Expectations and 2012

I've been meaning to write a post about my resolutions for 2012, but I keep coming back to the idea of expectations. What do I (and you) expect for the coming year? A year of virtuous healthful living?

The opposite?

Or perhaps you expect the apocalypse?

(I know, it's the wrong apocalypse, but isn't that hilarious?)

Depending on what you expect, you might resolve to do different things. I have never been terribly serious about making resolutions because I know that I am afflicted with an Extreme Case of Guilty Conscience, and if I resolve to do something and fail to follow through, I will probably implode with guilt. So, for the last couple of years I resolved to read a few books. Well, I'm not going to resolve that this year because, honestly, I'm still in the middle of reading Orlando (which I swear I intend to finish … sometime) and because the idea of it no longer strikes me as fun.

So, this year, I am resolving nothing. Not in a sneaky wu wei way, but I think it's plenty enough for me to just keep on doing what I've been doing, perhaps with the added goal of doing a little less of it. As I mentioned back at Thanksgiving, 2011 was pretty busy for me, and I'd like to have more time to do nothing (perhaps, yes, in the wu wei way).

Also, I suspect that I will be busy enough in 2012 dealing with the fruits of all my 2011 labor. This year I have a number of books coming out! Here's my publication schedule for 2012:

May 2012: The Letter Q: Queer Writers' Notes To Their Younger Selves, edited by Sarah Moon (I have a letter to my 16-year-old self in this anthology)

July 2012: The paperback edition of Huntress, with special bonus content!

Fall 2012: Foretold, edited by Carrie Ryan (I have a short story in this anthology about prophecies)

Fall 2012: Adaptation, my next novel!

I'm really excited about all of this, but of course I am most excited about bringing my next new novel into the world. And that's where I slam right up against expectations.

You see, Adaptation is quite different from Ash and Huntress. In fact, I do not doubt that some readers will think they were written by totally different people. So, if someone has read Ash or Huntress and picks up Adaptation expecting something similar … they will be sorely disappointed.

I know that at times I've gotten attached to a writer's or musician's particular style, and when they come out with something different, at first I am usually disappointed because I wanted more of what they'd already given me. This is a totally normal reaction. But at the same time, I think it's a bit much to expect (there's that word again) a writer or musician (or anybody, really) to simply do the same thing over and over again.

Sure, there are writers who do that brilliantly, and I love them for it. In fact, these are often the authors whose books I reach for when I want something very consistent and comforting, like Elizabeth Peters or her alter ego Barbara Michaels. There's nothing wrong with writing variations on a single theme.

It's just that I've realized I am not that kind of writer. Huntress was already somewhat different from Ash, though it had a similar serious fantasy feel. But Adaptation is totally different. I think I'm going to spend a lot of time this year repeating that. "It's different! It's totally different!"

This doesn't mean that I never want to write in the style of Ash again. In fact, the story being published in Foretold is very much in that style. That story, "One True Love," is another fairy tale (sort of). It felt totally comfortable for me to write that story. I remember that when I was writing it, I felt like I actually knew what I was doing for once. That was a really nice feeling.

But I also like being challenged by doing new things. I think it's fun to strike out into new storytelling territory and figure out how to develop a style to fit that space. It reminds me that writing is really about decisions: What word to use here, what phrase to use there. You choose different words for different styles. It's both an intellectual and creative exercise for me, and it was thrilling to be able to use words in Adaptation that I could not use in Ash or Huntress because of the nature of their stories.

So, Adaptation: "It's different!" It's set in the near-future United States, for one thing, rather than a magical fantasy world. And while my influences and inspirations for Ash and Huntress ran along the lines of Robin McKinley and Kristin Cashore, my influences and inspirations for Adaptation came straight out of … television.

I know, you're shocked (and maybe a little disappointed), right? Here are some of my inspirations for Adaptation:

The thing that I've noticed, though, about writers or artists who zoom from one style to another, is that beneath those stylistic differences, you can often still detect the core of the artist. The themes are sometimes very similar. For example, when Sarah Waters shifted from writing Victorian romps to writing World War II-era novels, some themes remained: confinement, for one thing. I've always thought that was fascinating about her books. And though Holly Black's Modern Faery Tales are very different in style from her Curse Workers series, they all still seem to deal with moral ambiguity.

If there's a theme in my books, I think it's the transformative power of love. This sounds cheesy, but I totally see it running through everything I write. So, that's still in Adaptation (and its sequel, which I'm currently writing). But, other than that? Yeah. Different.

So. Expectations. They can really choke the joy out of experiencing something new. And maybe I lied when I said I'm not making any resolutions this year. Maybe I am resolving to have fewer expectations. To open a book and not expect A, B, or C. To let the story speak for itself.

Happy new year!