Breaking Out . . .

. . . of the Rut

I will be up front. Writing this eFile is sporadic, not that I don’t have anything to say. Why be redundant? Everyone perceiving themselves experts in the writing field has said it. So, if something appears important, I will address it, otherwise, continue helping other writers become authors and do my own thing. And therein lies the germ for this post. While doing “my own thing,” it occurred that I have been writing in a rut – young adult, adventure-oriented, historical-infused fiction.

No, these stories are not serial in nature (except for one.) Each has its own actors, special locale, and historical background but they are YA, etc., etc., etc. The prime mover(s) and shaker(s) are males usually starting in their preteen or early teen years. There are few girls for a very good reason. 1) I have worked with boys as a counselor, adviser, and friend for over fifty years. I have a pretty good handle on who and what they are and how they act. 2) I am male. Been there, done that. 3) I have a daughter but really can not profess knowing the who, what, and the how of girls. Writing them in a story endangers being sexist and/or stereotyping. The cop-out here is the admonition, “write about what you know.” That does not mean to not learn and try or experiment, but girls are special with a whole set of different behaviors and complicating idiosyncrasies. That means doing the research (online), checking with people who know and understand women (other women – teachers are good) and avoid stereotyping.

The other issue associated with the “write what you know” philosophy returns this eFile back to the lead paragraph – the rut. Upon publishing my latest novel a few months ago, I began the process of looking for the next tale. Opening a file called “Story Prompts,” I began perusing the photos and synopsis collected over the years.

Bad habit here. While researching a story under construct, photos invariably pop up to tickle my imagination – Hey! That would make a good yarn about . . .. Tossing the prompt into the file, I move on. Months or years later, going back and seeing that picture, what was I thinking? To rectify that omission, I now take a few minutes to attach the photo to a document and write a quick note of the thought. Unfortunately, there are lots of good story languishing in the murky world of an aging imagination.

Back to searching for the next tale, the rut dawned on me. I like to experiment framing a story, but always within the YA genre. I enjoy good science fiction since reading Jules Verne as a boy but have never tried it. I am not a big fan of vampire stories because they are over-gorified and wall-splattered once the graphic intimacy is climaxed. I have penned many a short story (mostly 3-3,500 because that’s what publishers like), but never tried a novella.

Short story Under 7,500 words
Novelette 7,500 to 40,000 words
Novella 17,500 to 40,000 words
Novel 40,000 to 100,000 words
Beast Over 100,000 words

Breaking out of the rut meant tackling all three – and to really make it a challenge, the point of view is a house. The result was “Domo de Sango or The House of Blood.” (pending publication) a true science fiction genre, vampire story of 17,870 words. On the heels of that came “Tsunami” a novelette at 10,095 based on my news reports of the Boxing Day tsunami of 2004 and “The House of Harland,” at 9,975 words as told by a ghost with a Twilight Zone twist.

The upshots of this post are 1) learn to write and don’t stop learning, and 2) look at what you have done, move out of that comfort zone, and experiment with other genre or at the least facets of storytelling. And remember:

Writers don’t die. They just run out of ink.

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