When I first started writing, I only wrote short stories, and most of them were a bit bizarre. They didn’t quite fit any genre, so the majority of them ended up in a file cabinet in our basement. They’re still there. I don’t want to read them. I don’t want to know how bad I was when I thought I was pretty good:) I sold enough of them to small chapbooks, though, that I tried magazines and anthologies and sold to them until someone at my writers’ group finally asked, “Why don’t you try a book?”
So I did. I was drawn to mysteries with sturdy plot lines built into them. I had a structure to follow, but books are LONG. My first attempt fizzled at 20,000 words, but Penny Paper Novels in Baltimore was buying “short novels” to print in newspaper form and sell at airports as quick reads. The editor bought GOURMET KILLINGS and then STING OF DEATH, at 25,000 words. I finally learned how to do plot lines and character wheels and finished a 60,000 word mystery.
“Why don’t you try selling it?” a fellow writer asked. So I sent to editors at every publishing house who’d take unsolicited manuscripts (they almost all did back then), and I got wonderful rejections–even though no one was buying cozies back then. That’s what I knew how to write, though, so I wrote more until I sent one to Anna Genoese, who was at Tor at the time, and she said, “I’d love to see an urban fantasy from you. Why don’t you try one?”
So I did. And I sent her one she liked and wanted to buy, but someone had recently sold Tor a novel too similar to mine, so she had to pass. And then she left Tor, but I’d been working on a paranormal mystery for her and had no idea what to do with it. I sent it to an agent, and she liked it enough to make me a client. I’d fiddled for so long, though, the urban fantasy market was crowded, so Lauren said, “Why don’t you try a romance?”
So I did. And Kensington liked COOKING UP TROUBLE. And I learned that I like writing romance. I’m not suggesting that anyone else follow my route of trial and error, but I am suggesting that stepping outside of your comfort zone isn’t the worst thing that can happen. I learned every time I tried something new. I learned from writing short and concise. I learned from writing long. I learned every time I tried a new genre. Whatever and however your writing journey goes, I hope you enjoy the trail.
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