Leaning Into Horror

Over the fall, I had a chance to go talk to some author friends when I was at FanX. Among other topics, I asked what suggestions they had for ways I could improve my writing from a career standpoint. My fourth book is coming out in August. Is there anything I could do that would help me build on successes and start getting more books published?

The biggest takeaway I got came from (surprise surprise) Brandon, who basically said I’ve been hopping around too much from a genre perspective. I’ve written contemporary fantasy, steampunk, historical thriller, dystopian science fiction, and more. And I’ve written middle grade, young adult, and adult, all within the last five years. He pointed out that with a track record like that, it would be difficult to get readers to follow me from one book to the next. It’s not like I’ve gotten to the point that I’ve got fans who will read whatever I write. (Well, other than you. I know you will read whatever I write. I mean everyone else.)

So his advice boiled down to simply picking an age group and genre, and sticking to it for a while. Let a fan of one book be able to follow me to the next, and find more of what they like.

I realize this probably seems obvious to you, but it’s very different from my whole approach to writing up until now. I’ve always hopped around on purpose. I’ve been in “try something different, so you can get better at writing” mode for so long now, I hadn’t even though to consider switching things up. This made sense when I was just starting out as a writer, and still trying to get published. It’s the same reason I never wrote sequels. Why write a second book if you don’t know if the first book will sell? Why write in the same genre if you’ve already done that before?

I think that was a fine approach for . . . ten years or ago. Maybe more. But once I was actually managing to get some things published, it no longer really applied. And so I’ve decided to try to switch things up and be more consistent for once.

In this case, that means leaning into the books that are actually selling right now. Historical serial killer thrillers is a bit narrow for this, I think. At least, it felt too narrow when I was trying to come up with a new project. So instead, I’m going with the general “Horror” genre, instead. It’s important to note that this isn’t something I’m doing to settle. It’s not that I don’t like writing horror books. On the contrary: I’m a fan of the genre, and I read fairly widely in it. The thing is, I don’t really look at horror as all that different from fantasy. The rule sets can overlap a great deal, but much of what I’ve written has already skewed toward the darker side of things. The difference now is that I’m going to purposefully lean into that.

This also means that I’ve essentially put the rest of my projects on pause. It’s one of the reasons I didn’t get much writing done in December and November. It wasn’t that I wasn’t liking my works in progress. It’s just that they didn’t fit with this new approach, no matter how I might try to figure out a way to make them work.

I think I’ve got a new project selected, and I’m in the middle of plotting it now. Most importantly, I’m excited to be writing again. We’ll see how this goes.

In the meantime, I believe I’ll be able to share the cover of DON’T GO TO SLEEP with you tomorrow. Stay tuned . . .


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