By Linda O. Johnston
If you’re a writer, how do you decide what to write?
Often, it’s the kind of story you love to read: romance, mystery, paranormal, historical fiction, whatever. That makes sense.
Or maybe something you believe others will want to read, so it’ll sell well. But that’s not something totally predicable. So I go with what I enjoy.
With me, my preferences have changed over the years. Oh, I’ve always enjoyed romances, romantic suspense and mysteries. I’m not as much into historical stories as I used to be. Same regarding paranormal stories.
But you could probably tell what my favorite stuff was at any time of my life in the past many years by seeing what I’ve written!
My first published fiction was a short story in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, and I won the Robert L. Fish Award for first published short story! Yes, it was a mystery of sorts, a humorous one: “Different Drummers.”
My first published novels consisted of time travel romance, and most revolved around places or things I particularly liked. For example, one of them, Point in Time, took place in Pittsburgh, where I grew up. Another took place in Alaska, in the Klondike, and I’ve always loved visiting there: The Ballad of Jack O’Dair. And of course there’s Once a Cavalier, featuring my babies, Cavalier King Charles Spaniels.
I wrote other paranormal romances too, including Stranger on the Mountain, and the Alpha Force miniseries I created for Harlequin Nocturne, about a military unit of shapeshifters.
I loved paranormal romance! But notice that’s in the past tense. So is my focus on paranormal stories. I still read some, but I’m not writing any now.
I’d always enjoyed mysteries and romantic suspense. I still do—and that’s in the present tense!
That’s why I write them both: romantic suspense for Harlequin Romantic Suspense—and formerly for Harlequin Intrigue—and mysteries, over time, for multiple publishers including Berkley and Midnight Ink, and—upcoming!—Crooked Lane. Most of the mysteries, and as many romantic suspense as possible, include animals, especially dogs. I love to write about dogs. Why? Because I love dogs!.
So that’s how I decide what to write: again, what I love to read. But also what I most enjoy writing about.
How do other authors decide? Based on conversations with fellow writers, I gather they, too, mostly figure out something they enjoy, then pounce on it and pour out a story they love.
It’d be hard, after all, to write a story if you didn’t like its subject or genre.
Those writers who are reading this blog, I’d love to hear in comments where your ideas originate and how you decide to write about them. And how you enjoy writing about them!