Framing a Career
I'll admit it; I've been tempted to cheat lately. Whenever I read a great historical (such as T.J. Bennett's The Legacy), my mind gravitates toward the stories and characters I once wrote with such love and care and the Klondike Gold Rush proposal I've allowed to gather dust without submitting. After enjoying a friend's YA debut (the delightful Oh. My. Gods. by Tera Lynn Childs) I start thinking of the two (unpublished) young adult manuscripts I wrote while teaching and wondering how much fun it would be to whip them into shape and send them out again. [After reviewing these old manuscripts, I came to the conclusion: not much. I may enjoy a good YA, but my voice is all wrong for it.] And then last fall, after reading Alexis Glynn Latner's captivating Hurricane Moon, I heard the siren call of speculative fiction, where I first cut my teeth reading-and-writing-wise.
So what keeps me from flitting around from genre to subgenre? It's partly an act of self-discipline borne of the idea of framing a career. I want readers looking for a Colleen Thompson novel to come to it with the understanding that they can count on a well-defined reading experience. When I switched to writing romantic suspense, I decided to write what I thought was missing in the genre, well-balanced stories of fast-paced, highly-suspenseful mystery and romance featuring "real people" (as opposed to flatter, kickass, superhero/secret agent types who seem to exist in a vacuum) who've stumbled into the most dangerous trouble of their lives. I don't want to or need to paint by numbers -- rehashing the same story and characters time and time again -- but I have to paint consistently inside the frame to keep attracting and growing the same readership.
Fortunately, the frame's a large, complex one, incorporating elements from suspense, mystery, and romance, three of my favorite genres. Weaving all of these together in 100,000 words has been an incredibly-satisfying challenge. And since I read all over the board, I haven't been afraid to draw on techniques I've gleaned from literary or mainstream writers I admire. If I'd started out with very narrow parameters, I think this I would have bored quickly -- and I imagine readers, too, would do so.
I know there are quite successful writers who are all over the board, working in a number of different genres. If you're a super-fast, very energetic writer who's able to focus on multiple projects at once and promote two or more personas at once, more power to you. But I can only give my best thought and effort to one frame at a time.
So how about you? Do you have a framework constructed for the career you envision? Or are you dallying with several areas, to see which best suits you? Have you adapted your vision over time (as I have) to fit the necessities of the marketplace or your own expanding tastes?