During the last half year, I’ve started and set aside several WIPs. My writing was as good as ever, I liked the characters I was creating, but I couldn’t finish the story, and I wondered why.
I woke up this morning (actually, R called me about something and made me wake up), got my usual glass of ice water (don’t drink coffee; never have), popped some bread in the toaster, and visited the bathroom. I usually read a page of two of something while there, and this morning, I read from an m/m short story.
And I realized something I probably should have known quite a while ago, but before I get to that, some background.
I’ve been writing most of my life, but I started writing m/m romance exclusively only a few years ago, first as fanfic (and a little of it is still out there, and not nearly as well written as what I’ve produced the last few years, so search it out at your peril). Unemployed, at loose ends, and still living in a state where trash-talking winter is second only to participating in the never-ending verbal rivalry regarding who has the better football team, Minnesota or Wisconsin (and I hate talking sports, so I was stuck with the weather), I got back into writing.
I started developing the style you all know me for today: clean but descriptive. No messing around. No “puffery.” And when I realized the publishing game had changed, I submitted my first short story. And was amazed when it was accepted three days later.
It all came together in one wonderful moment: the months I’d spent honing my skill, the emergence of m/m romance as a profitable genre, being able to graphically write sex on the page, easier access to publishers. I was ecstatic!
For the next several years, I wrote romance, I submitted, I was published. And when I realized I could self-publish, I leaped at the chance. Total control? Could write anything I liked? I was so there.
And I wrote Transgression, which didn’t fit in the m/m romance genre. It was more of a thriller than a love story (to me, at least), and then Wolf Bound, which was a love story, but the conflict between man and the animal side of himself took precedence. I happily drew the curtain on the sex scenes. I was sick of writing them.
This morning, I had an epiphany. I couldn’t write straight romance (no pun intended). I simply could not write a simple love story. I always had to change it up by adding other elements.
The Blue Paradise revolves around a stalker. Phoenix Rising features an immortal who is forced to kill to remain human. Blue River is a time travel tale. A Silence Kept is about a ghost. Precog in Peril offered people with special abilities.
See? I can’t write a simple romance. They bore me to death. And I’ve discovered I can’t read them either. If the story is boy meets boy, they fuck like rabbits for a hundred a fifty pages, and there’s an HEA, I probably won’t finish it.
I write what I want to read. You’d think this would have been clear to me, but nope. Had to discover it sitting on a toilet while moving my bowels. (You can make of that what you will, but I think the imagery is damn near perfect.)
But wait! There’s more! Part of this morning’s epiphany also revealed that I’m tired of writing romance in any form. I love writing snappy dialog, I love it when characters connect, and I love strong stories, tales that take you places and show you things you haven’t seen yet, whether that’s a place I’ve never visited, hobbies I’ve never explored, or things that border on the wild and mysterious.
Love stories are nice, but they don’t satisfy the itch. I want more.
Remember reading The Hobbit for the first time? How about Jurassic Park? The stories, the characters, take you on a journey into a different world. After I’d read the first two paragraphs in The Hobbit, my jaw dropped. I couldn’t believe what I was reading, it was so different, so fresh. Admittedly, since then, fantasies have become big business, but when I first dipped a toe in, it blew me away. Create dinosaurs from DNA extracted from amberized mosquitoes? Oh, yeah! So cool! I loved the science in that book.
I want to be Michael Crichton, and he’s dead now, so why not? I want to be J. R. R. Tolkien, and yup, he’s dead now, too. I want to tell a story about characters who are doing things, not just meeting some guy and jumping in the sack. I like stories with a lot of action, and if a couple characters collide along the way, that’s fine. I won’t mind. But they’d better take me somewhere interesting first!