What Comfort Zone? by Emily Witt

If you’d have told me at the end of last year that on January 1 2013 I would begin writing a romance highly influenced by my job at a war memorial and containing only the faintest traces of very low fantasy elements, and that by halfway through the year I’d be on the second draft of it and more invested in my two main characters than is probably healthy, I most likely would have laughed at you.

“Don’t be silly!” I would have said. “I write fantasy! Fantasy is my genre!”

At which point you could have cocked your eyebrow at me and said, “Oh really? And how’s the writing of that epic fantasy saga going?” and I would have refused to answer you because not being able to get that story out of my head and onto paper was a sore point for me for most of last year. It still is, a bit, but at least I’ve found something else to write in the meantime now.

The thing is, I’ve always been a sci-fi/fantasy nerd and everything I’d written up until the start of this year had fitted into one or other of those genres in some way or another. Even the crime novel I’d been planning at university ended up having time travel in it. So when I read or heard things like “don’t try to write outside your genre”, which sounded like pretty sound advice, I assumed fantasy was it and that if I wasn’t able to write it, there was something wrong.

So perhaps it was divine intervention when the very basic plot elements of my current WIP, A More Complicated Fairytale, to me in a dream on New Year’s Eve. The content of the dream bears little resemblance to how the story looks now, but it was the initial inspiration.

Over the next few months, when people asked me what kind of story I was writing, my knee-jerk response was still to say fantasy. After all, it’s set in a fictional kingdom which is at war with another fictional kingdom, and one of the main characters is a prince! That makes it fantasy, right? Well, maybe, but the focus of the story is on none of that, and far more on the developing relationship between the two main characters. The broader setting is about where the fantasy elements end. This story is definitely a romance first and foremost.

So why am I telling you all of this? To remind you that no piece of advice you hear in the writing industry is a hard and fast rule. Never be afraid to experiment, to push boundaries, or step outside your comfort zone. Especially if your comfort zone isn’t working for you right now. Add a dash of paranormal to that romance you’re writing or a hint of crime drama to your horror story. You might end up in a place you never expected to be, and it might end up being the best choice you’ve ever made with your writing.

You never know, you might surprise yourself.


Emily Witt