Is trying your hand at a new genre a smart move? Yes and no. Yes, experimenting with a new genre can stretch your creative abilities and help you grow as a writer. No, publishing successfully in more than one genre is not easy. It’s possible, but it takes planning, work, and a lot of thought. Here are some things to consider when deciding if it’s the right time to branch out into a new genre.
How trying a new genre can help your writing
Writing in a new genre can be a great creative exercise. If you need to break out of your routine, go ahead! Read up on genre conventions, successful authors in your target genre, and reader expectations. Don’t assume that just because you’re experienced in one genre, it will be easy to switch over; do your homework.Want to switch genres? Doing your homework is the first step.Click To Tweet
Think of this as a great opportunity to expand your writing craft. Westerns have completely different expectations, styles, and tropes than romance novels. Middle-grade fiction doesn’t work according to the same plot arcs and subject matter expectations as young adult literature. The more you know about these differences, the stronger you will become as a writer and the easier it will be for you to cross into the world of a new genre.
Once your writing is underway, I think you’ll be intrigued by what you learn. What aspects of your writing change from one genre to the next? What elements do you find are the same? This is an immensely helpful exercise to get to know yourself better as a writer. It’s a way of getting to the heart of what is central and essential to your voice.
And this, more than anything else, is the key to successfully publishing across genre lines. Of course, there are also drawbacks.
How trying a new genre can hurt you in publishing
Unless you’ve achieved the notoriety of J. K. Rowling or Stephen King, writing in a new genre means starting over, no matter how successful your published books are. All that hard work you put into branding yourself in your first genre drew an audience tailored to your original work. You need to consider the implications of losing some of your fans when you make the switch.Switching genre could lose you readers, but it can also attract new fans. Click To Tweet
The flipside is that you’re also gaining the opportunity to attract new readers. And there are ways to cross genre lines without losing all of your loyal followers.
Rainbow Rowell is a great example of an author successfully publishing across multiple genres. She’s written young adult, adult, fantasy, and short fiction, all while retaining a vibrant and loyal readership. So, what’s her secret?
The key to successfully publishing in a new genre
You can find a clue to Rowell’s success in her bio:
Sometimes she writes about adults (Attachments and Landline).
Sometimes she writes about teenagers (Eleanor & Park, Fangirl and Carry On).
But she always writes about people who talk a lot. And people who feel like they’re screwing up. And people who fall in love.
Rowell’s brand isn’t tied to genre. Rather, the essence of her writing transcends genre in a way that fosters loyalty in her readers, despite the fact that she breaks the mold. There are many shared themes – family, alienation and belonging, appearances – running through all her work, though they manifest themselves in ways particular to each story. And though there’s an element of seriousness in her stories, Rowell is undeniably funny.
What is at the heart of your writing that transcends genre? What is essential to your voice that readers love so much they’d be willing to take a chance on something new and different you’ve written? Find those elements of your writing and allow them to define your transition across genre lines – that’s your best shot at keeping your readers.Your voice and themes can transcend genre.Click To Tweet
Rowell has made it clear in interviews that her publisher supports her writing cross-genre. This is a big piece of the puzzle – many writers aren’t so lucky. If you’re working with a publisher or agent, that’s a conversation you need to have so expectations are clear. For self-published authors, this is a non-issue, but you will need to think about how this affects your brand and marketing strategies. How will you sell this change to your readers in a compelling way?
[Ultimately], your goal is to link your name to an organic and dynamic brand that’s based on you and arouses a positive, emotional experience for your targeted readership – regardless of genre.
By doing so, you can tie a common thread between all genres you choose to explore.
– Kimberley Grabas, ‘Thinking About Writing in Multiple Genres? Here’s What You Need to Know’
There are challenges to crossing genre lines, but it’s worth trying if you have a story bursting to written. Don’t let your doubts or fears keep you from putting that story out into the world. Find your way to make it a success and trust that your readers will follow.
What have you learned about yourself as a writer from trying your hand at a new genre? How have you solved the problem of potentially losing fans? Tell me about how you’ve overcome the challenges of publishing something that stretches the limits of your brand. