What now?

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I think I’m getting old.  

Apart from the usual indicators (grey hair, wrinkles, don’t start me on the menopause) I have noticed one other Big Difference in me recently. I no longer find murder and gore palatable.

The past few books I have read in my usual genre of choice have left me feeling more than a little nauseous and uncomfortable. They have been written well, the prose was tight and the pages were turning, but… I don’t  think I want to read this stuff anymore. What’s wrong with me? Am I growing up at last?

I don’t believe it has anything to do with maturity. Crime fiction is one of the country’s biggest sellers. In May The Bookseller reported that in a four-week period ending 14/05/2010, Stieg Larsson sold over 310,000 books, Lee Child over 13,000.  There is clearly a market for the genre that is bigger than just a few gore-obsessed oddballs reading under the blankets with a torch. So why have I changed?

There has been a lot going on in my personal life in the past few months (nothing involving knives, guns or dismemberment, I hasten to add) and I have been more than a little stressed but hardly enough, I would have thought, to bring about such an about face. Then look at the news.

On top of the many natural disasters the planet has suffered over the past six months there have been many, many incidences where man’s violence to each other has been reported: riots, the Cumbrian shootings, Afghanistan, even the ongoing arguments over what really happened to Dr. David Kelly. I have begun to feel that each news report is chipping away a little of what makes me a human being. I’ve stopped watching the news or looking at news websites (apart from the Daily Mail ‘cos we all know that stuff’s not news) and a good slasher movie just leaves me cold.

Working on my novel has been making me very uneasy too. It’s a crime fiction set in Glasgow and involves child abduction into a paedophile ring and revenge. I still believe in my characters and I actually like them, finding it harder and harder to put them into the peril necessary to move the plot forward. The opening few pages have been especially upsetting as the POV character is a young boy. I found myself pleading with him not to go with the man, yet I knew he must.

So, I have come to a decision. I can’t save the squaddies in Afghanistan, I can’t reanimate the thousands who have died in the floods in Pakistan but I can save Joey and stop him being taken by the bogeyman.

Trouble is, what do I do now?

I have spent months planning and researching, my shelves are crammed with books on various aspects of crime and murder and I am totally at a loss as to what I will write next. Romance leaves me cold, I think I lack the ‘science’ bit for science fiction and I can’t stand cowboys. I did do some research and planning for a couple of children’s books that I still think could work and there are some incidents from my childhood that are odd enough to be written up… But really, I am stumped.

All suggestion gratefully received.

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15 Comments

  1. Karen Sanders
    Aug 14, 2010

    May I suggest giving it some time? This kind of thing happens to us all at some point. The things we once loved suddenly become boring – or in your case – disturbing. It’s no surprise when, as you say, these things are all over the news. Writing down such things in the form of entertainment gets harder when we see it happening for real right in front of us.
    But the difference between seeing what’s real and writing fiction is that we can simply put the book down and return to it later when the feelings have eased. I don’t think it is anything to with age, just that we our more than getting our fill of violence in the real word.
    Go, write something lighthearted. It doesn’t have to be romance, it could just be some humourous short stories or the children’s books you have ideas for. But keep the work you have already done in your mind – it would be a shame to let it go to waste. 🙂

    • nettiewriter
      Aug 14, 2010

      Thanks, Karen. I’ll be burning all my work thus far to disc and Sky Drive. As you say, who knows how I’ll feel next year?
      Nx

  2. Tracy Tidswell
    Aug 14, 2010

    I’d say the same,try something new, something completely different, a bit of fluffy humorous chick lit for example, that helps me. I felt in a rut and lost interest in what I was writing which is how I ended up writing some erotica, just as an experiment. Then you can come back to it in a couple of months, you’ll be refreshed and even if you don’t carry on with it you may have an idea of how to move it on in a different way. x

    • nettiewriter
      Aug 14, 2010

      I’d try the chick-lit but I’d feel silly writing it – I never read it so I don’t really know what I’m doing there. I do think I need to try something different tho. Thanks Tracy.
      Nx

  3. Kath
    Aug 14, 2010

    What about simply writing and seeing where it takes you and what you end up with? Don’t sit down with a set genre in mind, thinking something like, “Oh, I’ll try romance or sci-fi, even though they’re not my bag?” Why not concentrate on writing a story and then see where it would fit. I don’t tend to think that I’m writing a certain genre before starting out. I find that too limiting.

    Or you could try using writing prompts which make you write out of your comfort zone, so you do write a sci-fi story, a romance, a poem, a story with a gay male protagonist, if you always write about straight females, etc. Mix it up a bit, have fun with the writing and, hopefully, you’ll find in that mix what it is you actually want to be writing now.

    Good luck!

    • nettiewriter
      Aug 14, 2010

      Good advice, thanks Kath. I am just feeling a little adrift because I *AM* out of my comfort zone here because my natural voice is dark. I’ll just have to see where my lighter voice (if I have one) takes me. Thasnk you.
      Nx

  4. Rebecca Brown
    Aug 14, 2010

    Hey Nettie,

    Not much to add to what these guys have said; it does happen to us all so who knows how you’ll feel a bit down the line.

    Have you thought about non-fiction? I reckon with your dry sense of humour you could write some very funny and informative articles. Also you are a very skilled photographer, try concentrating on a photo blog or honing those skills for a while. X

  5. Jo
    Aug 15, 2010

    I think you’d be great at comedy! You often make me smile and I’m sure your life is full of situations that can be given a comic twist.

    • nettiewriter
      Aug 15, 2010

      That is a truly lovely thing to say, Jo. Life is too short to be miserable. At least not all the time 😉
      Nxxx

  6. molly campbell
    Aug 21, 2010

    It has been way too long since I visited. I agree. I had to force myself to read the “Tattoo” books, but did like them. “Little Bee” was so well written, but so discouraging. I have decided to do what I can, help whenever I can, and just try to soldier on with a smile on my face. molly

  7. Sarah Callejo
    Aug 23, 2010

    Maybe, just give yourself a break and when things calm down you’ll have the strength to face those scenes. Or you could jump to the next scene and come back later on.
    It’s all phases surely.

    • nettiewriter
      Aug 23, 2010

      No, I really don’t want to get that gritty anymore. I have been feeling the same with my reading material too, Sarah. Loads more I can consider, tho.
      Nxxx

  8. Kim Milward
    Jul 5, 2011

    This happened to a friend whilst writing a horror thesis. She completed it but felt unable to touch any further work of this once beloved genre which she found most distressing and frustrating as she had more work in the pipeline. She’s currently taking a break. Definitely agree with all the above comments especially Rebecca’s, Jo’s and Molly’s; you do indeed also have a flair for non-fiction and twisted comedy. Or was that comedy with a twist…? Some of your fiction is bittersweet, but without a single note of sourness. Your work always is thought provoking, even if it’s to ponder the wisdom of mascara wearing in conjunction with reading some of your more comedic work? X

    • nettiewriter
      Jul 5, 2011

      Many thanks for that Kim, you are always far too nice to me. As it happens, I’ve since re-discovered by dark side so all is well and good again 🙂 I am a sick puppy x

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