If you’ve written for any amount of time, you know very well that there is sometimes a barrier between what you can write and what you want to write. Sometimes the barrier isn’t there. But when it is, you find yourself left with the horrifying feeling that your area of expertise has run out.
Even dedicated authors struggle with this. If you follow Brandon Sanderson news, you may have heard that he brought his good friend Dan Wells onto the team to help him write novels that (in his words) “that I can’t write”. Meaning, of course, the parts of books that Dan’s area of expertise would be better suited to.
Wells and Sanderson are two different authors with very different skillsets, experiences, and styles. The point is that Sanderson is well aware of his limitations, just as he is aware of Wells’ strengths. There are books Sanderson admits he can’t write, despite being possibly the most successful fantasy writer of our age.
That being said, you need to realize when you’re beating a dead horse. Being a Jack of All Trades, Master of None doesn’t market well. Having two max-level characters is better than twelve alts at half. Directing your resources into one or two fields of study will naturally make you better at them and worse than others.
Most people suck at writing dramas. It should come as no surprise: writing a good, meaningful drama that keeps people invested requires great knowledge of human behavior and the right words chosen at the correct time. But if you can get good at writing dramas, however, then you might not be good at writing Science Fiction, which you might have wanted to write.
But you can’t write all the books, so don’t try. You should write on what you want to write, and then learn everything you can about that subject. Get proficient in exactly what you want, and commit early so that you don’t invest in something insignificant. Establish yourself as quickly as you can, and find that groove.
But how do you find your place in writing? A budding writer may find it difficult to choose from the vast buffet of literary styles and genres, especially when they know next to nothing about character arts, verisimilitude, plotting, and the difference between Pantsing and Outlining.
But sometimes the worst can happen: this young writer can discover that his or her affections have been misplaced for the kind of fiction someone wants to write. It’s like accidentally choosing an unfun class in an RPG because you didn’t know what you were getting into. Consequently, the writer may give up because they find that they can’t write horror or drama effectively.
I have but two pieces of advice for a forlorn writer encountering such a situation. The first is to tough it out: do your research, slog through your ignorance, and beg, borrow, and steal your way to a finished novel. Granted, it probably won’t be very good, but you’ll have learned a lot of useful things along the way. After you’ve had more practice, you can come back and edit it until it’s perfect. This method of finding your place is hard-won but jealously kept, and produces the best class of writers: the one’s who’ve toughened up by experience.
However, if you’re not looking to hold on to that thread by your teeth, I suggest running up the white flag. Pack your bags and move somewhere else. Remember, if you’re not good at fantasy, that’s fine. Not everyone is. Remember that Horror, Drama, Mystery, and Science Fiction stories still exist to be written.
It all comes down to whether you want to find your niche or make it. The latter is a tougher and more miserable ordeal, but if you’re committed you’ll receive satisfactory results. The former is more like fishing: if this spot is bad, try moving ten feet down. Who knows? You might catch something big. But in any case, you need to find out what you’re good at and exploit it for writing success.
Be sure to check out my latest novel, Book 1 in the Praetors of Lost Magic Series, and our Publications page. Plus, I mean, it wouldn’t hurt to check out the Resources tab. It’s full of super helpful material and I promise it will help you out. Until then, writers!