Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The Genre Confines

I've written two books.  The first is commercial women's fiction.  The second is young adult paranormal.  Each is as different as night and day.  My WF novel is very character driven with lots of internal conflict.   In my YA project, there's a lot more external conflict.  If asked to choose a favorite, could I?  No.  It would be like asking me to choose which of my two children I love more.  I loved writing both for different reasons.  The WF project allowed me to utilize a lot of the issues and emotions I was dealing with at the time I wrote it.  I put a lot of heart and personal experience into that one.  On the other hand, writing my YA novel was pure fun.  The voice came really easy to me (I am the queen of attitude and sarcasm, after all), and I had a blast creating the characters and the paranormal aspect.   

I don't understand how or why writers are expected to pick one genre and stick to it.  I read all genres--historical fiction, women's fiction, suspense, YA, romance, fantasy, etc.  Why is it such a faux paus if I want to write in different genres?  I'll be the first to admit, there are certain genres I probably wouldn't be very good at, but if I have an idea for something . . . something that gets me giddy with excitement, why shouldn't I write it?

The idea that writers can only "shine" in one genre is ridiculous.  Look at Stephen King.  The same guy who wrote "Pet Sematary" also wrote  "The Shawshank Redemption."  Those books belong to two different genres, but were both very successful in their own right. 

There's the arguement that once you build a fan base, they come to expect the same "type" of book from you.  Really?  Are the majority of readers that stuck in their ways that they would turn their nose up in protest if an author did something different?  It seems crazy to me that a writer who wants to try his/her hand at something different has to come up with a pen name to avoid disapointing his/her fans. 

I don't believe that writers are one-trick ponys.  We're fiction writers, for goodness sake.  We have vast imaginations with the ability to dream up endless stories.  So I say, don't let genre confine you, write the story that's in you. 


  1. As a fellow writer of both women's fiction and YA paranormal, hear hear.

  2. You go, girl! Preach it! :)

    I do agree with you. Write what you want. Write what you love. Pfft on genre. However, I do think that advice has some truth in it for others, but it's a very generalized advice. It doesn't apply to every writer in the planet, so if you can pull off writing two different genres, then go for it. :)

  3. Right on! Why not write what's in your heart? I personally find writing the same ol' stuff to be rather dull and boring--as well as reading said same ol' stuff. I've written a science fiction/dystopian novel and am currently working on a chick lit romance. If the story moves you, write it!

  4. I sometimes wonder how some writers get 'stuck' in same same genre. It's like they've lost their imaginations and there only motivation is money. (i.e. Nicholas Sparks) Sometimes I like an author until it feels like they are putting out the same book in a different setting over and over. I crave something different! To them I say, bend the rules a little, but at least give it some creativity!

  5. Oh, but fans are that way. It happens over and over again. Just to give a highly visible, pop culture figure, you can look at Kevin Smith and his attempt to break away from Jay and Silent Bob. Actors get type cast for the same reason.

  6. Hail to the Pen name! That is one for the major reasons writers take them. Case in point: did you know that according to an industry wide survey, (US and UK only) that 24% of traditional romance writers are men!!! Yep, men who write under a woman's name. Some even use false pictures for their websites and book covers. The woman you see is actually their wife, mother, or sister! Mind blowing right? Who knows, maybe Dan Brown, or John Grisham are raking it in via the romance department too! 'Love Me All Night' by Stephen King, NO WAY! 'Love Me All Night' by Stephanie Queen? Why not? :)

  7. I think you have an excellent point. If someone possesses the ability they should definitely write what comes naturally to them.

    However, I do believe that certain genres comes easier to certain people. But this definitely should pigeon-hole them if they ever want to explore the other genres.

  8. Great post, and so true! Look at Stephen King, for instance. He started off writing horror, then branched into magical realism and dark fantasy. He's living proof that a fanbase will follow you wherever your muse leads once you've proven to them you can weave a good yarn. But, Honestly, I think it's the publishers who want us to be consistent in the beginning and brand ourselves, because it's safer for them.

  9. Have you decided to throw your hat in the ring for the next election? Cause after that post, I'd totally vote for you! You speakin' the truth, sister!!

  10. I'm 100% on your side here, especially since I write in multiple genres. In fact, I find it hard to understand when someone writes in only one genre...I keep switching, not because I don't know who I am or what I am doing, but because all these voices appeal to me and are "mine." Thanks for writing this, hot stuff!

  11. @Christine- We write in the same genres-haha! How cool is that? Thanks for stopping by ;o)

    @Cheri- I agree, I don't think every writer can write every genre (you will never see me write literary, for example), but if someone wants to try writing something outside their "comfort zone", I definitly think they should go for it! :o)

    @Sara- Exactly! After I wrote my WF ms, I was planning on writing another WF novel, but just several pages into it, I found myself dragging my feet. I couldn't get excited about it. I needed something different. I wanted something that would get my blood pumping, and I found that with my YA project ;o)

    @Jen- OMG--Nicholas Sparks! My friend and I always say- "If you've read one Nicholas Sparks book, you've read them all!" lol. He is definitly an author who needs to step out of the "love and loss" mold.

    @Andrew--interesting point, but Kevin Smith isn't exactly an A-list actor. Take Will Smith-- he's done some comedies over the years, but as of lately, he's also taken on some serious roles. Actors who decide to switch genres really have a lot to prove, and I think the same goes with writers, which is why it's often 'frowned upon' by the industry. Publisher's don't want to take the risk unless it's a sure thing. I don't think it's necessarily the fans--at least not to a large extent.

    @Marian- I've read that same statistic somewhere before! Isn't that crazy?? It makes sense though . . . I mean, when you factor in what men think about all day ;o)

    @Sophie- Well said! That's exactly what I was trying to get at. I think it's 'healthy' for a writer to try new things (if they so desire)--even if a certain genre comes easy to them. I think it's all part of the learning and growing process of a writer.

    @Anita- I couldn't agree more. I think "fan rejection" is just an excuse publishers use to play it safe with new and upcoming writers. Seriously, I have a couple favorite authors, and if they rewrote the phone book I'd probably read it, because I know to expect great things from them ;o)

    @Bethany- Haha! Thanks, girlfriend ;o) This was just something that was bugging me as I started researching agents and looking at what genres they represent. I have to search for agents that rep women's fiction, romance, and YA! lol (since those are the genres I'm interested in writing in--for now ;-)

    @Ms. Phresh- I know, right? I have such a short attention span when it comes to what I read AND write. I get bored so easily that I HAVE to switch things up to hold my interest! I can't imagine writing the same type of book over and over. Blech! How does Nicholas Sparks do it? lol

  12. I so agree with you. But I think that writers have to be one trick ponies because one trick ponies are required in the big bad business that is publishing. Maybe famous people like Stephen King or J K Rowling can do something different - but hm, I don't know if I'd read either of them if I wanted literary fiction

    You're so right too about not being able to choose. I don't know which of my very different stories other people are most likely to enjoy and I sometimes wonder if I'm pushing the wrong stuff altogether. Sigh!

  13. Jenny Woolf- Thanks for stopping by! Yes, I blame it all the big meanies (publishers ;-) I don't know if I could write in the same genre over and over again (even if getting paid to do so). I couldn't even write two women's fiction novels in a row (I tried)! lol! At least for now I don't have to choose ;o)