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On Not Fitting In

This is one of those blog posts where I speak frankly about my own feelings and is meant to shed light on the human side of writing. My Moderator Mallet will be out in the comments. Please be nice.

In the days coming up to my two year anniversary as a published author I've had time to do a lot of soul searching. You probably saw my blog post about switching to Amazon-only for my books and already I'm happy with that decision. Not because it's brought me a ton of money or anything, but because it lifted a huge weight from my shoulders I've carried for sometime.

Here's another weight I carry with me that I hope to lighten this next year: the fact that I don't fit in anywhere in my writing universe. I used to think being unique made me stand out in the crowd. I used to think being unique meant I could do things people would appreciate for their creativity. But no, creativity is not something that’s rewarded. Creativity is risky, and most people are risk-adverse. People/readers want certainty.

So I took a hard look at the circles I spend time in online to figure out where I fit the best. I belong to a really great group of New Adult writers and I don't fit in there. My work is too foreign. It's not sexy enough. It's not mainstream. It's not billionaire rocker step-brother romances. Though all the authors I know that write those wonderfully edgy books welcome me, I sit on the sidelines and watch them all succeed while I go unnoticed.

But I think, “That's okay! They're doing well and that's what matters. I also belong to this romance writers group…” But I don't fit in there either. I don't write hard core romance. I've never been traditionally published. I don't write M/M romance or Navy Seals or Small Town or Paranormal Shifter Werewolf romances, all of which seem to be popular lately. They're all awesome genres to those that write them but I just have never had ideas for those genres so I sit on the sidelines and watch everyone else succeed.

Same goes for this awesome dystopia group I belong to that's all zombies and apocalyptic genres. Same goes for the science fiction romance group I belong to that's mostly aliens and spaceships. I even quit a chicklit group I loved because I didn't fit in so badly it was painful.

Boo hoo, right? Lol. No. It’s time to put on my thinking cap! So what do these observations mean? The clinical observer in me points out that this is a good indication that I'm still not writing in the “right genre for me.” I'm gaining lots of great experience in indie publishing, learning a whole lot about marketing and advertising. I'm learning about story structure and editing, and I’m meeting other awesome and supportive authors along the way. But I'm still not applying those lessons to a genre that's really my home.

Where is my home? If it's not New Adult, Romance, Dystopian, Magical Realism, or Science Fiction, what is it?

Two months ago, I would never have considered writing in a new genre because in a lot of cases, this means you start over as an author. Plenty of authors will even start a new pen name for a new genre because they don’t want to confuse their readers. Many readers will not follow an author to a new genre no matter how much they loved their other books. It's a big risk to take and one that shouldn't be taken lightly (Remember, readers are risk-adverse. They want to know what they’re getting when they pick up a book.)

I've been agonizing over my place in this author world now for two years. I've known I don't fit in for quite some time, and it's been hard to come to terms with up-ending everything I've worked hard for.

But it's time for another change. I'm keeping my Japan-inspired brand but I'm going to give a new genre a try this winter. Once I publish Revealed, I will be working hard crafting something new. How new? I want to dip my foot in mysteries. Mysteries as a book market is crowded but diverse, and I'm going to see if it's a place I might be comfortable in since there's more leeway for uniqueness and variation. I will keep up my Nogiku world and my Kami No Sekai world, but I plan to focus on this new genre and give it a real go, really try hard to make it work. Since it will be Japan-inspired, I hope to carry over those that came to me because of the Japan angle, and since I still love romance, I'll include a romance subplot for those that still want that.

My goal is to fit in as an author but stand out as a storyteller. And hopefully this is the first step in my journey towards finding the right audience for my work. I hope you'll join me in my quest to find my place and I promise to share the experiences with you a long the way.

S. J. Pajonas