willing to follow you through different kinds of adventures.

  8. Peggy Staggs

    December 14, 2012 at 12:13 PM

    I’ve always written mystery. I start with what if this happened? Then I figure out the most convoluted way to get there. If I can weave in magic, paranormal, or science all the better.
    My squirrel moments are numerous and frequent. I keep notebooks with random thought in them. They’re everywhere and I find them all the time and think, “Oh, wow, that’s an interesting idea.” And off I go…again.

  9. Corina

    December 14, 2012 at 4:42 PM

    Jennifer, as you know, I’m totally a squirrel. Initial idea? SO EASY. Finishing? Um … I’m glad to hear you’ve gotten inspired. How exciting! Romantic suspense is my first interest, but I’ve got all these ideas for straight-up contemporary romances floating around in my head too. Every time I try and figure out a plausible way for the bad guys to almost catch up with the good guys, or the good guys to figure out a critical piece of information … those contemporary ideas seem even more intriguing. But the external conflict built into romantic suspense is also appealing to my terrified-of-everything writer heart. I think you have to write what makes you want to write.

  10. maryvine

    December 17, 2012 at 4:56 PM

    I’m so glad you got a better fit, Jennifer. Write on.


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