To explore strange new worlds
by Jessa Slade on March 1st, 2010

Currently working on: Al.Most.Done with revisions
Mood: Last stretch of K2 with the promise of a long toboggan ride down — whee! (probably into a bottomless cravasse, but…)

Our topic this week is “If I wrote in another subgenre…” which didn’t take that much imagining for me because I’ve already done it.  And the timing of the topic couldn’t be better since I just cleaned out a cabinet and unearthed (and yes, by unearthed I mean removed enough dust to qualify as earth) these:


These are a bunch (not all, mind you) of my old stories.  In this stack or out of view on the floor are the following:

  • A historical of no particular time period (who knew you had to choose ONE time period or at least provide a time machine) with exceedingly murky point of view changes
  • Two rom-coms, one with a herd of dachshunds
  • Two Regencies, one with requisite duke (I feel a sudden urge to write THE DUKE OF DACHSHUNDS for some reason)
  • A medieval with paranormal elements
  • A futuristic romantic suspense with old skool Indiana Jones overtones
  • A high fantasy heroic quest road trip revised as a contemporary paranormal romance
  • Various and assorted pieces and parts of other Regencies, contemps and Harlequin categories


Writing coaches will tell you to pick a subgenre and stick with it, at least until you’ve made a place for yourself as a certain kind of writer offering a certain kind of experience.  And, they say, for heaven’s sake, DON’T query an agent or editor with all of the above.  (Uh, oops…)

I’m sure the writing coaches are right.  They also tell you that you should probably write what you read.  And that was my problem — I read all sorts of romance.  So I wrote all sorts of romance before I found out that might be considered a waste of time.  Not to mention a waste of paper.

But I don’t regret those wide-ranging stories.  All that casting around (maybe I should say, casting up my writing accounts — you Regency readers will know what I mean) was me trying to unearth “my voice” and what kinds of stories I wanted to tell.

Even though the subgenres displayed a touch of multiple personality disorder, the stories inside contained many of the same elements:

  • A heroine marching to her own piper
  • A hero with troubles he’d rather not share
  • A few (or more) shadows with contrasting light moments
  • Enough adventure or intrigue to keep me interested

And even if I write a cookbook, I can pretty much guess how it will end.  Happily.

Those earlier projects mark my evolution as a writer.  I almost hate to recycle the primeval papertrail they left.  But they are footsteps I’ve left behind me, not a path I need to retrace.

I have some old jewelry I made, from when I first started stringing beads, that I need to take apart too.  I’ve improved my craft and my vision and they aren’t my best effort anymore.  The components — crystal, pearl, sterling, glass – are still good, though, and I have a scavenger’s eye for salvage :)  I look forward to snipping off the ends and tumbling all the smooth and sparkly bits across my desk to see what I can keep.

Do you have old projects you keep around?  How do you know when you’re through with them?  Does seeing them weigh you down, or do they inspire you when you see how far you’ve come?


2 comments to “To explore strange new worlds”

  1. 1

    I keep all my old manuscripts, even the lame ideas that never got past chapter 1. Re-reading them is always good for a laugh, if nothing else. :wink:

  2. 2

    I have a lot of toys and tools from handcrafts (anyone on the market for bobbin lace equipment?) that I tried out and abandoned. And we won’t talk about Sharon’s sewing closet, where a veritable treasure trove of yard goods is slowly aging to perfection …

    Writing is the one thing I’ve stuck with.

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