Getting better at writing is a noble goal, and one to which every writer should aspire. But in the meantime, I challenge every one of my wordsmithing friends out there to not only be better, but to be different.
The crowded world of publishing has seen it all. I can thumb through endless romances, science fiction stories, thrillers, and so on that churn out volume after volume of novels based on the same old tropes. Yes, these tropes are selling. Yes, readers like them. But they haven’t seen inside your head, now have they? What if they would love the quirky, off-the-beaten track tropes marinating in your cerebral folds? After all, someone had to write the first paranormal romance. And the first science fiction novel. And the first novel in the steampunk genre. Who knows how many more undiscovered genres are out there waiting for you to write them?
So many writers focus on writing what the market wants that they forget to unleash and cultivate the seeds of originality that are part and parcel of being a creative writer. We’re taught ‘systems’ and ‘strategies’ to get our work out in the mainstream and we’re so hyperfocused on getting it right that we miss the whole delicious point of writing — unleashing the creative muse that dwells within.
Your writing could be destined to introduce a new genre to the reading public. You won’t know it if you keep on safely treading the path of the tried and true, but that’s exactly what most writing gurus will encourage. It’s not bad advice, of course, but it might be wasting your talent.
Don’t get me wrong: You should hone your skills in the traditional way and learn those conventional tropes, too, as a solid basis from which to build your own unique writing niche. But once that’s done, or even while you’re doing it, you can let your fingers dabble in ideas that might lead you away from the box. Sometimes you might find yourself so outside the box that you’ve forgotten what the box looked like to begin with. Don’t panic if this happens to you. There’s a market for quirky, strange, and unusual. Recently through AuthorsPublish I’ve seen several literary magazines that specify they want new and unusual tropes, unexplored topics, and stories that smash the old standards to pieces. Seek these out. Embrace them.
Take a break from conformity and let your writing run where it will. Hell, Pluto was a planet until 2006. Brontosaurs used to be a thing. The sun once revolved around the Earth. Atoms were unknown for most of human history. If left to its own devices, what new territory will your writing discover? The results are only limited by your imagination, so give it free rein. Be bold. Be courageous. Be different.