My Books

Risk-Taking in Life and Fiction

On a scale of 1-10, what’s your tolerance for taking risks?

I’m pretty risk averse: I hate adrenaline-based sports and would never mortgage my house to start a cupcake shop. Yet, ten years ago I sold my (little) London flat to move to the exotic climes of California. I’ve hitch-hiked twice, once because waiting for the next bus just seemed too boring. And, now I come to think of it, I’ve quit jobs without my next source of income lined up, not once, not twice, but three times. Oops: Oscar Wilde would probably say that reeks of carelessness.

But while taking risks is scary, I feel the alternative – never trying new things and being too afraid to fail to even try – is far worse.

ship quotePhoto thanks: Lamassar

Writing and publishing fiction is a gamble. Everything from family mockery to public humiliation can rain down on those of us who dare share our stories with the world. My second novel, Secrets in the Sky, definitely takes more risks than the first. I know some readers may object to the underlying secret, and others will question whether the main character should behave as she does. And while I’m currently trying to minimise the risk of public derision by looking carefully at every piece of feedback from a wonderful crew of beta readers, some significant risks will remain.

So, I’m planning to take those risks, because the alternative would be bland, predictable fiction. And I feel that’s a poor outcome for both you as readers and me as the author.

What’s the biggest risk you’ve ever taken? Which authors do you enjoy who take large – or small – risks?

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5 Comment

  1. Reply
    Diane Mannion
    November 11, 2014 at 9:56 am

    This is a very interesting and thought provoking article Pauline. Like you I would say that I am risk averse and always like to have a safety net. However, I suppose that most things we do in life carry an element of risk. As a writer I take risks. Different books appeal to different readers so you never know how yours will be received until you put it out there. Good luck with your second novel. I hope your risk pays off. 🙂

    1. Reply
      Pauline Wiles
      November 11, 2014 at 5:55 pm

      Diane, yes, you’re right: as writers, we either stuff our work under the bed forever or, sooner or later, we just have to publish and see whether people like it.

  2. Reply
    Joanne Phillips
    November 11, 2014 at 2:09 pm

    Great post, as always. I’m also risk averse, but like you I’d rather regret what I did do than what I didn’t do. In my writing, many of my risks are around viewpoint and tense, and I know I risk using combinations readers may not like. Writing my Flora Lively series was also a risk – combining romantic elements with the mystery genre, particularly when I’d already built up a small following in romantic comedies, was a risky move. But I loved the concept and I wrote it for myself as much as for anyone else. 🙂

    1. Reply
      Pauline Wiles
      November 11, 2014 at 5:56 pm

      Joanne, I’m currently reading “Write, Publish, Repeat” and genre-hopping is one aspect the authors talk about. They – and you – seem to have sufficient energy, and suitably enthusiastic fans, to pull it off.

  3. Reply
    Julie Valerie @Julie_Valerie
    November 18, 2014 at 8:44 am

    Now here’s a crazy observation that will make sense to no one:

    I’m totally fine taking risks – if only the boring, mundane aspects of my lackluster life would step aside for a moment so I could take a little thrill ride every once in a while.


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