Some writers are fortunate and know exactly what they should write. Others of us have to figure it out over time and through trial and error. By what to write, I don’t mean exactly what words to put on the page. I mean the types of stories, perhaps even the genre of fiction.
When I first started writing, I dabbled mostly in science fiction, which eventually led me to fantasy. However, along the way, I played around with horror, literary, and romance. Romance was actually the genre that my first book was published in. However, romance isn’t really the right fit for me. It took trying it out, though, to realize this.
For those of you who know exactly what you should be writing, congratulations. Feel free to ignore the rest of this post and instead pass it along to your writer friends who aren’t so sure.
For those of you who aren’t sure of the overall direction you want to take your fiction, read on.
The most important step to figuring out what you should write is figuring out what you like to read. This isn’t necessarily as simple as it sounds. For example, my genre is fantasy and science fiction, but there’s a lot of fantasy and science fiction that I don’t care for. I had to go deeper than just genre.
So take a look at the books, movies, TV shows, plays, and perhaps even fairy tales that you have enjoyed most. What is the thing or small handful of things that they all have in common? What is it about them that catches your interest? Is it the setting? Is it the twists and turns, the mystery, the finding of true love, the harrowing nature of human experience, or maybe the cool maneuvers the characters pull off?
I enjoy stories that have complex character development and strong emotional appeal. However, I don’t care for stories that take place in times, settings, or with people too similar to that which I encounter every day. I like stories that explore human nature and universal truths. You will find that such things crop up in my fiction as well.
Once you figure out what these elements are, you gain a much deeper understanding of yourself and your own writing. But what do you do with it? Start writing stories using those elements, then consider what genre they best fit into. As much as genre is important for organizing books in bookstores and with publishers, it isn’t where you should start. Write what speaks to you first. You can always tweak it to fit better into a specific genre.
Then, once you do all this, keep your eyes open. Your interests will change over time, and even if your interests stay relatively the same, the more material you expose yourself to, the more you will learn about yourself. Don’t do this every time because it’ll ruin your experiences with fiction, but every once in a while, analyze what you’ve most recently read or watched. Over time, you’ll gather a lot of information.
So instead of fretting over exactly what story you should write, which characters, which specific plot, focus on the things to speak deeply to you. If you can tap those things in stories that give you energy and ignite your creativity you will find that your stories take on much greater life that way.