Last night I finished writing an 8600 word, three part steam punk serial that I've been working on. Is it done? Well, no. This morning I printed off the pages and will read through (yet again!) to find any mistakes, make sure of continuity from section to section and add a little bit more spit and polish.
Over the past few months as I've worked on this story I've discovered something about myself as a writer. I like to rush into a story. But that's good, right? Well, no it isn't, especially with a story this long. I had five thousand words down in one week when I discovered that I didn't have a clue what I was writing about and where this entire thing was going to end up. Boy, did that put the brakes on.
So what did I do? I started doing research about steampunk, reading steampunk short stories, and generally trying to figure out what in the hell steampunk was. After all that research, I still didn't know. I don't think anyone who's writing in this genre knows for sure. And the writing stalled, the story sitting in my computer files screaming to be finished and me too scared to pick the story up again.
Then two things happened that kicked me in the butt and got me writing again. I read an article by a sci-fi writer who explained everything she hated about steampunk and I read this fabulous story "Clockwork Fairies" by Cat Rambo http://www.tor.com/stories/2010/10/clockwork-fairies and realized all the wonderful things that steampunk could be. And I started thinking, working out the story in my mind and scratching out details and ideas on a notepad.
Once I figured out what the story was about and who the characters were, I started pounding the keys again, tossing most of those first 5000 words to the curb. And boy, did that hurt. Now, my story isn't nearly as beautiful as Ms. Rambo's but I'm pretty proud of what I've written and how the story has unfolded. Hopefully the editor will feel the same way. But even if the story is rejected, it wasn't a waste of time because it was a great learning experience for me.
Moral of the story: Don't be afraid to try something new. Push yourself to try new things and new ways of writing. And for heaven's sake, don't stop learning about the craft, about new genres and read everything you can. Every genre can teach a writer something new and exciting to use in their own work.