Writing in Someone Else’s Rut: A Guest Post by Sharon Gerlach

First, I wanted to say a GREAT BIG THANKS to Kait for hosting me today, and for all the help she’s given me in getting my novella, Malakh, out for public consumption.

I was entertaining the idea of talking about why I chose to make the novella about angels. In fact, yesterday I wrote almost a full page about it—single-spaced—but when I sat down to complete it, I gave it a quick read through and realized it sucked. So rather than put you through the agony of reading what even I didn’t want to read despite the fact that I wrote it, I decided to talk about writing in someone else’s rut.

We’ve all seen it. For instance, a blockbuster vampire series hits the shelves, and suddenly vampire novels are popping up like dandelions. By the time the subject reached maximum saturation (are we there yet? are we there yet?), I was ready to stake all “good” and “bad  vampires alike. And the poor readers, with twitching limbs and vacant expressions and blasé attitudes: Oh. Another vampire novel. I guess I’ll buy it because that’s what’s popular these days.

Let’s talk urban fantasy. I fully admit the Urban Fantasy Train left the station without me even being aware of its presence in the depot. I became aware of the genre when I started querying my simple romance novel, Office Politics. It seemed everyone in the literary world was looking for kick-ass heroines who take lovers with supernatural abilities. WHAT??? There’s no room at the inn for my quirky, accident-prone heroine and her ill-fated love for her boss and her love for enormous quantities of tequila?!?! REALLY???

All the writers around me were pumping out action-packed prose with political agendas and government adversaries and impossible conflicts. So I decided to write my own. I could do it; I can write just about anything. Four aborted attempts later, I had to admit that perhaps urban fantasy isn’t for me. I tossed all attempts into File 13, which is what I’d name my Recycle Bin if Windows would let me. I know there are writers who tell you never to throw any of your writing away, but trust me, it’s better this way. The free world will thank me someday.

I couldn’t accept that the Urban Fantasy door was closed to me. I was determined to find a way. And then I happened upon a Bible verse while doing a search for …something, anything to spark my creative juices. The Sons of God saw that the daughters of men were beautiful, and they married any of them they chose.

The Sons of God. Now I know there are a scant crap-ton of angel novels out there; I’ve even read a few of them. But I was determined not to write in someone else’s rut. I had a heroine—broken and flawed, the victim of her own selfishness and bad decisions. She had no special powers…but what if she once had? What if she’d lost them when she lost her lover? And who better to give those powers to her but an angel? But why she did lose her lover? Aaahhh, what if…what if he could no longer resist the compulsion to murder? Now we’re talking. Finally…finally…I was able to progress past writing half a chapter.

I started Malakh two and a half years ago, but have spent maybe two full weeks total writing it. The story flowed with no obstructions, no hesitations, and best of all, no doubts. And I know why: I pulled myself out the rut, also known as the current trend. Don’t take that wrong; what works for someone else—the tough-as-nails heroines, sublime superhuman lovers, politics and intrigue—doesn’t necessarily work for everyone. And if you try to force a fit, you’re not being true to your writing voice—and worse, not being true to your readers. You owe it to yourself and your readers—and your hard-working muse (assuming you have such a thing; mine is pretty much a lazy biotch who is absentia most of the time)—to write true. Write what your heart wants to write, and let your head handle Research and Other Mundane Tasks.

My point being, when it works, it works. And when it doesn’t, don’t try to force it, or you’ll be filling that File 13 to the brim with failed attempts.

Malakh can be purchased at Smashwords, Amazon, and Amazon UK, for the low price of $.99 through April 30.

~*~

Sharon Gerlach was in training to be a ninja, but a dismaying lack of physical grace and balance—not to mention the inability to keep her big mouth shut—ended her ninja career before it had really begun. Now she writes. She doesn’t write about ninjas because that’s obviously a sore subject. But she writes about other really cool things and figures someone else will cover the ninjas. Life’s really not all about ninjas, anyway. Sharon lives on the dry side of the Pacific Northwest with her husband (who must really be fond of her as he hasn’t left her yet despite her ninja failings); two of her three kids (none of whom possess ninja qualities either); and a Border collie who suffers the presence of seven cats. Yes, you guessed it—ninja cats!

