Monday, June 4, 2007

Writing outside your comfort zone

Comfort zones are good places, safe places where there's always shelter to glide into during the storms of life. Most of us naturally seek these safe areas - less fear that way.
My writing comfort zone consists of writing on schedule, completing a certain word count each day, and of writing from an outline or scene list.

So what happens when I write out of my comfort zone? For one thing, I eat a lot of chocolate, as I'm doing right now (because this is a scarey topic). For another, my writer voice changes. But not always in a bad way. For many years I wrote from this comfort zone. I cranked out book after book and each one was rejected. I even changed genres thinking that my conservative values were hampering my freedom to write intimate love scenes.

One day in 2006 I got ready to start a new story. It was to be a sequel to a story I'd already written. I was organizing my colored note cards and story board for a plotting session, and my husband threw a monkey wrench into the works. He asked why didn't I try something different this time.

Scarey to write a different way. And the most scarey of all would be to write a book by the seat of my pants. So very different for me.

But after a day or two to calm down, I realized I had nothing to lose. So I started my story with a murdered woman. I didn't know who killed her. I had no thick dossier for each character before I began writing. I just let my imagination run free every time I sat down to write. For this story, I let each scene be a chapter. My only rule was to have a surprise at the start and end of the chapter.

Here's what happened. Every day, I was eager to write. I couldn't wait to see what my crazy characters would do next.

That experience proved to me that sometimes its good to shake things up a bit, that we need to step outside of our comfort zones to reach for that elusive prize. Keep your story fresh, and you will be energized about the time you spend at the keyboard.

Until next week,

Maggie Toussaint

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