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Dianne Salerni : Writer of Teen and Middle Grade Fiction | Leaving the Comfort Zone

Leaving the Comfort Zone

I saw this image on Facebook last week. It was posted by Laurie Baum Olson and came to my attention via my old high school pal, Kathryn Kane. And it made me think.
Specifically, it made me think about two writing projects lurking in the back of my mind, which I’ve been reluctant to attempt because they’re outside my comfort zone.  In fact, I already made a half-hearted attempt at one of them last year and gave up after only a couple weeks of working on it because it was “just not for me.”
But if it wasn’t really my thing, why is the idea still hanging around, bothering me?
If I tally up all my completed and in-progress manuscripts – I’ve got 1 historical fiction, 1 historical mystery, 3 historical with a paranormal bent, and 2 historical with a science fiction bent.  See the pattern?
But one of the stories “bothering” me is a contemporary ghost story and the other is an urban fantasy.  The second one might even have the potential to be MG instead of YA, if I play around with it a bit. (My fifth grade students keep asking why I don’t write anything for them!) 
Both these projects are well outside my comfort zone. The contemporary setting intimidates me, because I know I have to nail the voice of modern teens instead of historical ones, and the world building I’d need for that fantasy scares the bejeebers out of me.
But this little graphic really got to me. I don’t know if there truly IS a place just outside my comfort zone where all the magic is happening. However, I’ll never find out if I don’t stretch and grow a little.
I’ve made up my mind to attempt one of those projects this year. 
What have you done to expand your comfort zone lately? 

20 Responses to Leaving the Comfort Zone

  1. I’m working on it. I have a YA contemproary sitting in the back of my head. I do read some YA contemporaries, but when I write them a scifi or paranormal element creeps in. I may attempt it at some point.
    Think of it as a challenge. 🙂

  2. Sarah says:

    I’ve written in a few different genres (adult paranormal romance, adult urban fantasy romance, YA urban fantasy, YA sci-fi/thriller, YA paranormal). I’d really love to do a contemporary, more issue-related book, and the idea is all there in my head. The problem is that I have a packed writing schedule (seriously–my agent gave me a color-coded, season-by-season schedule … through 2014), and it might take me a few years to get to it :/

  3. I have the same issues, putting off ideas because it’s not in my comfort zone.

  4. Chris Fries says:

    Brilliant image, Dianne — I love it!

    And, frankly, as a still-learning unpublished writer, I tend to leave my comfort zone with every story I finish and actually submit. Just getting past that, “arrrgh, this piece is pure crap — it’s nowhere good enough to submit,” inner voice takes a step outside my comfort zone, LOL!

  5. I’m working on a horror novel, which is definitely out of my comfort level. The horror isn’t so much (I used to read the stuff as a teen), it’s the setting and tone that’s new to me.

  6. SA Larsenッ says:

    I’m copying that photo! Magic is found when we look beyond ourselves and into the place where we need growth. I love that.

    My recent ‘out-of-the-box’ experience: I think you know. The pageant. I wrote about it today. That was pretty tough, but I did it. 🙂

  7. Linda G. says:

    I actually had a moment of panic yesterday worrying about not so much MY comfort zone, but my editor’s. Got worried I may have gone a bridge too far with a certain scene (which, of course, _I_ find hilarious), and wondered if I should scale it back a tad. But I’ll probably wind up keeping it. I’m sure she’ll let me know if it doesn’t work for her. *grin*

  8. Lydia Kang says:

    Contemporary is definitely out of my comfort zone, but I’d like to tackle it someday.

  9. Your timing on talking about this is quite ironic–I actually just posted on this very subject at my blog the other day. (I referred to this awful, non-comfortable scene as my “Darth Vader” scne.) I’ve had to push myself out of sooo many comfort zones for the sake of stories lately. I have two books in particular–one that is coming out this month, and the sequel I’m writing–that have taken me places I’d never thought to go. In some cases, it was my beta readers who coaxed me out of my comfort zone for the sake of the characters and stories. It has been hard, and emotionally exhausting, and really satisfying when I get it right. There were times I wondered how all of this would reflect on me. I mean, my family and friends will read this! What does it say about me that this stuff is coming out? My conclusion has been that it means I’m a writer, and writers take chances and give over to the characters and story because it’s theirs, not ours.

  10. I am pushing myself to get out of my comfort zone and finding it can be a bit rewarding – once it’s not scary anymore 🙂

  11. I think any new project can push you out of your comfort zone. I committed to going to a local writer’s group where I don’t know ANYONE once a month. It’s a little nerve-wracking but in a good way!

  12. I think any new project can push you out of your comfort zone. I committed to going to a local writer’s group where I don’t know ANYONE once a month. It’s a little nerve-wracking but in a good way!

  13. Ooooh historical would intimidate the hell out of me! But right now, the one I’m working on is out of my comfort zone and yeah, it’s a doozy!

  14. Hmmmm, outside my comfort zone, you say? Well, I believe my area of comfort is sooooo large, it’d be darned near impossible to step outside of it. Yeah, that’s it. I think I’ll go with that.

  15. I left my comfort zone in the dust when I decided to announce to the world that I would finish my book before July (when I turn 40!) and that I would then make it available for purchase on Amazon. Yep…nothing like a big public broadcast to get me off my butt and get to writing! It has been good to be accountable, though, and it makes me “own up” to my writing rather than tucking it away and talking myself out of doing something with it. Am I scared…heck yeah! But I am committed to living my Plan A rather than settling for a Plan B existence! Wish me luck!

  16. DL Hammons says:

    Four things…the first was putting my query letter on Matt’s QQQE. The second is doing the A to Z Callenge this year. The third was signing up for a major conference with pitch sessions. And the final one is that I’m now outlining a YA Paranormal…my first venture in anything other than adult mystery. 🙂

  17. mshatch says:

    What I’m writing now is very much outside my comfort zone, starting with the fact that I actually outlined a fair portion of it, plus it’s in first person (which I’ve never done before), plus it’s contemporary (I lean toward historical or outright fantasy), plus there’s like NO magic in it! But in spite of all this, I think it’s working out okay.

    I think in order to grow as writers we have to challenge ourselves.

    However, don’t you dare let that stop you from finishing your current wip because I need to know what happens!

  18. Jemi Fraser says:

    Great graphic! And so true 🙂 I’ve tried writing a wide variety of genres and age levels. I’ve learned a lot – and it’s helping me narrow in on the one that works best for me 🙂

  19. I wrote the first draft of a crime thriller. This is nothing I’ve ever attempted before, and it’s a hot mess at the moment, but it’s a start 🙂

  20. […] my mind started wandering toward a different story … something outside my comfort zone. (wrote about that here)I’ll have to report back on how outlining works out for me.  So far, I keep adding more […]