Malakh is her first published work, with two women’s fiction novels to be released in late 2011. Be sure to check Running Ink Press’s website [http://runninginkpress.com] for information on upcoming releases.

12 thoughts on “Writing in Someone Else’s Rut: A Guest Post by Sharon Gerlach

  1. I’m one of the few people who loved vampires before everyone went crazy over them. So that was an easy thing to write about for me. But my real love is ghosts. Judging by the difference in sales between my vampire books and my ghost books, though, people aren’t ready to make the switch. LOL

    I seriously loved Malakh. It was very different from other angel stories I’ve read. Honestly, if I had been able to, I would have liked to have read it in one sitting without putting it down. It was that good! I carried my Kindle around while I was doing other stuff so I could keep reading. It’s a wonder I didn’t hurt myself by running into things. :0)

    • Lauralynn, you are a balm to my nerve-wracked ego. 🙂 I’m so glad you enjoyed it.

      I too like the ghosts and such. My other paranormal novels involve anegls & demons & black magic. Hopefully by the time they’re ready for publication, the public will be eating up angels stories. lol Let’s hope!

  2. Of course I really identify with this. My total boredom with vamps is what led me to create my Mirus series. I really wanted something DIFFERENT that I hadn’t read before.

    I think there’s often a fine line we walk…obviously we want to be successful as writers, and that means writing something people WANT to read. But you absolutely have to find a way to make your version…not derivative of all the stuff that’s come before. KWIM?

    • Definitely we have to give the public what they want…but–and no offense to the public–I sometimes think they don’t know what they want until they pick up a story off the beaten track. Then the subject spreads like wildfire until the next off-the-beaten-path subject comes along. It’s kind of amusing to watch froma reader’s standpoint–and frustrating from a writer’s standpoint. We want to write a unique story, but the market is saturated with our subject. It’s enough to give a girl hives.

  3. denise

    Thanks for your sharing today – I have to say I still like my vampires and urban fantasy and I don’t think I will be leaving that reading anytime soon – I just like what I like and really don’t care what others are saying we need to move onto. I really am really pleased that you feel the writer has to say what is in their heart and not follow the crowd with what is “popular.” I am a pretty eclectic reader and frankly regardless of the genre I can usually tell when a story is being told because there is something to say that has to get out versus the okay we need to crank out another whatever the genre is they are generally writing. I zipped right over to Amazon and got your book and really really look forward to enjoying what sounds like a very interesting read.

    • Oh, thank you! I hope you enjoy the story!

      I,too, like to read within a genre. I’m paranoid about my writing, however–I want my stories to stand out from the crowd and not get lost in the trend. I can tell the books that are written for the trend and ones that are written from the heart, too–which is why I still read the vampires stories and such. If you find one written from the heart–wonderful reading!

  4. Omigod….the ninja thing was hilarious. Can I use that for my guest poet bio? LMAO

    • Why yes, yes you may! lol

  5. Wonderful post and I’m looking forward to reading your book. I’ve always been an eclectic reader preferring original stories over same old same old. Like Denise said, it’s usually easy to tell the different between someone putting something out for the sake of the trend, versus really loving what they are writing and putting out an original story. Even if it is about vampires or angels or whatever. Heading over to Amazon to download your book. *grin* Thanks for sharing your space, Kait. So nice to meet you Sharon.

    • Thank you, Robin–for reading both the post & my book! I’m an eclectic reader, too, and love stories that are just a little off-center (even vampire stories–I actually really like vampire stories!). 😀

  6. “I sometimes think they don’t know what they want until they pick up a story off the beaten track” — that is so incredibly true. Some of my favorite books of all time are ones that I just randomly picked up but weren’t necessarily my preferred subgenre.. I’d actually avoided the vampire trend for quite a while when it first started, but alas, now I’ve been sucked into it. Er. No pun intended.

    I have to admit though, that I have a definite soft spot for angels 😀

    Ah well I’m rambling. I just wanted to say that this was a great post, I ADORED the ninja bio, and I just snagged Malakh from Amazon (thanks for having it on sale!).. It’s bedtime here but I get the distinct feeling that I’ll be finishing it before I allow myself to sleep 😛

  7. Wonderful post! I’m looking forward to reading the book.

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