Writing Outside Your Comfort Zone

ColtonDestiny cover link

COLTON DESTINY, Book 1 of The Coltons of Eden Falls mini-series

This post you’re reading was written quite some time ago. I was in the middle of writing the book that was released this month, so I saved it until now. But this isn’t really about the book so much as how I came to be writing it.

If you’re one of my readers, then you’re likely familiar with continuity series, although you may not know them by that name. These are editor/publisher-generated, a string of books by different authors with a commonality that ties them all together. Often the connection is family, in this case, the Coltons, who have become a wildly popular fictional family. I’ve done a few of these before, even another Colton saga. It’s always a challenge to take characters and a story line created by someone else, and make them enough your own to invest the passion and caring in them that makes the romance genre work. On the other hand, it’s not that far removed from how I started writing as a child.

Say what?

Yes, a child. My sister likes to say she’s responsible for the start of my writing career. She didn’t buy me a fancy pen, or a computer, or anything like that. What she did was sit down and turn on an old Disney movie on TV. One of those heart-wrenching, tear-jerking things. Which inspired my elementary-school self to grab my favorite pencil (and who but a future writer would even have a favorite pencil at that age?)and some of that kid’s paper with the wood chunks floating around in it, and rewrite the entire ending. In my version, of course, every character I liked lived, and every one I didn’t went away. Kind of like I’d like to arrange my life today, if only I could. But I digress. At that age I had no concept of creating my own characters, and simply wanted the stories for characters I loved, created by others, to go my way. An early form of fan fiction, I suppose.

Fast forward to today, where I’m knee-deep in a world I didn’t make up, with characters who, like those characters long ago, didn’t spring from my own imagination. It would seem difficult, and sometimes it is, but in its way, it’s much like returning to that old childhood world where I cut my writing teeth. Not that I didn’t have doubts. I had strong ones. The world these stories are set in, the Amish community, is very foreign to my experience. But I was intrigued by the idea of setting a romantic suspense story in that community. I mean, Witness worked for me in a big way. And then I have this little writer personality quirk. If you want me to darn near kill myself trying to do something just tell me I can’t. Or even get me thinking I can’t. It’s like waving a red flag. I’m cautious in most other areas of life, but in my writing I hold the firm belief that if I motivate it properly, and if I build the fictional world with enough care, I can make anything work.

It’s up to the reader to decide if I’ve succeeded. I may not always, but I always begin with the conviction that it CAN be done.

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8 thoughts on “Writing Outside Your Comfort Zone

  1. Kathy Carmichael says:

    Great post, Justine! Love the image of the childhood you rewriting that ending!

  2. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could change our world like that. You must have had a very active imagination. I am just grateful that in each book I get to come along for the ride through your world.

    • Thank you, Valerie. I think it’s commonly called an “overactive” imagination. 😉 I often have to warn people who ask me about bad things that “I’m a writer. There’s not a scenario you can give me that I can’t make worse.”

      • I have been accused of the overactive imagination myself. Must be why I dream so vivid and never have enough sleep. LOL I just finished Colton’s Destiny. It was a great read and great start to the series. I had the opportunity to visit Lancaster, PA several times a few years ago and you really captured the scene and feel of the area. Perfect timing too with the new TLC series Breaking Amish. There’s a lot of interest in the Amish and Mennonite these days. I really enjoyed the book. 🙂

  3. Thanks, Valerie. I’m glad you enjoyed it. My editor gets credit for the timing, this series is her baby. But…what is this sleep you speak of??

  4. I’ve heard it can be a silent period of resting and rejuvenation. I recall distant memories of such from my teenage years. But these days I think it’s more a subject of myth and lore. Either that or it’s rationed out to us like it’s the last piece of a KitKat bar shared between 10 people. LOL

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