On Writing: Juggling Sub-Genres

Today is the first day of my new blogging schedule and format. Wish me luck. You know how fickle I am. A new mantra:

Make a plan.
Take the stand.
Stay. On. Track

Please hold while I repeat that three times.

(insert any Barry Manilow ballad)

Okay. I’m back.

I recently asked if there was anything you wanted to know about me or my writing process.

Roni wrote: “I'd like to hear more about how you balance writing more than one kind of romance (contemporary humorous with suspense and westerns).”

Beth says: "It ain’t easy."

My first western was a labor of love. It was my first attempt at writing a novel, the story of my heart. I wrote and rewrote--what became LASSO THE MOON--over a span of ten years before it finally sold. When I pitched the idea of two more westerns to Medallion Press, I was riding high on the rush of seeing my labor of love born. I thoroughly enjoyed revising and polishing LTM. I absolutely adored the characters and the time period. Secondary characters screamed, “Tell my story!” And to my delight, Medallion responded, “Tell away!”

As it happens I had just sold three contemporaries (the Evie series) to HQN. How fabulous! One of my long term goals—writing two different sub-genres for two different publishers—became reality in the blink of an eye! Previously, I had written three contemporaries back to back for Medallion with eighteen months. So I thought, no problem. I can do this. Six months to write each book. Alternating deadlines. Contemporary. Historical Western. Contemporary. And so forth.

What I didn’t take into consideration were the overlapping production deadlines (because I’d never had those) and promoting one book while writing another. In addition, I had had years to research the historical aspects of my first western, not a few scant months. Nor did I factor in the time it would take for me to shift my mindset from that of contemporary to historical or the fact that one series is in first person and the other in third.

Most importantly, for me, the characters and ‘their world’ have to click before I can get in the groove and rock creatively.

Period of adjustment.

It appears I need at least one month to stew and tinker and shift gears from one time period, one sub-genre, to another. In reality, between various production deadlines, promoting upcoming/new releases, and shifting mindset gears, six months to research and write a book turned into 3-4 months. Depending on your level of writing speed and style, this could be a challenge. It is for me. I’m doing it. But it ain’t easy.

In hindsight it would have been easier to write the westerns back-to-back and the contemporaries back-to-back. I’d already be in that groove I mentioned. But that didn’t fit my career plan. I listened to my business instinct and I went for it. I’m not sorry. I’m writing stories I love. I’m published by two terrific publishers. But this stressful process and consistent time crunch has caused me to reevaluate my career plan. I need to slow down or narrow my focus. Bottom line: I can’t create if I burn out.

If you want to write in two (or more) sub-genres the trick is factoring in all of the things I mentioned earlier on. I tripped upon a fabulous article by author Julie Kenner pertaining to this very subject—Juggling Books and Publishers. Click here to read. Even though I’ve already read it, I’m right behind you.


Jennifer Elbaum said…
Hi Beth

Just wanted to let you know that I finally got around to blogging about Evie. (Sorry for the delay. It's NOT a reflection of how much I enjoyed the book. Gotta love a gal that can embrace her classic movie geekdom!)www.jenniferelbaum.wordpress.com

Good luck with your new format for the blog! Can't wait to see the "random" days!
Beth Ciotta said…
Hi Jen,

Thank you for the fabulous write up for Evie! I'm so glad you liked her adventure and I loved the way you summed up the set up. :)

As to my new format.. so far, so good. Although it has only been one day. Hee!
Anna Lucia said…
You're my hero, Beth! I love that you're honest about how much hard work it's taken, but that you can say, "I'm not sorry."

Beth Ciotta said…
Aww shucks, Anna. Thanks. :) If anyone can learn anything from my journey, then I am pleased to share.
Roni said…
Thanks for answering my question Beth! It does indeed sound like a juggling act going from one time period (and deadlines) to another. One more question--are you enjoying the variety of the two different settings? You are such a diverse person that I imagine you enjoy having different kinds of romances to write.
Beth Ciotta said…
Hi Roni! Yes, I very much enjoy writing in the two different settings. Even when I sang for a living, it drove me nuts to restrict myself to one style. I enjoyed singing jazz, rock, country, pop.... Each offered their own challenge and joy. I guess I equate freedom of expression with variety. In the words of Cole Porter: Don't Fence Me In.

That said... the only damper on writing in two differnt time periods on tights deadlines is, of course the time constraint.
Gabriele C. said…
I have recently added Sword and Sorcery to my Historical Fiction, but I'll still only write a book every other year. :)

OK, since I have several in the same state of progress now, I can knock out one a year the first 3 years to get my name out there, but afterwards it's rather less money and more time for me, or I'd be unhappy.

Not to mention one of my big boys is probably two of yours. :)
Beth Ciotta said…
Gabriele, seems like you have a sound plan. Knowing your pace and process is half the battle. By the way, I can't imagine writing the extended length of most historical fiction books. A whole different animal! I'm in awe. :)

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