Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Secrets of Kidlit: The Value of Writing Something Different

Random Person: So are you working on a new book?
Me: I'm always writing.

I get that question a lot. You might too, or maybe you get a variation -- Are you still writing your book? or Have you finished that book yet? Writers write. It's what we do. What we write doesn't always go somewhere, but we can't not write. And then . . . we burn out.

Used via a Creative Commons license. Photo
Here are my stats since 2006, the year adult me rediscovered my love for writing:
-11 manuscripts written or co-written
-2 of those manuscripts rewritten into a different age category
-numerous half-finished first drafts and proposals (it's like a graveyard of words in my writing folder)

That's a lot of words. Most of those words are unpublished. I am always writing. And yes, sometimes I burn out.

When I first began writing again, I thought middle grade was all I wanted to do. It was all MG all the time. Fast forward a bunch of years and yes, I've written a ton of MG, but I've also found myself writing YA, a chapter book, and one very, very terrible picture book. Those all happened when I started getting a bit bored with my usual MG. Last summer, when some friends were discussing writing outside of kidlit, I thought, Nah. I'm good here. I don't really want to write for the grown-ups. 

Two months later -- you guessed it -- I was writing something for the grown-ups.

Used via a Creative Commons license. Photo
by az.
So why am I talking about this? To remind you that it's good to stretch your creative muscles. It's normal to burn out on your genre or category of choice. It's fun to try something new, even something you never ever in a million years thought you'd write. You don't have to show it to anyone unless you choose to; it doesn't have to be for publication. Jumping from MG to the rest of kidlit and now to adult has kept me excited to write. It keeps all of my writing fresh, and it makes me want to open my laptop every morning. I'm now finishing up the draft of Manuscript Number 12 (a new MG), and taking the time off to write something entirely different has made writing this book even more fun. Writing something new was like a vacation for my brain.

If you're thinking you'll never write outside of one category or genre, that's completely fine. But if you find your mind drifting to sci-fi or women's fiction or picture books, if you're choosing those books to read instead of your usual fare, if you have a new idea that's completely outside of your current box and it won't leave you alone, maybe you need a vacation too.

Write the book. It's good for your brain and your soul and all the rest of your writing.

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