Who's to Say if You're Better Than Me? | Author Denise Grover Swank Who's to Say if You're Better Than Me? | Author Denise Grover Swank
Denise Grover Swank

Who's to Say if You're Better Than Me?

Everyone knows critique partners are essential to your literary career. I have been extremely fortunate that I have stumbled upon some wonderful critique partners via Twitter. However, I have dallied with a local critique group. They meet on Friday nights, not the easiest time for me to meet. My teenagers rebel against me squashing their social activities to babysit their younger siblings.
Yesterday the group received an email from one of the members, questioning the level of dedication the group had to writing and chastising members for writing different genres, stating that you must master the craft of the genre you write and you can’t do that if you are writing widely different genres.
I am a passive person. I detest conflict. I avoid it at all costs. But this email has boiled my blood. So I took my valuable time, that I should spent writing the epiphany I received for current WIP (because according to the email anything not written with publication in mind is wasted time and words), and wrote this lengthy email in response. Yes, I believe I am no longer welcome.

I’m not really sure how to respond to this email. I think writing, no matter what the desired end result, is a goal in and of itself.

For years, I wrote for myself. I wrote a blog. I attempted to write a few novels, never finishing. I wasn’t there yet. I wasn’t ready. I wasn’t disciplined enough nor was my “craft” at a level to achieve my goal. Was this wasted time? Were these wasted words? No. Every word we put down, every phrase, carries us closer to becoming better.

Question #2: My goal is to be published. I write everyday. If I am not writing, I am thinking about writing. I wake, sleep, eat writing. I have completed two 95K novels since November. I am 33K into my third and 6K into a side project I am working on, a middle grade novel (currently still researching in my nonexistent spare time.)

When I spent seven weeks revising and editing Chosen, my paranormal thriller which I am currently querying, I missed writing, craved it, but knew better than to get in depth in new WIP. So I participated in a couple of blogfests, writing the assigned theme (a PG love scene, the second amurder scene) and I wrote a piece of flash fiction (a story 1K words or less). Did I have any goals for these pieces? Yes and no. Did I hope to publish them? No. But I did see them as an opportunity to WRITE SOMETHING while I was editing and also to try something new. I wrote the PG love scene in first person as a 13 year old girl. I didn’t think I could pull it off and I surprised myself. I wrote my flash fiction in third person, present tense. After reading Trisha’s In the Autumn, I was intrigued with the idea. I was surprised that not only did I like it, but my writing was completely different. I’m very proud of this piece and the only audience it will ever have are the people who stumble upon it on my blog. And I’m completely happy with that.

Yes, I am writing two completely different genres. I have actually written three if you consider my first completed novel (four if I take into account my uncompleted) Does this go against the rules? Yes. Do I care? Not a damn. I’m finding myself. I’m discovering what makes me happy. Do I seriously believe that I can be published in four different genres? No. But before I peg myself into a hole I will most likely be “stuck” in, I need to make sure it’s where I want to be. I think the best way to determine your place is to try it. Will my first completed novel, a romantic suspense, ever be published? Not if I can help it. It’s a freaking hot mess. Were the thirty nine days I spent writing 95K words during NaNoWriMo wasted? Heavens no. I learned sooo much and it propelled me onto my next project, a paranormal thriller (could also be marketed as an urban fantasy.) Yes, I’m also attempting a middle grade novel. Why? Because they tell you write what you read. I read a mixture of middle grade (Harry Potter, Percy Jackson) and a mixture of paranormal YA (Twilight, Fallen) Urban Fantasy (Shannon K Butcher’s The Sentenial series- yes technically paranormal romance, The Undead Series and recently True Blood) to a variety of commercial fiction (Sarah Addison Allen, Stephen King, Dean Koontz.)

I DO believe it is possible to have careers in both MG and commercial fiction. It will take a pen name. And a lot of time.

(By the way, I expressed my concern of being “stuck” in MG if I got published there first on Twitter. Mandy Hubbard, MG and YA agent and published author, direct messaged me and told me it wasn’t a major concern and to not let it stop me.)

A couple of good blog posts from Rachelle Gardner, a literary agent, on writing multiple genres:

Discovering which genre is right for you
Being pegged in a genre

A blog post by author Mary DeMuth and publisher of the blog Wanna Be Published about writing and the HOURS it takes to become good.

I think writers are at many ends of the spectrum in dedication. Writing takes massive amounts of time and not everyone has that luxury. That doesn’t make their writing any less valuable than someone like me. It makes them different

Categories: Writing
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