It’s the first Wednesday of the month again, time for a post for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group.
The IWSG question this month: In terms of your writing career, where do you see yourself five years from now, and what’s your plan to get there?
My answer: I don’t usually plan so far ahead, but… I think I see my complete sword and sorcery fantasy series self-published. The first two novels of it are still under contract with my publisher, but the contract will expire early in 2017. After that, I plan to republish them myself, plus another four novels. At the moment, one of them is practically ready. Two others need full revisions before they are fit to go, and one (plus a couple of novellas) – I’ve only partially written the first draft.
Also I’m thinking of self-publishing a second anthology of my short stories. Unlike my first collection, SQUIRREL OF MAGIC, the second one wouldn’t be united by the same characters or the same world. Just a series of unconnected stories, most of them previously published in magazines, all of them in various speculative fiction subgenres: fantasy, sci-fi, and magic realism. I have a couple dozen stories to choose from.
I also intend to make a serious attempt to conquer another genre – romance. That’s what my post below is about.
Since I was a child, I’ve always made up stories, and the majority of my stories had their foundation in speculative fiction. Nowadays, I mostly write high fantasy. Sometimes, I veer off into the subgenres of science fiction, urban fantasy, or magical realism. But in all my life, I’ve only written one mainstream novel and a couple of flash fiction stories. I don’t think I’ll be writing many more. My brain doesn’t seem wired that way. It always wants some sort of magic in a story, and here lies the gist of my insecurity.
Last year, I experimented with romance. I wrote a regency novella, Fibs in the Family, and put it up on wattpad. It was my first attempt at romance, and it’s done surprisingly well. By now, it has collected over 13K readers. Every time I check my account, I see the numbers rising, and many people put the story into their reading lists.
Last month, I put up another story of mine on wattpad, this one a steampunk novelette Open, Charlie. (You could read it here.) It’s a good story, with magic, humor, dirigibles, and a whiff of romance, but the number of its readers has hardly topped 100. Not many people seem interested. Although I am hopeful – it’s only been one month – but the much more pronounced interest in romance on wattpad echoes what happens in the reading and publishing world outside the enclosed wattpad community.
According to statistics, romance is the winner among all the other genres. It sells more copies than all of the others together. The way for a writer is clear: write romance. Unfortunately, writing a love story is extremely hard for me. I have an outline for a second regency romance – it’s already partly written – but the story keeps resisting. For the past year, I’ve been trying to finish it without success. I will push again in December and hope this time I will prevail.
Still, romance doesn’t feel organic to me. Although I enjoy romance as a reader, I’m not by nature a romance writer. Love eluded me in my personal life and it continues doing so in my fiction. But if I want my stories to find readers, I should at least try to write what they want to read.
This conundrum tears me apart. Both directions – fantasy with its magic and its boundless possibilities and romance with its formulaic approach and its allure for readers – beckon me, but for different reasons. Where should I go? Maybe I should try to combine the two? Maybe with the help of magic as a key, love would finally allow me to open the door into its enchanted kingdom?