Sunday, July 4, 2010

The Discomfort Zone - Stepping Outside Your Box

The Discomfort Zone.

I love the title for this blog chain. (Kudos to Victor Travison for the brilliant suggestion!) To me, it expresses perfectly the “edge” that all writers need to balance on to be really good. Writing is just like rock climbing or water skiing – you can't be satisfied with good enough. A rock climber who learns to scale the glacial deposit in his backyard isn't going to stop there: he'll head for the Grand Canyon next. A water skiier who learns to cut wake isn't going to stop: she'll grab a single ski and try that.

Writers are the same way – or at least we should be. Just like in sports, we need to push ourselves. Try something new. Dare the unknown.

And, like all new things, it's a little scary. A little uncomfortable. It's the Discomfort Zone.

I've been labeled as an adrenaline junkie, a risk-taker, and a crazy fool (in no particular order). I like risk. I like the element of fear, the uncertainty of the unknown, the tingle of adrenaline. I'm also a sucker for punishment. The result? I spend a heck of a lot of time in the Discomfort Zone. :)

Every time I get comfortable with writing one genre, or one style, or one character, I want to try something new. My launch pad for writing usually is historical with a slight literary slant: from there I ricochet off in all directions. A few of my “projects” are:

The Hanging Tree – historical/mystery. I wrote this two years ago and at the time it felt quite brave to combine a Western and a mystery. Now it's the norm... but it was my first excursion into the DZ.

SS-5 – historical/suspense. This is probably my single biggest jaunt into the DZ. It was my first suspense novel. The suspense wasn't scary – but writing the main character was! (for Myers-Brigg people, he was an ESTP and I am an INFJ. Scary.)

A Forbidden Homeland – fantasy/thriller. Almost-completed-but-not-quite, this second 2009 NaNo novel jumped WAY out of my comfort zone! First stab at fantasy (a genre I swore I'd never write – haha) and also first stab at thriller. It's a dark novel about a people driven to extinction, sheltering in the shadows of the City of their oppressors. And it's about the man who leads the final fight for freedom... and the woman of the enemy who is his only ally and most dangerous enemy. Oh yeah. Who says the Discomfort Zone isn't fun!

Stranger's Eyes – thriller. This is my latest project, and it's comparable to wing-walking for me. Not only is the novel told only from a male POV, but it's straight thriller, and it's contemporary. Rob is an ordinary guy; nine-to-five job, football on the weekends. The center of his life is his young wife, Kay. But when his wife appears to lose her mind and assassins are breaking down their door, Rob has to become anything but ordinary in a race to stop a black op takeover. At stake is the future of the USA – and Kay's life.

And if that isn't enough to prove I've won my Crazy Writer badge, I'm also dibbling with an as-yet-untitled novel, which is sort of a parody/satire of fairy tales and classic detective stories. Leonie is a maid-of-waiting in the castle of King Percival. Ordinary serving girl by day, at night she writes the murder mystery novels that are sweeping the kingdom. No one knows who writes them – but when the Prince hosts a ball and one of the guests turns up floating in the goldfish pond, the author is top on the kingdom's wanted list – and Leonie's little hobby turns quite literally into a matter of life and death. This one is incredibly fun to write and it's so different from anything I've ever written – it's been a blast. Once again proof that being in Discomfort can be fun. :)

And now I've run out of time and space and therefore shall stop. Your turn – tell me about your excursions into the Discomfort Zone! When you're done, don't forget to check out the other posts in this blog chain!

Ruth Rockafield -- July 1

Nina Rose -- July 4

Edward Lewis -- July 6

Tracy Kraus -- July 7

Kat Connolly -- July 8

Linda Yezak -- July 9

Lynn Mosher -- July 10

Nona King -- July 11

Victor Travison -- July 14

Janalyn Voigt -- July 15

Adam Collings -- July 17

Liberty Speidel -- July 19

Chris Solaas -- July 27

Suzanne Hartmann -- July 30


lynnmosher said...

Great post, Nina!

