Friday, August 27, 2010

What’s Your Specialty?

Kitchen Interior-- 1560's--Joachim Beuckelaer A few times this summer, we’ve gone out to eat with our son and he’s been dissatisfied with his meal.

He was really excited about the food when he ordered it, but when he got the steak from the seafood restaurant, or the seafood salad from the deli, he wasn’t thrilled with the results.

I wasn’t really connecting the dots on my end, either. But finally (I’m slow sometimes) I realized there was a pattern to the problems with his orders. He wasn’t ordering the specialty of the house. Actually, he wasn’t even ordering something that the restaurant was very particularly good at cooking. He was just ordering what he was in the mood to eat.

So I pointed out to him the next time we went out, that if we were at a burger joint, he should get a burger—not a spinach quiche. If we were at a barbeque restaurant, he should get a barbeque sandwich—not the grilled chicken. It was better to order something that played to the restaurant’s strengths to produce more satisfying results.

I think, for a lot of writers, we’ve got a ton of ideas and aren’t sure which to write first. To me, it’s like those restaurants with the huge menus—there are lots of possibilities, but they can’t deliver some things as well as others.

That’s the nice thing about being creative—we get all these great ideas…all the time.

Since I’m focused right now on the projects I’m under contract for, I tend to just jot down these ideas and put them in a Word file for later.

But what if you’re trying to decide what ideas to write? Or even what genre to focus on?

That’s when I think it’s a good idea to play to our strengths.

Of course, every genre has a range of draws for readers and writers. But some genres are better known for some qualities than others. Do you write really riveting action scenes? You probably should focus on a genre like thrillers or fantasy/sci fi that allow you to showcase that talent.

Are your characters your strong point? Do they jump off the page? Choose a genre that’s more character focused and less about nonstop action.

Are you naturally funny and write humor well? Consider focusing on writing a lighter read instead of literary fiction.

That’s definitely not to say that we can’t include a lot of different elements in our books—but maybe we should pick an idea or a genre that really plays to our strengths for our first efforts—and try a more challenging project later.

What’s your specialty of the house?