A new connection on Google-+ (speaking of which, is there a new term I’m missing? they’re not Facebook Friends or Twitter Tweeps…Plussers, maybe?) is in the habit of asking pointed, sometimes thought-provoking questions of her writers circle under the hashtag #writing_ques:
What do you prefer to write - articles, poetry,
screen plays, flash fiction, short stories or novels?
My response: Novels, short stories, essays, articles, the occasional flash...
What are you working on now?
My response: Shopping novel #1, editing novel #2, writing novel #3, plus weekly blog posts, essays, and the occasional short story...oh, and tech writing, if I can find a contract
What is your ultimate goal for your writing?
I’m still mulling a response for that one, but her questions have given me pause on more than one occasion. Usually when someone asks what I write, I say mysteries; both of my finished (!) novels are mystery stories, not quite cozies, but not hardcore thrillers, either. And they’re as much psychological studies and relationship journeys as anything; does that make them “women’s fiction”? If I take inventory of my (thankfully) growing list of publications, I find true “mysteries” are far down on the list.
The mystery novels have yet to attract an agent and self-publishing is not for me at this point, so they don’t count in the final tally – yet. Of my short story credits only one, “Happy Birthday to You,” (I know, lame title – it was an early effort) is a mystery. Oddly enough, it served as the basis for novel #2 (and gained a new title in the process). The remaining five short stories fall somewhere between women’s fiction and literary (a whole other debate), although the latest, published in a terrific online journal, is just creepy enough for the Halloween season. But it’s not really a mystery, either – maybe psychological thriller?
Genre is so ambiguous and hard to pin down. I’ve seen a map that breaks out forty-two different possibilities, and I’m sure it continues to expand. In determining genre, writers are told to imagine where their work would fit on the shelf at the local bookstore. A talented author from my writers group takes that suggestion to heart. Every week before leaving our local Barnes & Noble after our meeting, he finds the place where his book would fit and makes a spot on the shelf for it. I should follow his lead on that practice, and several others as I can easily see him as the first of our group to publish a full volume.
It’s disturbing thought, this review of my oeuvre. My dream has always been to be a fiction writer, yet I’ve had far greater success in non-fiction, from Historic Warren County: An Illustrated History, through newspapers articles and book reviews, to a recent anthologized personal essay. Fascinating, really, how dreams and reality diverge.
Is this dichotomy normal? Maybe I’ll ask my new Google+ #writing_ques connection/friend/buddy to add that question to her list.