Crossing Genres

Good morning! Well, its been an exciting few weeks with book releases and readings, and promoting the hell out of my stuff. I’m so excited to get back to actual writing, and talking about writing. Today, in collaboration with the fine folks at The Writing Forge, I’m going to talk about crossing genres, both as an author and also within singular books.

For more check out this podcast: “Look Both Ways Before Crossing Genres

So, what does it mean to be a cross-genre writer? Well, it’s more prolific than you might think. Very rarely does an author stick to one genre alone for the entirety of their lives (I was going to say career but I’ve never actually known a ‘retired’ writer. We write up until the day we shuffle off the mortal coil as far as I know). Nora Roberts writes romance but she also crosses over into Mysteries as J.D. Robb. J.K. Rowling went from YA fantasy to Adult Fiction, Anne Rice has written everything from Vampires to DomSub, to Christianity. Hell, even James Bond’s creator, Ian Flemming wrote “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang”. So the better question is not should you become a cross-genre writer but when and how.

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Writing in multiple genres can be done in one of two ways. By switching genres completely by novel or story, or by incorporating multiple genres into one project. Let’s start with the first.

So, let’s say you’ve been churning out kids books for the last ten years and you’re ready to jump into something new. You’re an established name in the genre, with a following (let’s dream big while we’re dreaming). Yay for you! But how do you go about the transition seamlessly?

First, know the genre you’re getting into. Mysteries don’t follow the same plot points or tropes as kids books (wait, do they?) Read as many mysteries as you can, gain a good understanding of typical tropes and character types for your new genre. Discover what you like and what you don’t, what works, and what doesn’t. This way, you’ll be ready to write a mystery that will appeal to the die-hard fans of the genre and hopefully make your work more acceptable.

Second, if you’re established in one genre and are jumping the creek into another, you may want to try a pen name. When people know you for a certain story/genre type, they’re going to follow you. But maybe they don’t want to read your new blood spatter fest to their 8 year old. So, establish a new name for your new genre. (J.D. Robb, A.N. Roquelaure, etc.)

However…if you are a sci-fi writer and you’re dabbling in fantasy, this is a smaller jump and you can probably keep your name. Those followers you have will probably be more lenient and accepting of your next adventure, and if you can take an established base on a new adventure all the better.

What would be the benefit of writing in multiple genres in this way? I’m so glad you asked. Here’s a bullet list.

  • Its a great way as an author to diversify your writing, get your work into different venues, and expand your base of readers
  • It can help beat boredom of following the same tropes/patterns over and over
  • It will help grow your skills as a writer. Romance writers know dialogue and relationships, Fantasy writers know word building, Horror writers know suspense. All of these skills can be honed and developed to the betterment of all your writing.
  • It makes you hard to pin down and undefinable. Frankly, I don’t like being put in a box. Yeah I write romance, I also write speculative fiction, suspense, sci-fi, and erotica. I dabble in poetry, and sink into human interest non-fiction. Don’t you put your labels on me.
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Now Let’s talk about utilizing multiple genres in a single novel/story/project.

Its slippery slope. Genre fans are genre fans for a reason. They like the predictability. They like knowing where the story is going and that it will end in a certain way. Mixing up loved tropes, taking side quests, and tripping the hero on his journey might lose you some fans. And genre fans are a huge base. I’ve even turned off a couple of readers because some of my romances were not ‘sweet’ enough. They were a little too dark for the genre. And that’s a risk I took by telling a grittier story in a genre that likes to stay flowery.

BUT the benefits to writing this way, are that you can incorporate elements of storytelling that best suit your characters and the story itself. I wrote a science fiction novel set on the rings of Saturn with time/space wormholes, and a heavy nod to literary poets. It had elements of religion, and romanticism, and social commentary, all in the midst of blaster fire and moonglass blade fights. It was one of my favorite stories to write and one of my best recieved and I think that’s because sometimes a story is just too big to fit in one genre.

Sometimes your story, is more like life. A daring, romantic, mysterious, fantasy western set in modern day suspense-filled and poetic semi-reality. And its interesting and unpredictable in spaces, and comforting and ties up well in others. And that’s why knowing the elements of each genre is important and can boost your plot line into something quite magical.

Crossing genres is, all in all, a great way to improve your writing and your reach. Knowing your audience, and understanding the different and distinct elements of your genres will help you do it in a successful and enjoyable way. I hope that you all give it a chance and let me know how your forays go.


