Friday, July 04, 2014

A Date With Kate - Out of My Comfort Zone

This post is late today and there are several reasons for that.  

Reasons that can basically be put under the heading : ‘Life’.

I have had several commitments that have taken me away from my desk for days at a time. They are things I don’t normally do – things I had never planned I might have to do when this year began. But that’s what life is sometimes. For someone whose routine is usually get up, go for a walk, come back, shower, make a large mug of coffee and go to my desk, it has come as something of a shock to need to have train times and destinations in my head,  or need to plan my time around visiting and  organising timetables somewhere else.
Basically, I’ve been taken out of my comfort zone, and thrown into a new way of life for  several weeks.

It’s not over yet, but I have a short break now while  I catch up with things and plan what the rest of the
month has ahead of me.  This will include the course I’ll be teaching  in Fishguard in Wales at the end of July. It’s been hectic, but I have to admit that the experiences had given  a real shakeup and let new experiences,  new ideas, and fresh air into my thoughts.

And this is something that’s important  for us all once in a while, I think.  Something that’s very important for writers like me who are deeply involved in one genre, focussing on that day in and day out, writing romance fiction, blogging about romance fiction, reading romance fiction, teaching writing romance . . . If we’re not careful we can get into a rut of focussing only on one type of genre, ignoring others, and never looking to right or left, or at any other topic or sort of fiction.

This also applies to reading . I’m a great advocate of reading  as much as [possible in your chosen genre. The more you read, the more you get the idea of  how a story is constructed, the way that characters are created and developed, conflict is built up and resolved. And this gives you an idea of what editors are looking for.

But reading only your chosen genre is a sure way to restrict you imagination.  Other types of stories are a great way to open up your mind to new possibilities.  Fantasy may not be set in the real world but it shows how you need  to build up the world of your novel with consistent  rules and boundaries that need to be followed to make the story  become real in the readers’ minds.  Thrillers show you how to build tension and maintain it , at different levels throughout the novel. Mysteries, obviously are a clear lesson in feeding snippets of information into  a story, bit by bit – sometimes true, sometimes the well-known ‘red herring’ – but all of it leading to the ultimate solution of the puzzle at the heart of the story.  
Reading History – factual history  or historical fiction, can give you great ideas of the way real people lived their lives in the past. Can you take those events, the family  relationships and connections, the way they  grew rich – or poor – possible  scandals can all be food for  add in new elements to your story.
Science Fiction is much like Fantasy and in both genres  the author has huge scope to let their imagination run wild, come up with scenario’s that could be impossible in other genres and certainly won’t be available to the  romance novelist . . .
Or can they?
The trick is to read and discover, use these other types of books to  find new ideas that, with a bit of extra thought , a twist here or there, can be brought into your own genre and  used to build a new world  around your hero and heroine.
Reading widely, in varied genres, and well out of your comfort zone will also show you that it is so true when editors say that  ‘It’s all in the execution’. There are no rules to writing a novel other than the fact that you must set to to create the best most readable, most interesting novel you can. And adding in new, surprising elements can only make your imagaination grow as you look into the way different themes and events have been used.

I’ve often said  that life is research for writers. Certainly every day throws up interesting topics, stories and  events that you can use  as the launchpad for your own work.   This fact has been much in my mind as I’ve   read  so many would-be published writers’ stories that make it plain they as trying so hard to  write ‘a Harlequin novel’ or some such. If you’re not careful this can end up as just a pale, lifeless copy of what  is being published in that line already.

I’m lucky in my attempts to read widely and as many varied lines as I possibly can. My husband has a huge library of history, crime , biographies of people I’ve never  heard of. All of which draws my attention to books /styles/people I would never have considered before. So does my son. And we all share our books between us on a regular basis. Yes, even the romances.  I just  passed on to my son my favourite romantic comedy of the year so far (The Rosie Project)  and I know he’ll read it and hopefully enjoy it.

Next week the ‘out of my comfort zone’ way of life will continue so I don’t think I’ll be blogging or on the internet much while it’s happening . I’m not sure if I’ll ever write about it or if it will ever appear in any element in one of my books.  But I do know that in terms of ‘people-watching’ and intriguing characters, the observation of things I’ve never seen before and am not very likely to see again, procedures and environments I’d not visited before will help me expand my knowledge, my imagination and hopefully add possible new elements and depth to anything I wrote in the future.

What about you? Have  you read something  new and intriguing lately? Is there another genre you’d really like to try? Or something factual you want to explore?

A Question of Honour  - or A Question of Honor depending on whether you're reading the Mills and  Boon Modern edition or the  Harlequin  Presents one  is out now .

And the new, revised and updated Kindle edition  of Kate Walker's 12 Point Guide to Writing Romance is now avaialble on Amazon  at a much lower price than the old paperback.

You can find out more about Kate Walker and her books  - and the writing courses she runs - over on her web site  whih has just been updated with new information added.

And there is all the up to date news on her blog   or Facebook page

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