Striking off in a New Direction

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For awhile now, I’ve been reading a lot of non-magical romantic suspense and watching a whole lot of true crime on the ID channel. I used to watch HGTV a lot, but lately, it’s all true crime for me. I’ve been reading Laura Griffin‘s books, as well as Linda Howard, Pamela Claire‘s I-team books, and Linda Castillo, among others. I’ve never thought myself capable of writing a mystery or a suspense51UsMAGYuyL._SX304_BO1,204,203,200_ novel. I figured my plots would be way too obvious. But lately I’ve found myself thinking in terms of characters and plots and I’m taking notes on a romantic suspense novel and have even written a bit of the opening. If you’re curious, check out this post, and keep in mind, the writing is very rough.

You might ask why I’m switching genres. Well, I’m not. I love fantasy and I have no plans to leave it. But I do enjoy romantic suspense, and writing this book is more like play, and to see if I can actually plot out a good mystery and then write it without becoming to obvious. I thought it also might shake up my habits of writing, and make me look at the building blocks in a fresh way.

I think that writing outside your comfort zone–a different literary genre, a different genre form, unusual (for you) point of view, or maybe something you have to do a lot of research for–I think this is incredibly useful to thinking about your process. A lot of my process happens down in my subconscious, my primordial ooze, as Virginia Woolf called it. But when you’re doing new things, those processes don’t feel as natural and so you start to notice them. They start coming up to the surface and you start reconsidering how you approach writing in all its facets.

41cTkyzhPaL._SY346_Doing so can teach you a lot. I’m learning new things about plotting, for instance. I’m separating the various threads and writing out basic plotlines and then I’m looking at where they cross each other and interweave. I’m looking at how to bring all the plots to a crescendo at once. I don’t usually work this way. I never really plot the subplots. I don’t know why. I don’t do a very good job of plotting the novel, really. I tend to pants. In this case, I can’t. If I did, the mystery would suck for sure. I wouldn’t be able to think about foreshadowing or red herrings as I went and I wouldn’t take good advantage of the setting, the side characters, or anything else.

This is also a romance. I frequently write romance in my books, but I have never felt confident writing a straight romance. This one is about 50/50 romance and suspense, so in building the book, I have to look at how the two reflect, undermine, and showcase the other. I have to make the relationships believable and I have to make them compelling. All of this falls into the no, duh! territory, and yet because this is so new to me, I’m far more aware of the elements and how I might manipulate them for best effect.

And I’m researching. I always research, but in this case, it’s a lot like the time I wrote The Black Ship. I spent months researching tall ships, all the language involved in that sort of sailing, the construction of them, what went on board, and everything else. I didn’t start writing until I could use the language without looking up more than a few words. In this case, I’m research police 51nJJOs9b-L._SY346_procedures, court procedures, FBI procedures, various kinds of crimes and how they happen, call codes for cops, and so much more. I want to get things right. I haven’t yet sussed out some of the people I want to talk to about their jobs, and I haven’t managed to do any tours of facilities. I’m hoping to.

What’s funny to me is that I’m not writing about Victorian England or Regency England. I know far more about that time period than just about anything else, plus I like to read books from and set in the period. Yet I haven’t felt the urge to write anything in the period.

I think it’s positive for writers to stretch themselves and not to worry about failure. I think it’s important to try new things and scary things. Maybe you succeed, maybe you don’t, but certainly you will learn.

Diana Pharaoh Francis writes books of a fantastical, adventurous, and often romantic nature. Her award-nominated books author pic francisinclude The Path series, the Horngate Witches series, the Crosspointe Chronicles, and Diamond City Magic books, and the Mission:Magic series. She’s owned by two corgis, spends much of her time herding children, and likes rocks, geocaching, knotting up yarn, and has a thing for 1800s England, especially the Victorians. For more about her writing, visit www.dianapfrancis.com. She can also be found on twitter as @dianapfrancis.

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