Writing something new

I have been. Honestly. For the past couple of weeks, I’ve been working on a story inspired by a one-hit wonder from the early 80s. No, I won’t tell you. You’ll have to read it and guess. It’s generally a romance, but it is not my usual romance; it’s about two women. I’ve  debated posting it under another name, and then I could ask you to guess which story it is. However, as much as I toy with such things, I come down on the side of not doing it, for a couple of reasons.

First, I’m not going to have duplicate accounts on multiple sites. It’s difficult enough to manage one Penn name (haha) across various sites, that I’m surely not going to make it any more difficult by having account one and account two at those sites. And if I decide to limit a second account to just one site, well then, what’s the point? If I post under “ThisName” at Lit and “PennLady” everywhere else, people will put it together.

Second, why should I? I realize that some people will see the name “PennLady” on the sites I post on, and read it because I wrote it, and that’s flattering. However, I also realize that some people will read it and when it’s apparent that it is not a hockey romance, nor a nonhuman story (yes, I did write a few of those 🙂 ), they will downgrade it in ratings at least on a couple of sites.

This is okay and it’s happened before. A few stories I’ve written, the stand-alones that focused a bit more on the sex, tend to rate lower than my longer stories (although it differs a bit from site to site). I’ve never really tried to figure this out, because it doesn’t seem worth it. So many people read stories, and surely they stop and start again so they may miss something I post, and so many people look for different things in a story that trying to analyze this kind of reaction is useless. That way madness lies.

I frequently warn other writers not to live and die by votes or comments on the internet sites, and I try hard to do that myself. So if people don’t like this, well, tough. I wrote something, polished it up to my specifications, and that’s all I can do.

The disappointing part is that people will downgrade a story on what it is not, as opposed to what it is. So sometimes I get the feeling that I might write a story and the end result is, for some readers, “This is okay but it’s not a hockey romance, which is what I wanted, so I will rate it X instead of Y.”

Some writers, at least on Literotica, do solve this to a point by having separate accounts, and they did that to give their “different” stories more of a fair hearing. Some have had them long enough that readers know it’s the same author. But someone might have a username for their romances, another for their BDSM stories, another for something else, because in the beginning, people did not want to read a BDSM story by a usual romance author, or the romance fans didn’t want to read something that wasn’t romance.

It may help the author, too, and that’s something else I’ve thought about. For example, Nora Roberts writes a romance/mystery/thriller series focused on a policewoman in New York City set in 2060, under the name JD Robb. Many copies of the books have this info plopped on the cover: “Nora Roberts writing as JD Robb.” So it seems it’s not a detriment to her to have this link known. But I wonder if perhaps she can slip into the JD Robb persona and that allows her to write the … In Death series in a somewhat different style than she does her romances.

Writers are often advised to a) write what you know and b) write for themselves. I’ll focus on b), which I agree with mostly. If I don’t enjoy the story I’m writing, or agree with where it’s going, I likely won’t finish it, let alone post or publish it. On the other hand, I don’t want to leave the reader completely at sea. You do a lot of things for the reader when you write — you describe characters, make sure events and relationships are clearly delineated, things like that. As the writer, you may have all that in your head, but you need to communicate it to the reader. To me, that’s a top rule of writing: Make it understandable to the reader.

Readers also get comfortable with writers writing certain types of stories, and it’s a bit of a chance for that writer to go out of the box. I was discussing this on a forum once, and someone posted and said that they liked a certain author because that author good lesbian stories. In fact, the author was a favorite because they wrote lesbian stories. If that author started writing straight romances, the reader said, they would no longer like the author.

I said wait, what, why? Why does one story in another category have to knock an author of your list entirely? (I may be misstating but I don’t think so, and there are some people who will think this way.) I mean, I love Neil Gaiman’s stories, which are almost all in the realm of fantasy or the fantastical. If he wrote a straight-up murder mystery, to be honest, I’d be all over that. I’d want to see what one of my favorite authors could do in another genre.

But that’s probably not the best comparison, because in my above example, the reader was lesbian and preferred lesbian fiction and did not care for straight fiction. No problem. I still don’t see why, though, one story out of the normal routine would be such a mark against an author.

It’s quite possible that my stand-alone stories are voted down because they are not as well done as my longer ones. That’s cool.  I hope not, but that’d be a fine reason. However, as a writer I need to try different things, just like musicians need to experiment with sounds an genres. Writing the same thing gets dull. There’s a comfort in the routine, admittedly, and I like to go back to my fluff sometimes, but sometimes I want to stretch and try something else. I just hope the readers will stretch, too.



One response to this post.

  1. Posted by estragon on June 27, 2013 at 12:32 am

    Like a wedding…everyone cries, but each for a different reason. So with authors, critics and readers.


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