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.
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.
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.