As I previously mentioned, I’ve been working on a new story with older characters. Upper upper YA, or “New Adult” as the publishing kids are calling it these days.
I’m so used to writing about characters who live at home, go to school, and are working up the courage to talk coherently to their crushes that I have to remind myself it’s okay to change things up. The publishing police will not come to my house, rip my laptop from my hands and revoke my YA card.
It’s so easy to get stuck inside your comfort zone, and it takes courage to push yourself out of it.
This is the main plot of High School Musical, after all.
The funny thing is, I tried my hand at NA before it was a genre. The second MS I ever queried was about a twenty-two year old in college interning for a late night talk show (notice a theme with my manuscripts?) All my rejections came in saying the story was great, but there was really no market for that age range (about six months later NA became a thing.)
So, needless to say, going from an unspecified genre that became a genre months later, to YA, back to a more developed NA has been an adjustment and makes me question if I’ll be able to pull it off.
But then something great happened that has really helped me be confident about pushing the boundaries. Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’re all fully aware that Taylor Swift released her new album, 1989, last week.
Lots of people keep saying that it’s a complete 180 from her previous sound. Well, not necessarily. The progression was slower than most think. The Story of Us off of Speak Now was strictly pop, and her last album, Red, was a good mix of pop and country/pop, with some experimental dubstep.
Sure, you can still hear her roots on 1989 if you listen close enough to certain songs, but for the most part, this new record is a synth-heavy, dance party album with influences from the decade she was born and the one she grew up in.
As I listened to this new record I wondered how Taylor mentally worked through switching genres. I wondered if, with each decision to add synth to a song, or try something so out of the box–like her valley girl cheerleader chant in Shake it Off–she worried the listener would be like:
Did she obsess over it all not working? Did she panic people would say she flipped her lid and should go back to country/pop, stat?
I tried to imagine what it took for Taylor to not spend her writing process writing off every lyric or melody as “Not Me. Too weird. No one will like it.”
If she did obsess, she went for it anyway, and I admire that so much about her. She busted out of her comfort zone, she tried something completely new. And it worked.
I read this article about her thoughts on the subject of genre changes back in 2012, and this was my favorite quote about it.
It goes without saying that we can apply this to writing novels as well. I’m currently reading a YA by Harlan Coben, a man famous for his adult detective novels, and he does it flawlessly because he maintains his natural voice.
I guess the moral of the story is to block out the negative thoughts, don’t overthink, and just shake it off and do it anyway.
Have you ever written outside of your genre?? What are your thoughts on artists who change things up?