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Monday, February 13

Does Your Writing Need a Literary Palate Cleanser?

By Janice Hardy, @Janice_Hardy

Unless you’re a writer who writes in several different unrelated genres (and if so, here’s something from the archives for you to read today), you will likely reach a point where you need a break from your writing. You’re tired of saving the world from evil. You can’t stand the thought of getting one more couple to happily ever after. If you have to kill off one more witness who saw too much you’ll scream. You’ve reached genre overload and can’t take it anymore.

That’s okay, it happens to a lot of us.

A break usually fixes this problem, but some writers require a little more than time off to revitalize their love of their chosen genre (I was one of these a few years ago). They need a literary palate cleanser.

An LPC is a novel (or even a short story) that is different from what you usually write. It’s written for fun with no plans to publish or even show anyone. It’s a way to let you stretch your creative wings and try something new without any expectations or pressures.

An editor once told me she had an author who wrote a throwaway book between every real book. It was just something they had to do to clear out their head and be ready for the next novel. While you certainly don’t have to go that far, writing something utterly different from time to time can help you recharge your creative batteries.

Reasons you might need a literary palate cleanser:


You’ve lost your writing mojo: This happened to me after a particularly rough book that made writing a chore. Writing something silly that made me laugh helped me remember why I loved to write.

You don’t feel like you have any new ideas for your genre:
Every idea you come up with has been done, and none of your book ideas feel fresh or original.

You feel nothing you write is any good anymore: You’ve lost confidence in your writing or feel it doesn’t measure up to the other books and authors in your genre.

You want to write, but nothing grabs your interest: Your genre isn’t exciting you anymore, even though you still like it. Every time you think of an idea, it just feels like too much work for something you don’t care all that much about.

You’re sick of your genre or market:
You’ve immersed yourself too much in this genre and can’t bear the thought of writing another book in it. You’ve even stopped reading, watching, gaming in, that genre.

Genre overload can make you feel as though you’ve lost a good friend, but it’s nothing to be worried about. It’s just a heads up to try some new things and open yourself to new experiences and ideas.

Palate cleansers you might try:


Pick a movie genre you like to watch, but not read or write: Love romantic comedies? Crazy about medical dramas? Can’t get enough underdog sports movies? Pick your favorite movie outside your genre and write a story in that genre. Heck, write your version of that movie if you want.

Pick the opposite of what your normally write:
If you write romance, write a thriller. Try a comedy if you write horror. If you spend your days in fantasy worlds, write a contemporary set in your hometown. Do something that uses details, settings, and characters you’ve never written about before.

Drop several genres into a hat and pick one at random:
Good for the writer who has trouble making a decision. No take-backs!

Ask social media for ideas and pick the craziest suggestion: You’ll probably get some good story ideas as well with this option. Let your followers know what you’re doing and they’ll probably come up with some terrific premises.

Once you have your genre, develop the story and run with it. Write the whole novel, write until you feel the urge to write your normal genre, set a time limit and write for a month or two—whatever you need to do to re-energize your writing. Since you don’t plan to do anything with it, it doesn’t matter how good or marketable it is. Just write for fun, have a good time, and remember the joy of storytelling.

Have you ever written a literary palate cleanser? How did it work out for you?

Looking for tips on planning, writing, or revising your novel? Check out one of my books on writing:  Planning Your Novel: Ideas and Structure, a self-guided workshop for planning or revising a novel, the companion Planning Your Novel Workbook, Revising Your Novel: First Draft to Finished Draft, your step-by-step guide to revising a novel, and the first book in my Skill Builders Series (and Amazon bestseller), Understanding Show Don't Tell (And Really Getting It).


A long-time fantasy reader, Janice Hardy always wondered about the darker side of healing. For her fantasy trilogy The Healing Wars, she tapped into her own dark side to create a world where healing was dangerous, and those with the best intentions often made the worst choices. Her novels include The Shifter, Blue Fire, and Darkfall from Balzer+Bray/Harper Collins. The Shifter, was chosen for the 2014 list of "Ten Books All Young Georgians Should Read" from the Georgia Center for the Book. It was also shortlisted for the Waterstones Children's Book Prize, and The Truman Award in 2011.

Janice is also the founder of Fiction University, a site dedicated to helping writers improve their craft. Her popular Foundations of Fiction series includes Planning Your Novel: Ideas and Structure, a self-guided workshop for planning or revising a novel, the companion Planning Your Novel Workbook, Revising Your Novel: First Draft to Finished Draft, your step-by-step guide to revising a novel, and the first book in her Skill Builders Series, the Amazon bestseller, Understanding Show Don't Tell (And Really Getting It).  
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1 comment:

  1. I didn't realize it was called a literary palate cleanser. Just four days ago I decided to put all of my projects on a shelf. You know, that virtual shelf at resides at the back corner of your mind. Actually, they're all still in their folders in a internet cloud. I love English history fiction, yet I've never thought about writing in this genre before. Living in the US, most of what I know about England has come from text books and movies. I go a hold of an online friend who lives in England and requested help in finding material I could read on this 'new' genre. I'm excited about writing again, which, of course, was the point.

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