Finding Voice:

Note: This summer, we’ll occasionally be bringing back some of our favorite posts.

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Making the Journey from Historical to Chick Lit to Young Adult

~ By Tera Lynn Childs

When I went to my first RWA national conference in Dallas in 2004, I went as Regency romance writer and a Golden Heart finalist. As much as I love historical romance, there was talk everywhere about the “death of the historical” (which I have since learned is a perpetual topic of discussion). Instead, everyone was excited about this hot new genre: Chick Lit.

“Oh my gosh,” I thought. “That sounds like fun. And the market is hot. I should write a chick lit book!” So I went home from that conference and wrote one. It was much easier to write than historicals (none of those pesky manners and forms of address and, you know, accuracy) and it was practically like writing my own life. Minus the hot guys, city living, and ridiculous situations. I wrote another chick lit book right away and, although both manuscripts were doing really well in contests and getting some agent interest, I quickly realized that the super-hot market was cooling off.

In the process of writing the second chick lit book, I started playing around with reality TV show titles (looking for a twist on Queer Eye for the Straight Guy) and ended up with a really fun title that I loved: Growing Up Godly. I immediately realized two things.

First, since I don’t write inspirational fiction, the “godly” part had to refer to something else. Because I’ve always loved Greek mythology, that was an easy answer. Second, if someone was “growing up” then that mean this had to be a YA book. From there it was a matter of coming up with a story to fit the title and eventually I ended up with Oh. My. Gods., my RITA-winning first book.

If writing chick lit was ten times easier than writing historical, writing YA was a million times easier. It was like the words just fell out of my head. That was how I knew that I’d found the genre I belonged in. I still love historicals and chick lit, but you’ll notice that my historical novel is unpublished and my chick lits have only found the light of day through self-publishing.

I don’t think the fate of my chick lit books has as much to do with the state of the market as it does with finding the best home for my writing voice. The best thing you can do for your writing career is to discover your voice, nurture it, and find it a good home in the right genre. So don’t let yourself be constrained by the market or what an agent or editor says on their blog or the whisperings about trends at conference. Find the story you have to write, even if it’s in a genre you never considered, and do your best to tell it well. Great things will follow.

Tera Lynn Childs is the RITA-winning author of Oh. My. Gods., Goddess Boot Camp, Forgive My Fins, Fins Are Forever (6/28/11), and a new trilogy about monster-hunting descendants of Medusa, starting with Sweet Venom (10/4/11). She also has two self-published chick lit romances, Eye Candy and Straight Stalk.

2 thoughts on “Finding Voice:”

  1. Enjoyed ‘meeting’ you today, Tera.
    I really like your quote, “Find the story you have to write, even if it’s in a genre you never considered, and do your best to tell it well.”
    That’s exactly what I’ve done, and it’s landed me in territory which was VERY unfamiliar — to me, anyway. Yep … romantic comedy.
    Of my six un-published (so far) manuscripts, two are ‘screwball’ romantic comedy and one is comedic romance. As I said — unfamiliar territory to me. My normal reading used to be spy thrillers and international intrigue.
    What has made this voyage quite rewardarding (so far) is the very cordial reception from my new colleagues in this Chapter … and elsewhere in RWA’s PRO group.

  2. Tera–enjoyed the post! This is so true. I spent so many years writing for short contemporary, getting close but something always falling through. I started a fresh contemporary fiction story in first person–more women’s fiction–and my agent loved it. And it feels a better fit. I’ve got some interest again, but this time it’s in a genre that doesn’t have all the rules, and I feel like maybe I’ve found my niche-my voice. Here’s hoping! That’s amazing how you fell into your voice–love that! It’s something we all hope we can do! Thanks for sharing!

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