Tuesday, October 25, 2011

What Are You Scared to Write?

by Ernessa T. Carter

Writers being writers (read really frickin' neurotic), there's a huge list of things that scare us. For my part, I've had both waking and sleeping nightmares about missing deadlines, getting career-ending reviews, current fans pitchforking my future works, apocalyptic sales, losing the ability to write because of a brain or severe physical injury, having an editor inform me that I'll "never write in this town again" -- really, I could go on and on.

[UPDATE: Last night after writing this post, I dreamed that a long ago enemy invited me to dinner with her friends and exceedingly handsome fiance to tell me about the huge non-fiction three-book deal she'd just garnered. Then she asked me what I was working on. #truenightmares]

But I won't, because today's blog isn't about what scares me as a writer. No, it's about what I'm scared to write.

I write women's fiction (let's not even get into how it should be called plain ol' fiction-fiction, since women are over 50% of the market -- that's a whole 'nother blog). But like many writers, I'm pretty comfortable reading several genres outside of my own. I love sci-fi, literary, YA and trust if you give me the right set of circumstances (long day, sick toddler, fuzzy brain), I'll swallow a romance novel whole. All of these other genres tend to bleed into my women's fiction writing, and if one of my above non-injury-related nightmares came true, forcing me to switch from my preferred category in order to stay viable, I'd like to believe that I'd be able to take on any of the other genres I love to read.

However, if someone asked me to write a mystery, I'd have no idea how to go about it. I'm still not quite clear on what a cozy mystery even is, and in any case I can't imagine having enough internal motivation to write one. Same goes for horror novels -- I don't think I could even pen a horror short. I'm aware that it's a popular genre, but the thought of writing within it makes me want to start applying for cubicle jobs in marketing. Basically, if I don't generally read a genre, I'm just way too scared to attempt writing it.

But how about you? What genres are you afraid to write? Let me know in the comments, and Happy Halloween!

In addition to running the online magazine, Fierce and Nerdy, Ernessa T. Carter is the author of 32 CANDLES, a romantic comedy that is totally worth buying.

Photo credit: Smudgie's Ghost


  1. I'd be afraid to write romance novels, mostly because way back when my adviser told me I was terrible at sex scenes, and because, yes, that statement made me very neurotic! :)

  2. Sandra, I've been told that I'm terrible at nuance. But I wouldn't be afraid to go balls to the wall literary. I say if you ever get the chance, write one. It'd be so much fun, and they have the sweet romance category if you truly never want to attempt a sex scene again. (I know my hypothetical literary novel would be really on the nose).

  3. Hi Sandra, I write mystery, but would be scared to death to write romance or chick lit. The thought of propelling a story for 300 pages w/o a mystery of some sort...well, couldn't do it. At least not right now. Maybe someday I'll figure it out!

  4. Oh Ernessa, I could help you with the cozy mystery angle:). (And by the way, cozy means the sex and violence take place off the page. Since I'm lousy at sex scenes too, that suits me!)

    I love your nightmare that someone says "you'll never write in this town again"--that is to say, I don't LOVE it, but find it very funny.

  5. @Sara, that's so funny, b/c I have no idea how I'd propel a mystery forward, much less plot it out in a compelling way. I'm really excited about this cycle, b/c it's always interesting to hear the how and why writers came to their genre.

    @Lucy, Wait no sex or violence on page? I definitely couldn't write that. But I did love the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency when it was on HBO. Would the book versions count as a cozy? I might have to pick them up...

  6. Okay, since I've sat here for the past four hours rewriting a love scene, I don't know if I've got any room to talk! (It's working itself out. Love scenes are a lot of give & take, if you follow, plus dialogue slipped in at just the juncture) ANYWAY, the idea of attempting a mystery makes my blood run cold... Oh, wait, isn't that part of the lingo?!? Great post, Ernessa!!

  7. You guys crack me up! Such funny responses. Ernessa: I'd fail romance miserably--even just the romantic kind--but you know I always *wish* I could write something outside my field. I sort of want to do a paranormal/lit thing, but no one who is 'literary' seems to get the connection between the two. Sigh. At any rate, this cycle has influenced my post for the 28th which is about witchcraft and magical realism! :)

  8. Really enjoyed your post, Ernessa, and had to laugh about the discussion here. For me, it would take a miracle to pull off a horror scene, let alone write an entire horror novel. I've watched a lot of "Supernatural" episodes, but I doubt even the Winchester brothers would be able to help me with something like that...

  9. I love this post, Ernessa. I agree with Marilyn. The genre I would love to try is horror. What's frightening is that I can dream up some pretty scary scenarios but have no idea how to transfer those ideas to paper. Plus, I worry that if I go too far, people will think that I really do have bodies buried in my basement or something worst!:)

  10. Ernessa, You remember Kim Kay Terry entreating me to try romance? I just don't think I got it in me. Most romances leave me rolling my eyes or giggling like an eighth grade boy. So I don't think true romance is in my future, but romantic comedy maybe. I sure do like watching them. And reading them. Shout out to 32 Candles! And Orange Mint & Honey has some rom com elements.

    Sandra, can't wait to read your post! I'm reading The Magician King right now and The Night Circus is sitting on the table waiting for me. Just yesterday my husband asked "Aren't you sick of magic?!" My very articulate answer was to hold up The Magician King and say duh! (I know magic isn't the same as magic realism, but I love magic realism too!)

  11. Although I'm a huge fan of sci-fi movies and TV, (may the force be with you...) I would be terrible at writing a sci-fi novel. I love creating new worlds, but creating worlds in the future, which could possibly have different species walking around--um no.

  12. @Laura Mine too. I freeze up and think, "Oh, I couldn't possibly."

    @Sandra sci-fi seems to creeping into literary more often. Colson Whitehead just did a zombie novel, and Zadie Smith says sci-fi will play a major role in her next novel. Also, I can't wait to read the new Murakami. He's been toeing the scifi/literary line for ages.

    @Marilyn I have to get on SUPERNATURAL. So many people I trust have recommended it.

    @Carolyn Me too! Sometimes I think I should start writing the nightmares down, b/c maybe that will stop them. But I'm not sure I could emotionally handle spending that much time with my deepest fears.

    @Carleen Oh my gosh! MAGICIAN KING was my third favorite book of the year. So many amazing IDEAS. My husband and I were talking about it for weeks after both finished it.

    @Katrina Yes, the world-building is what scares me the most. I'm always so impressed with authors like N.K. Jemison and Nnedi Okorafor who manage to pull it off seamlessly.

  13. you are so right, I write from time to time and I have some things that really scare me, one of those is to lack of original and creative ideas to write about