Thursday, February 20, 2014

Harmony Evans on The Romance Writer’s Comfort Zone

We're two months into the year and like many of you, I've been really focusing on my writing goals for 2014. While doing some research, I found this quote from novelist Bess Streeter Aldrich (1881-1954). It's an excerpt from her essay "Why I Live In A Small Town. It’s long, but I think it’s worth the read. 
Why quarrel with a writer over realism and idealism? After all an author is a glass through which a picture of life is projected.  The picture falls upon the pages of the writer's manuscript according to the mental and emotional contours of that writer.  It is useless to try to change those patterns.  If one writer does not see life in terms of grime and dirt, adulteries and debaucheries, it does not follow that those sordid things do not exist.  If another does not see life in terms of faith and love, sympathy and good deeds, it does not follow that those characteristics do not exist.  I grow weary of hearing the sordid spoken of as real life, the wholesome as Pollyanna stuff.  I contend that a writer may portray some of the decent things of life around him and reserve the privilege to call that real life too.  And if this be literary treason; make the most of it.
-- Bess Streeter Aldrich 

I love this part of her essay most of all:

The picture falls upon the pages of the writer's manuscript according to the mental and emotional contours of that writer.” 

Aldrich makes writing sound so easy and effortless, but she also makes it personal. To me, that’s a burden lifted from my shoulders because sometimes, in those solemn moments when I’m staring at a blank screen, I think about all the topics I could write about, but won’t (at least right now) for various reasons. Not because those topics are necessarily bad or wrong, but because they don’t “feel” like me. And I do put a little bit of “me” in every book I write. It’s unavoidable.

But in order to continue striving towards the goal of being a successful romance writer, sometimes I need to push myself out of my comfort zone and away from my fears. Often I struggle with the timing. When is it appropriate? If I wait until the time is right, I might miss out on an opportunity to grow. I hope I’m not alone in feeling this way, but I believe taking risks is critical part of being a success. Whether enhancing your romance writing skills or expanding your reader base, nudging yourself out of your comfort zone could be the difference between being published and staying published.  

Needless to say, I’m taking it s-l-o-w, while forging ahead. 

For example, as I’m generating ideas for writing my fifth romance novel for Harlequin Kimani, I’ve been thinking about expanding it into an entire series. Since I’ve never written a series before, I’m not sure what to expect, so I’m a bit leery. 

However, my June release LOVING LANEY has given me the confidence to delve into writing a series of my own. It’s the third book in a new continuity series called “The Browards of Granger” about a wealthy ranching family in Montana. The two other books in the series will be released in April and May. For this particular project, I was not involved in the creation of the series. Instead, I received a continuity “bible” which laid out in detail what the entire series was going to be about and how to resolve the happily-ever-after ending. But with my new series idea, everything is up to me, and I’m truly excited about writing it. 

This year, I’m ready to push the boundaries a little bit in my storytelling, and in some aspects of my life. How about you?  

Here are three articles that I read recently that really helped me:

So what motivates you to kick your comfort zone to the curb and embrace the unknown? 

Harmony Evans is an award-winning author for Harlequin Kimani Romance. Her latest release is STEALING KISSES. Connect with her on Facebook Twitter, or Google+.

View her book trailers on YouTube.


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