For more than a decade I thought I wanted to write an epic fantasy novel. I diligently outlined the story, started it, and subsequently restarted it numerous times. One day, though, I realized I hadn’t read a novel in that genre for years. I was no longer in love with the genre. I felt a little lost. The oldest memory I have of my mom reading to me was The Hobbit, when I was around four. Fantasy had always been a part of my life, and indeed I have written many thousands of published words within the genre (and edited countless more).
It might happen to you as well someday. Maybe not the same genre and maybe not after a lifetime of reveling in it, but one day you might realize–as you agonize over a story you’re struggling to even write a love letter for–that your tastes have changed. That you have moved on. That realization can be scary, but don’t panic.
This is an opportunity.
The first thing you should do is stop. Stop feeding your brain with the stories you no longer love. If you can find other kinds of stories to write about, or draw, or film, or otherwise create, then by all means continue to do that. But stop putting into your story brain things you don’t like.
The second thing you should do is start. Start looking at other kinds of stories. Don’t limit yourself to any one kind of genre, medium, or set of tropes. Explore what exists. And a lot exists.
When you’re exploring, remember to not just look outside the genre you no longer love but also the medium in which you create. Novels remain a dominant storytelling form, but movies, sequential art (comic books, webcomics, manga), modern computer roleplaying games, and even some television programs (not reality TV) offer compelling and well-crafted stories. Thanks to the Internet, other forms of storytelling keep cropping up as well (such as Youtube, Escape Pod and its kin, Echo Bazaar, and Homestuck). The Kindle might also bring a resurgence of short stories and novellas.
Ann and I will undoubtedly revisit this list in the future, but the important thing to note for today is that you have many, many options when you’re ready to feed your brain with new kinds of stories. (To say nothing of opportunities for telling stories!)
Of course, this advice is helpful even if you are still madly in love with the genres, media, and tropes you’re creating in. Storytelling isn’t a monogamous relationship; you should experiment around a little. You don’t have to dump your true love to learn something new, and the stories you tell in your chosen genre will be better for your exposure to other types. If you haven’t had enough analogies yet, think of it as cross-training for your story brain.
Today, epic fantasy and I are on friendly terms. Fantasy still informs my works; it continues to have an impact on the stories I tell. For now, though, I have a pretty good idea of what I love and the stories I want to tell, but I also know those might change in the next ten years–and if the change does happen I won’t panic, because I’ll know what to do.