There was a piece of advice going around at the 20 Books Vegas conference that really is true, but I can’t take to heart:
“Stay in your lane.”
Meaning, write to market, keep writing what you know and what your readers like to keep buying. Do what works. Don’t waste time in different genres or sub-genres that your core readers don’t like. If you must, use a pseudonym and start a whole separate marketing campaign. Shifter romance, domestic suspense, post-apocalyptic, military sci-fi, reverse harem. Whatever. Stay in your lane.
This is a valid strategy if you are working on the rapid-release model of writing, where you are trying to earn your living with your writing. Write what brings in money, yes. Don’t waste your energies on side projects.
But I’m not trying to support myself with my writing in that bread and butter way. I’m retired, I have retirement income and healthcare. I’m good so far. I want my writing to be successful, certainly. But I won’t be evicted without it. I have some breathing room, I guess. And I need it, because I find this idea stay in your lane pretty stifling.
Or at least, let’s widen the lane. My lane is, at its loftiest, “speculative fiction.” In more workaday terms, science fiction and fantasy. It is what I have read and enjoyed since before I can remember now, and what I want to write. All of it, not a razor-thin slice of a subgenre. I write to express myself, and I want to express myself in different forms. I want to try my hand at high fantasy and urban fantasy, at space opera and alternate history, sword and sorcery and solarpunk. All of it. I have so many ideas. At this point I feel it would be a disservice to my craft to do otherwise. To confine it to a marketable category.
I left the paid workforce to no longer be subject to the demands of the market. To do what I wanted to do. So why shackle myself right back to the market?
I think over time, as I develop my body of work, readers will be able to see the themes and issues that preoccupy me: strong female characters, our relationship with the earth, drawing inspiration from myth and history. You can see that already in the two books I’ve published.
I want my lane to be the entire broad highway, the entire mighty river of speculative fiction. The same course that, as a reader, I have been navigating my whole life.
It seems an artist’s statement might help me refine my ideas here. I could share that, if that’s not too lofty, and invite readers along on that journey across the forms of speculative literature.