Tuesday, August 07, 2007

The Road Less Traveled

If you’re at all like me, you have a defined schedule. Up at 7:30; at work by 8:30; lunch at noon; off work at 5:00; then writing/housework until bedtime at 11. Most of my days are cookie cutter exactly like this. So how exciting can I be in my writing?

Sure I read romances, watch bits of TV show as well as movies and listen to music that inspires me, but shouldn’t I want to be a little more spontaneous like my heroines? That brings me to the road less traveled. Editors and agents say they are looking for something different, not the stayed same-old-same-old plotlines, characters, settings, etc. Making that happen means taking a path far different from the crowd. In order to do that, you have to forge a new path.

If you don’t do that in your own life, how can you hope to do that for your hero/heroine? In an effort to be more carefree I used my vacation time last week to the max. I rode four coasters at Busch Gardens (Europe) in VA and I will say Apollo’s Chariot scared the crap out of me. I like to be strapped in tight and buckled down safe for a ride, not clinging with my arms and legs to a little lap handle when dropping a few hundred feet at 70+. But I rode it twice. Why? I wanted to overcome my fears (and because I didn’t want my twin to go by herself, nor one up me.) I needed to live life and know exhilaration so I could write about it, instead of sitting on the sidelines.

People often say you have to write what you know (or atleast something with a similar basis). In order to do that, you have to branch out and be willing to learn new things. For example take a tour in the blazing hot sun at a local landmark like Colonial Williamsburg, VA. Can you imagine being a slave or indentured servant and working 16 hour days in the sun? How about giving birth on a bed made of nothing but wooden planks? Imagine sitting in the same place where Thomas Jefferson once sat in church or entering the same jail cell as a few of Blackbeard’s cutthroat mateys before they were hanged. Makes you think about what you take for granted doesn’t it? I had no idea such lush historical places and important information resided only a few hours drive away.

I can definitively say I am glad for the experiences. Just like the game of putt-putt I played (and came in last in) there are often two ways to get to the cup. You have to decide which direction is your best bet. Do you play it safe or go a little wild and hope the risk pays off? I know that I’m a by-the-book type gal, but when I’m writing I want my books to be anything but. Who wants to read ho-hum anecdotes anyway?

So I hope you all follow my lead and go down the unbeaten path every once in a while. Hopefully you will learn something you never knew, pick up some valuable advice and be able to breathe fresh life into your writing! I myself am thinking of an escaped pirate who is meeting a certain kind lass under the train trestle…though he doesn’t know he’s walking into more dangerous territory because she’s a witch who always stirs things up. Hmm…a historical romance with paranormal elements…now that’s hot!

When thinking about taking chances, I can’t help but recall my time driving alone on US 129, AKA The Dragon, in the mountains of NC & TN. I caught myself more than once shying away from the terrain that scares enthusiasts who challenge The Dragon yearly. One wrong move can literally mean death. Every time I told myself—you’re strong, you can do this—and I made it through. In fact I even laughed when I reached the other side and joked about getting a Survivor t-shirt.

Why do I mention this? I harkened back to my rescue trip when I decided to pen a novella for Samhain’s ON THE PROWL anthology. Growling car engines was the first image I though of, followed by a shifter hero who wanted things his way. I knew the dangerous setting was way different than anyone would brainstorm, plus the lush mountainside provides a perfect spot for a bewitching weekend getaway. Mix in a heroine who doesn’t take any guy’s crap (including the hillbilly baddie) and CRASH INTO YOU was born. Now I’m getting prickled by more pins and needles waiting to see what the editors think. Wish me luck!

1 comment:

Bernadette Gardner and Jennifer Colgan said...

Great post, Skylar. I'm a big fan of off-the-beaten path adventures.