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5 Questions for First Times ~ Guest Lara Zielinsky

July 22, 2011

On Wednesday, Torquere Press released my very first published shapeshifter story, Skylar’s Pride (also click image for more info). That got me to thinking about first times. Not that first time, but the first time writing in a new genre.

The Sapphic Signs line, novellas focused around one of the zodiac signs, seemed like the perfect length to challenge myself to write something other than the modern contemporaries I usually write. The animal symbols of most of the signs (Pisces/fish; Taurus/bull; Leo/Lion; Aries/Ram; etc.) caught my attention and when I picked up my personal sign Leo, I immediately considered a shapeshifter-centered plot.

But I’d never written one before. So where to start? As the host of “Readings in Lesbian & Bisexual Women’s Fiction” I ask authors all sorts of questions about how their stories come about. I figured it was time to question myself. So, I came up with 5 Questions for Tackling a New Genre.

1. What things do you like in the new genre?

Thinking like a reader here, what excites you about the stories? Is it the way the plot unfolds, or the freedom of characterizations different from what you normally write, or something about the setting(s) that generally show up in the genre? Identifying what you love about the stories, specifically, will give you a list of things to make sure get structured into your stories when you’re writing.

2. What things bother you in the new genre?

Just as important as what excites you about a genre, consider what you find troublesome when reading. Are there inconsistencies, or common twist elements that you find annoying, or sure you could do better? Identifying them will give you a list of things to try to avoid when writing your own stories in the genre.

3. What are the genre’s common elements?

Now turn a little analytical. Breakdown the genre stories you’ve read. Identify the mechanisms of protagonist, antagonist, supporting characters, conflict, plot arc, as well as common themes, setting elements, and how they are revealed.

4. Brainstorm. What could you bring different to the genre?

This is the really fun part and should turn on you as a writer. You’ve been writing in other genres, so you know how stories fit together, and you’ve got a style all your own. Consider what you can bring to the genre. Nothing is too outrageous, and just brainstorm new character tropes, new twists, new additions or reasons for characters to do or move around in their — no, your vision — of this new genre’s world.

5. Start writing!

OK. This last one is not a question. Now you’ve got all the elements. You know your genre, you know what you love, you know what you don’t want to include, you know what the structure of a story is supposed to be, and you’ve got new elements that are completely, uniquely you. Sit down and start writing! You’ll be surprised how quickly it flows, and how exciting trying something for the first time really can be.

IMHO, the best writers are voracious readers. So the first two encourage you to think like a reader, and then the last three turn those thoughts into effective writing. Taking my own advice, I considered all the questions, developed my own twists, and after some refinement, editing, feedback from several friends who write the genre, and a great editor, I’m here today to share a sneak peek with you. Torquere has all the Sapphic Signs stories on sale here for $2.99 in several different e-book formats.

Skylar’s Pride: Skylar’s got a problem. Make that several. She’s kept her shape-shifter nature a secret from her current lover, Lila. Now that it’s mid-summer, Skylar faces enforced return to her father’s pride lands. But Max, Lila’s son, has gone missing from the campsite where his father was murdered — savaged by an animal. Will Skylar find Max and solve the mystery of the Cherry Creek Park wolves before her father forces her return or her secret is revealed?

Skylar’s Pride (F/F; G)

“Lila.” Skylar cupped her lover’s cheek. “You do not need to plan a surprise party for me. It’s just a birthday.” She’d known about it for two weeks, since Pam, her assistant manager, was more horrible at keeping secrets than anyone Skylar knew.

“It’s your fortieth and it’s the first of many we’ll get to spend together,” Lila insisted.

Skylar leaned back on the cushion, crossing her feet at the ankles as she put them up gingerly on the low coffee table. Though she didn’t know why she bothered. The surface was pock-marked and scuffed from Max racing Matchbox vehicles over it for the last twelve years. She settled her arm around Lila’s shoulders and stroked the woman’s skin visible around the tank top strap.

She swallowed as she considered what to do. “We’re together this weekend,” she said.

“You gave me such a wonderful party at my birthday.”

“Because you’re important to me.”

“And you’re important to me. I love you. Even Max loves you.”

That was saying a lot, Skylar knew. Max was leery of most people. It had taken almost four months of constant attention from Skylar for him to say more than two words in a row to her.

“My father messaged me,” she said obliquely. “I can’t avoid him.”

“Max would enjoy meeting your dad. So would I.”

“You can’t afford the time away from work.”

Lila turned to face Skylar and emphasize her words. “We’ve been together a year. You haven’t made any effort to introduce me to your family.”

That would be difficult, Skylar thought. “They don’t approve.” That was an understatement.

Lila frowned but then brightened with some idea. Skylar cut her off. “I will not subject you, or Max, to my father’s pissing.”

“Maybe I could talk to him,” Lila persisted.

Skylar shook her head. “He’s old and set in his ways, Lila. It would be dangerous for me to challenge him. Nearly every choice I’ve made in my life, he disagrees with.”

“So, why subject yourself to this every year? Just tell him if he can’t accept you the way you are, you won’t be coming.”

Skylar frowned. If only it were that simple. She said, “I can’t for this year.”

“Couldn’t you work a little on your father?”

There was no brooking the determination in Lila’s eyes. Skylar had no idea what she could say that she hadn’t already said to her father. He was not to be reasoned with, particularly on these annual visits, but she nodded, mutely indicating to Lila she would try. Chastened, she ducked her head and nuzzled Lila’s shoulder.

She risked changing the subject. “So… How should we take best advantage of our kid-free time?”

To read more of Skylar’s Pride, follow the link to Torquere’s Sapphic Signs buy page. Thank you!


Comment about the time you tried doing something completely different from your usual (whether it’s writing or trying a completely different activity) and how it turned out. At midnight Eastern time on Sunday, June 24 (5 am GMT on Monday), I’ll randomly draw one name to win a $5 gift certificate to Torquere Press’s online bookstore.

Remember, bravely try what you’ve never done before! First times are amazing!

3 Comments leave one →
  1. July 22, 2011 8:29 am

    Leave your comment, see guidelines above, for a chance to win a $5 gift certificate

  2. adrianakraft permalink
    July 22, 2011 9:09 am

    Thanks for being my guest today Lara – I’m so excited about your new release and the entire Sapphic Signs series!

  3. July 22, 2011 9:37 am

    Good job, Lara. I think your questions and answers can help every writer – even those not changing genre.

    My most recent first was singing at the GCLS karaoke. I’d never sung solo in front of an audience, but everyone was kind and supportive. It was great fun!

    Good luck with your new book!

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