I’m easily bored.
I hate convention. I hate tropes, though I often find myself weaving them into my stories without conscious intent. I despise “the usual” and am always looking for a way to do things differently, some way to shake up the system and cause a little disruption in people’s expectations. This sensibility, of not doing the expected thing, or of doing the expected in an unexpected way, has been part of me for as long as I can remember.
When it comes to writing, I can’t write the same thing twice in a row. I don’t mean I don’t want to, or it doesn’t interest me. I am literally, physically incapable of it. I finish a story, and I know it’s something good. I know there’s a sequel there, and I’m the one to write it because I’m the one who lives in my characters’ heads.
But I sit down to the keyboard, and nothing happens.
You’ve done it all before, my brain says. You’re not bringing anything new to this story right now.
At this point, I have two choices: I can either force it, and it will sound and feel forced because it is, or I can set it aside and do something else, purging the new idea so I can look at the sequel with fresh eyes.
I never wanted to write erotic romance. I was urban fantasy all the way, and ride or die, that was my genre and Hell would hold Latin High Mass in a raging blizzard with compulsory attendance for every damned soul and demon before I’d get within an astronomical unit of writing romance. It was “too easy,” too safe, and besides, every single romance writer is a woman! (Yes, I’m well aware the entire last sentence is a series of myths now, thanks. But I didn’t know that then.)
I finished my first (and only, as it happens) urban fantasy book in 2010. While waiting for NaNoWriMo that year, I stumbled on Writing.com and a couple of writing contests. Okay, I thought, and read closer. They were paranormal erotic romance contests, and I thought it would be a good brain exercise, just a way to stretch myself a bit.
I entered, with a hetero story about an angel of death who fell in love with his intended victim, and a lesbian Gothic horror about a vampire and a ghost, both of which I dashed off in an afternoon.
And I won both contests.
SHITSHITSHITSHITSHITSHITFUUUUUUUUUUCK! My brain screamed, jumping up and down and gesticulating frantically at the sequel and seven (natch!) other projects I had in various stages of development, planning and writing. NOOOOOOOO! What the hell are you doing, J.S.? You’re cocking the plan the whole entire fuck up! Urban fantasy, remember?
Yeah, yeah, I know, I said. But it’s good practice and keeps my mind loose.
Brain didn’t like that and stormed off in a huff.
So, here’s the thing: I like writing about love. And sex. When I can blend the two, it’s even better. I’ve been not wholly unfairly accused of writing “insta-love,” where two people meet and everything just clicks. In my defense, it’s a bit tough getting strangers from first meeting to bedroom to HEA in 3,500 words without it, by my reckoning.
After finding myself more or less married to the erotic romance genre, and realizing how much room there is to overlay different settings and subgenres over it, I never looked back. From high fantasy to deep-space sci-fi, lighthearted contemporary to urban fantasy, from Gothic to Western, I’ve written at least one story in every genre I could think of. The only thing they all had in common was hot sex and at least a version of a HEA ending. Well, except one, but then, “Saints’ Roost” was a bit of an oddball even by my admittedly liberal standards.
I write wide because I like to explore and experiment. Writing cishet guys is simple for me. There’s no challenge there. I don’t learn anything new about myself or my world. If I want a challenge, I have to come at it from another angle, or shake things up by making the people around a cishet male main character challenge his basic beliefs and assumptions about how the world actually works.
When I’m writing wide, I ask myself how the entire world I’m creating changes if it is perceived through the eyes of a polyamorous ambassador on a remote planet or a gay werewolf in South Dakota or a pansexual faerie on New York’s Lower East Side. I wonder what sort of havoc will be wrought if I play with power dynamics and put the woman on top, so to speak, or make the “bottom” in the relationship the one who does all the ass-kicking when kicking ass is required. I try to see the world through the eyes of a genderfluid minor deity, a lesbian with a talent for dispatching zombies, a hetero woman playing chess to lose by winning or an angel trying to undo the devastation another angel’s actions portend.
I learn a lot about myself when writing wide. Not all of it is comfortable or fun. Sometimes, I realize things I’m ashamed of: innate, inculcated biases, bigotries and knee-jerk assumptions I’ve always taken as axiomatic. Sometimes, I realize maybe I’m not quite as cishet as I always believed. I thought I was a .000005 on the Kinsey Scale, but when I write a sex scene between gay male werewolves and find myself responding to it, I have to stop and say, “Hold up. Time for some self-evaluation.”
To me, that’s the value of writing wide. You learn who you really are, and probably discover some things you could stand to work on. You get to explore different avenues, different themes and genres…and hopefully, you learn things you never knew you never knew. If everything goes really well, you get to do all these things AND write something which readers will respond to emotionally and physically.
I’ve always said the best reviews are the ones writers never get to see or hear about. What I mean by this is the times when a reader has to stop in the middle of a story and, well, take matters into their own hands or grab their lover and haul them off to the bedroom. If I can elicit that sort of response in only one reader with my stories (and I have it on good authority that’s happened with rather more than one reader because of my writing!), then I’ve done my job to my own satisfaction.
But I would never have had that opportunity to introduce a little more joy or love into the world if I hadn’t written wide and instead just stayed in my lane.
Fuck staying in my lane. Life’s too short.
Write wide. Write bold.
Learn something new, about yourself and your world.
You just may discover something really cool along the way and introduce it to others so they can broaden their own horizons as well.
To learn more about how I write wide, and some of the genres and couplings I play in, I invite you to check out Eat My Shorts!: The Absolute Best of J.S. Wayne (…So Far…) now available in all popular ebook formats at every major etailer except Amazon. (But never fear! You can still load your Kindle with nine hot short takes, because Smashwords supports .mobi format as well.)
Thanks for playing along today!
About J. S. Wayne
Born in Amarillo, Texas, Jericho “J.S.” Wayne has lived, worked, and traveled in approximately three quarters of the North American continent, amassing a résumé which could kindly be described as “eclectic” along the way. Currently he lives in Portland, Oregon and feels no particular urge to be anywhere else.
An author in multiple genres, a misanthropic humanitarian and cynical optimist, J.S. spends most of his time when not writing erotic romance turning words into money as a website designer, SEO/SEM consultant and article and blog writer, filling the balance of his hours as a polyamorous kink practitioner and educator. He is fascinated by the use of language, human sexuality, occultism, quantum physics and trying to figure out just what the hell the lyrics to “I Am The Walrus” actually mean. He enjoys receiving mail and comments from his fans, and invites you to follow him on Twitter, Facebook or simply email him at firstname.lastname@example.org!