My whole childhood was filled with fantasy. My parents indulged my love for fantasy (they were careful about what fantasy I read) and I grew up with it in my heart. I'm a firm believer in the part fantasy plays in the magical mind of a child. Fantasy helped me get through a lonely childhood and made me feel like I had a place I belonged. I spent hours reading, transported to lands unknown and making friends with centaurs and hobbits.
When I first discovered a real love for writing, I was writing fan fiction (The Chronicles of Narnia, anyone?). I wrote fan fiction for about two consistent years before I took a break from writing fantasy only because I thought it might be immature (hello, awkward 15-year-old me). I wrote some historical fiction but still wasn't completely happy. Finally when I was 17/18 I went back to fantasy, this time creating my own characters and stories. I felt renewed in my writing and thought, "This is my niche."
But life has a funny way of taking what you believe to be set in stone and turning it into mush before settling into a state of liquid gold.
I finished my first fantasy novel draft in September of 2014, as some of you may know. I then began work on developing the next three books, taking a break from editing. I've recently gone back to the prequel's draft to start editing...and it's been a disaster. It's amazing how just one year can set your writing apart by leaps and bounds; I found that not only was my writing complicated and confusing, but I had way too many characters for the story's goal. I've since cut at least six characters, including deleting my main character and making a minor character my main character. I realized my book wasn't anywhere near completion, and I want to redirect the entire plot of the story.
This often happens with first drafts, but it's exhausting and can be discouraging. I haven't given up on my story, but a lot needs to change before I can even start to think of rewriting.
In the meantime, I've decided to start work on a contemporary novel that has been in my mind for about a year now. I practiced self control and only wrote scenes as they came to me rather than just jumping into a first draft. I have thought about it every day since coming up with the idea, have completed research, developed my characters to the point I feel like they are my friends (in the normal writer way, not creepy psychotic way I think), and have a solid idea of where I want to go with the story.
When I started writing the first draft, I literally experienced shivers down my spine. I felt inspired, calm, confident even when I hit trouble spots. I've written three chapters using my special outline (which is basically making note of every little scene I want to include and in which order and from whose POV — I've hated traditional outlining since elementary school) and everything just feels right.
Though I had many story ideas in the genre, I've never successfully written contemporary fiction because it felt awkward to me. I've always been comfortable with fantasy. To have that reversed has thrown me for a loop. I have no doubt my personal experiences have contributed to this, from getting my first job in 2013 and experiencing some "real-world" situations to my struggles with my mental health. I know what message I want to send through my stories, what characters I want to write. I feel like I can accomplish this best with contemporary fiction.
That's not to say I'm not going back to fantasy at some point; I fully intend to write a fantasy series some day. All I'm saying is that if you're stuck, don't get discouraged. The right story will come along. It might be tomorrow, it might be ten years from now, but don't give up.
I'm going to be entering part of this new story in a contest soon, so I will let you know how that goes! In the meantime, thanks for all your support on Twitter! It's been a fun week :)