E. G. Lewis said...

Wonderful post! Very few people appreciate that, other than sword-swallowers, a writer has the most unnerving job in the world.

Lorna G. Poston said...

Great post!

Scarlett M. said...

Thanks for the encouragement to plunge into stuff I felt I couldn't try. I desperately needed that. :D

KatC said...

Excellent post, Nina! It's obvious that you have been gifted with an extraordinary talent. Blessings!

Nina Hansen said...

Why thank you all! :) E.G. Lewis - you mean sword-swallowing is scarier than writing? Really? :D

Scarlett - your writing is fantastic! Anything you try will turn out.

Tracy Krauss said...

So far both you and Ruth are so diverse! Way to go. I'm enjoying the 'chain' so far and hope mor people will begin to read and comment.

DaveK47 said...

Love both posts so far! Thanks for the kudos for the title, but the blog chain was your great idea. All us Christian writers must support each other. :-D I'm getting all the more eager to read what everyone else contributes.

~ VT

adam.collings said...

Nice one. You certainly seem to live on the edge with your writing, dipping your toe in lots of different genres and styles.

It seems that writers who aleays stay in a certain genre run the risk of getting "typecast" a little like an actor. Is isn't necessarily a bad thing, if the author is writing what he/she loves, and the readers are getting what they want to read, but your diversity looks like it will make you less likely to be type-cast.

lindayezak said...

So many different kinds of books. You've got a great imagination! Good post!

Nina Hansen said...

Thanks you all!

Adam - I agree. Records say that authors who stick with one genre become better known and make better sales, but I think it would be terribly boring to only write one genre. :)

Looking forward to reading you all's posts!

Liberty Speidel said...

Great post!

We writers really do have to be willing to take more risks than most other professions (not including law enforcement types). To a degree, all artists do. If we don't, we become stagnant and no one wants that.

Suzanne said...

Writers definately live in a discomfort zone, and it seems we sometimes push ourselves even further into that zone. Or maybe since our creativity is a gift from God, it is God who pushes us into unfamiliar genres.

Nona King said...

Wonderful blog, Nina! :) It seems we have a lot in common in regards to being gluttons for punishment in genres/storylines. As long as the characters' get their story told, I am happy!

K.M. Weiland said...

You jump genres more than I do! I love the discomfort zone. If you're not writing scared, you're not growing as a writer. The day I can approach my keyboard without a tingling of terror is the day I'm in trouble.

Nina Hansen said...

Well said, Liberty, Suzanne, and Nona! It's so true about the characters - it's their stories, after all. :)

Ditto, Katie. Your blog post about writing scared is still one of the best articles I've read on the subject. :)

Thanks everyone for reading, and for all the great comments!

MisterChris said...

Wow, Nina! Quite prolific and diversified. I love the idea you have for the handmaid/murder novelist/fugitive.

What an imagination you have. Let me know when that one comes out. I wanna be first in line! XD

Nina Hansen said...

Wow, that's exciting to get that response about that one. :) I've been having such a hilarious time writing that, but I wasn't sure if the premise would appeal to anyone else. Now I've got more motivation. :)

Thanks for commenting!

Sheila said...

Impressive range of genres. Looks like you're having fun! Great post.

Nina Hansen said...

Thank you! :)

Janalyn Voigt said...

Let me guess, you're a seat-of-the-pants writer. Am I right?

I'm a bit late on this blog tour. If you want to add my address to your list, it's

Nina Hansen said...

Actually, I'm a big fan of outlines and character sketches and knowing everything before I start. That said... everything always changes the instant I start typing. ;)

Your blog is being added right now!

TraciB said...

Excellent post, and I love the premise of your new WIP! I also appreciate your listing a synopsis of all your finished works - makes me hope I might actually be able to write more than one genre eventually.

I'm new to the blog chain and will be posting tomorrow, so I'm feverishly reading everyone else's posts before I write mine.

Nina Hansen said...

LOL! I can't keep my fingers out of different genres. ;)

Looking forward to reading your post!

Sandra Heska King said...

A fairy tale detective story (or is that detective fairy tale) sounds like so much fun! Love the photo!

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