by Annette Lyon
I imagine if you talk to virtually any published writer, they'd tell you straight out that their publishing life hasn't turned out exactly like they expected. Twists and turns and unexpected bumps happen along the way.
And so do massive shifts . . . like taking on a new genre. Or changing publishers. Or parting ways with an agent. Or finding success where you least expected it.
For example, when I first began seeking publication, it was with a YA fantasy. But I first got published with a contemporary romance. The shift happened after chatting with a friend at a conference and realizing that I had stories to tell that her publisher might be interested in. Several rejections (and one acceptance!) later, I was one of their writers.
Another shift happened when, two books later, **SURPRISE!** I found myself writing historical fiction. At the time, it was a shock to me. Now, that genre is what I'm best known for, and people laugh when they hear I didn't always plan on writing it.
And now? My next book is contemporary women's fiction (not a romance), and, on my publisher's request, I'm working on a (get this!) a COOKBOOK.
Sure didn't see that one coming.
I recently thought through the stable of PEG editors. Each and every one of us has had major shifts in our careers.
Lu Ann slaved for years on YA manuscripts and suddenly found her big break ghost-writing a memoir for the Herrin Twins' mother. She has since been hired to write a second and then a third memoir. Not what she initially planned on, but she's published and continuing to be published. I still think she'll get her own novel out there some day, but what if she'd said no to that first memoir? She'd have missed out on several fantastic opportunities (and the royalty checks that go with them!).
Heather began writing a bunch of different kinds of stories, not sure what genre what she wanted to focus on. I remember one book set in the Puritan era and another that was more of a mystery/suspense. She's since found huge success targeting the historical/religious fiction market. She didn't plan that right out of the gate.
Julie's first two books were with one publisher. She changed publishers midstream and suddenly vaulted into the spotlight with an amazing novel that got her massive acclaim. And then she had to switch publishers again. Talk about a roller coaster ride. Now she's got a new book out (yay!) plus an agent for her YA fantasy work, and we may well see her her science fiction books on shelves in the near future.
Josi got a name for herself writing books with "meat" dealing with serious issues like molestation, prescription drug abuse, and Internet predators. By a giant quirk of fate (that maybe she'll tell here sometime), she ended up writing the beginning of what turned into a culinary mystery, which has now turned into a culinary mystery series, and now she's got two novels for that series out with more to come. Again, didn't see that coming.
I could go on with more examples showing several of our other writer friends who aren't part of this blog and how they've had to morph and change with the industry, their publisher/s, their editor's demands, their audience, and so forth. Things change.
The point is that as a writer, if you 1) hope to be published and 2) hope to keep being published, you have to be willing to bend. Granted, you don't want to write just for the market, just what "will sell."
Don't sell out. Of course not. But be flexible. I couldn't write what Heather or Julie or the others do, but I can write a variety of different things that I am personally good at, in my own way.
I need to be willing to put my toes into different waters and try them out. I shouldn't be afraid of something just because it's different and I might be scared of it. (I was terrified of historical fiction the first time!)
Try it out anyway. Because guess what? See that new puddle of water? That might just be your big break. You never know.
As for me, aside from the contemporary women's title coming out next spring and the cookbook, take a wild guess what my next novel will be?
Nope, not another historical.
My editor suggested I pull out an old murder mystery I wrote years ago and revise it.
Bet you didn't see that coming. Frankly, neither did I.