Going Back to School: How Writers Benefit from Classes, Conferences, and Trainings

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There are plenty of ways to keep your skills sharp as a writer. Last week, I covered the conference season and this post will be similar in that I’m going to give you some online resources for improving your writing skill, developing a business or marketing plan, and helping to boost your creativity. Just like conferences, a writer can easily blow their budget by trying to train themselves into success. My goal is to offer you a spectrum of options with the caveat that classes can show you how to write better, give you pointers on the business side of things and offer marketing advice, inspire new ideas, and improve your editing. About the only thing they can’t do is write your book for you.

The Long Haul:

MFA/MA Programs: These programs (Master of Fine Arts and Master of Arts) are advanced, graduate degrees that can help to help your overall exposure to the big picture of writing (MA tends to focus more on Literature and less on writing, MFA can be broken down into Creative Writing, Journalism, Linguistics, etc). In these programs you will learn pretty much everything, from plot and structure, to dialogue and character development, to grammar and editing. It will take two years at least, and the cost averages out to about $38,000, not counting room and board. You’ll read an enormous amount of material. You’ll probably complete a novel or collection as part of your thesis. Not a horrible way to go, but studies are showing that the cost of MFA programs are often not paid back in employment afterwards so–carefully think through that one.

Online Writing Courses:

A number of reputable online courses and classes are now offered through various writing groups, professional/successful authors, and university departments. The courses are less intensive than a MFA and can often be done at your convenience. They cost a lot less (some are even free) and you can often pick and chose the ones that will benefit you the most. Here’s a small list courtesy of

  1. Wesleyan University Creative Writing Specialization
  2. Gotham Writers Online Writing Classes
  3. Reedsy Learning Courses
  4. Udemy Creative Writing Courses
  5. edX Creative Writing Courses
  6. FutureLearn Creative Arts and Media Writing Courses
  7. OpenLearn Creative Writing
  8. SkillShare Online Creative Writing Classes
  9. Emory Continuing Education Creative Writing
  10. Universal Class
  11. Online Writing Courses
  12. Masterclass Creative Writing Classes

Conferences, Seminars, Retreats

Feel free to refer back to my other post:

I’m going to offer this plug one more time, because I truly believe in this conference and because it’s completely hybrid, you can attend from anywhere in the world, participate, and get the benefits without the travel costs, having to get dressed up, or use a public restroom–winner, winner, chicken dinner. Register for this one:

WHWA Writing Conference

For this area of your continuing education I’ll ask that you explore seminars (mini conferences, or a series of five or more classes on one topic, like Novel Writing) and retreats in your area. I’m sure there are beautiful, far-flung retreats in tropical islands that are also available, but with travel restrictions, lack of funds, and a busy life outside of writing, those may not always be attainable, so do a little research closer to home. Some of my favorite retreats and seminars have been offered through Writing Heights Writers Association at a very fair cost and are conveniently located. It also helps my sense of altruism to know I’m giving my money into a local organization that turns around and helps other writers in my area.

Retreats tend to fall into two categories, those with classes/seminars and free-write time, and those with simply free-writing time, punctuated with social hours. You may wonder how effective three or four days, stuck in a lodge, with nothing but time spent writing can be as beneficial as say, a whole weekend of conference classes. Well, young writer, let me elaborate.

Classes, conferences and seminars are excellent resources for enhancing your writing and helping you learn technique as well as opening up your mind to the business side of things–just like I mentioned above. And, just like I mentioned above, they can’t write a book for you. Only you and time can do that. As a mother of two busy kids, with a couple of side gigs, and a whole household to run–I don’t always have time to write. Somedays I’m lucky to get 20 minutes in. So to have four days, uninterrupted by children, husbands, dogs, laundry, volunteering, teaching, or grocery shopping, cleaning, and yard work, just focused on my writing is priceless. I’ve finished novels in that time. I’ve written four months of blog posts and edited entire series. I’ve barreled through plot holes that I thought I could never find solutions to.

The truth is, when there’s nothing else to pull your procrastination strings, you can get some shit done. PLUS, its immensely helpful to be surrounded by other writers while they’re “in the zone”. There is an inexplicable energy that catches you up when you’re surrounded by other souls and brains focused on their art and passion. Plus there’s usually some socializing/decompression hours at the end of the day to give yourself respite.

Okay–that seemed like a lot of info and I don’t want to bore you to tears. Check out some of the ideas above this week for taking yourself back to school. When we invest in our writing, it becomes less the pipe dream, and more of an attainable goal. Good luck out there, writers. Keep me posted on your progress or if you’ve found some great retreats, classes, and resources yourself!