Crossroads, Lightning Bolts and Ice Baths

Crossroads, Lightning Bolts and Ice Baths

I’m a story teller. Does that make me a writer?

In the blink of an eye, God willing, I’ll be 59 years old. Somehow I always thought by the time I was damn near sixty, I’d know what I wanted to do when I grew up. I guess I have to grow up first, damn it!

When I first declared myself a writer, a recurring piece of advice was “write what you read.” At that time I was heavy into romantic suspense, which I still enjoy today. But my reading is eclectic – I just finished the auto-biography of Chris Kyle, American Sniper. Now I’m reading Willie Nelson’s It’s a Long Story: My Life. Before that I enjoyed Nora Robert’s The Liar and Stephanie Evanovich’s Big Girl Panties; A Novel. Next up in my ‘to be read’ queue is Jayne Ann Krentz River Road or I might start Stephen Hunter’s military series. I love humor. I love reading about witchcraft and ghosts. I guess the bottom line is: I love reading.

I also love writing. My stack of manuscripts is predominately romantic suspense, but I’ve also tried my hand at humor and paranormal. Somehow, no matter what I start out writing, dead bodies always seem to show up – which isn’t so surprising if I’m writing suspense or a ghost story – kind of unsettling when I’m attempting humor.

So, here I am at a crossroads in this career that has never gotten off the cutting room floor. Am I a writer? OR am I storyteller? Is it the same thing? Does loving to read translate into being able to put words on a page in a fashion other people would enjoy?

I routinely post rants and tirades on Facebook about the minutia of my mundane. People (YOU people) seem to enjoy reading those. But, seriously – a book of those stories? They are simply my take on the everyday. That’s not WRITING – that’s STORY TELLING! And yet, as I go through this crisis of career (okay, that’s a bit overdramatic, but I AM a story teller, so I get some leeway) I seem to be receiving signs — dare I say lightning bolts — from strangers. People I barely know who go out of their way to tell me how much they enjoy my Facebook rants.

Now, I’m faced with a decision. Abandon the romantic suspense novella and start a collection of humorous short stories? If I do that, it will result in a second ice bucket dunking on August 1st. Think the internet could survive another round of me showing up in a bikini?

Meanwhile, my grandson is on his way over to spend the day with Gigi, so I think I’ll go put on a swimsuit and forget everything but enjoying this beautiful day with an awesome kid!

P.S. I would love it if any of you could give me the answers to these questions! Although, I do sincerely hope your answer isn’t motivated by causing me to receive a second Ice Bucket Bikini Bath!

P.S.S. And no, Lorinda, you do NOT get to hold the bucket!

Terri Rich

Terri Richison (writing as Terri Rich) lives in Clear Lake City, TX with her husband and a giant Great Dane (giant even by Great Dane standards). She is working on self-publishing women’s fiction and avoiding getting a pie in the face if she doesn’t produce pages for every critique session! PIES OR PAGES! Terri started telling stories almost as soon as she could talk – she learned everything she needed to know about storytelling at her grandmother’s knee. Craft however, is something she is still learning – those damn commas give me nightmares!

7 thoughts on “Crossroads, Lightning Bolts and Ice Baths

  1. I very carefully checked the rules on ice bucket dunking and nowhere does it stipulate that the dunkee gets any say whatsoever on who pours the bucket.

    Of course, you know I’m a HUGE supporter of you exploring this storytelling side of your writing since I’ve been telling you this for YEARS (JS), I will nevertheless be lobbying for the honor of “anointing” you. And I say this with humility and not the slightest bit of snickering.

  2. You know my general thought on this: I don’t think the ice bucket should have a say in what anyone chooses to write at any given point in time.

    Let’s put this in more practical terms: Do you believe right now that you’d be able to avoid the ice bucket if you continue with the romantic suspense novella? Given that we’re a mere 46 days from Dunking Day? Does the First Draft Helper put things in a little more perspective in terms of % complete? (Keep in mind that Lorinda is already 74% complete and she’s not sure she’s going to make it by August 1.)

    If you end up dunked anyway, might as well scrap the romantic suspense and get going on a story that speaks to you…

  3. Terri, dear. I’m going to give you my take on all this, but I can assure you upfront you aren’t going to like it!

    To me, this whole inner debate smacks of procrastination. You have gotten to the messy middle of your current story, and your “I don’t knows” are outnumbering your “man, I’m nailing it-s” so you’re longing for those fun days starting a book, where anything and everything is still possible.

    Trust me, I’ve literally spent YEARS wallowing in the messy middle stage. And I’ve eventually pulled up my big girl panties and finished the book as well as pushed aside a half-finished work and started fresh. There is no right or wrong answer here, just a matter of aligning your creative muse, which tends be capricious and not prone to working on a set schedule, and the schedule-driven logistics of finishing a publishable book.

    Personally, I think you can do both a humorous voice and a story littered with dead bodies. Hell, I think you can do whatever it is you set your mind to.

  4. And another thing: I’ve also heard that nugget of advice about writing what you love to read, but like you, I love to read everything. My reading doesn’t confine itself to a certain genre or a certain style. Military. Cowboy. Regency. Sci-fi. Paranormal. Medieval. Erotica. Dark and edgy. Light and humorous. Hearth and home. I love them all. But no way would I pursue a career writing in all this genres and styles.

    I know my voice, I know how much research I’m willing to put into crafting a story, and I know the word-count range I’m comfortable with. These are the parameters that determine the type of stories I choose to write. And someday, when I’m a big, grown-up writer with tons of confidence and the time and luxury to explore other facets of my writer’s voice, I might attempt to branch out into other genres, but for the time being, I am satisfied with challenging myself within my comfort zone.

    So, if you are drawn to writing Romantic Suspense, and your stories have a tendency to produce dead bodies, then I think your instincts have drawn you there for a reason. At the same time, if you find you have a humorous voice, I don’t see any reason you can’t combine humor and suspense.

    It’s fiction. As long as we properly motivate everyone, we can do pretty much anything we want!

    1. Great points, Dawn.

      But I don’t care about which genres I read in. The question I have is: What genre seems to come out of me naturally?

      Dead bodies do not a romantic suspense make. Suspense is what makes a romantic suspense. Romantic suspense doesn’t even require a dead body.

      If I decide I love light romantic comedies, but everything I put on the page — scenario, motivation, character traits, word choice, mood, etc. — is dark, then I have a profound mismatch between what I think I want to write and what I’m actually writing.

      So much of this writing gig is about learning to quit swimming against the tide… So a big Good Luck to Terri in figuring out which tide she wants to swim with!

  5. This is really a tough call, and I have to confess that I’m currently doing the “is this what I should write, or is That?” shuffle myself. And I totally think, in my case, it’s because I am in the very messy middle of a story I’m not sure has an actual direction. Or even a plot. On the other hand, I also have published in two different genres. I’m just wondering if I can keep writing both at once. But what the heck. Might as well try… but you might see if you can finish the one you’re already writing first before you see if the other fits you best. Also, Janet Evanovich has had one hell of a career mixing humor and suspense.

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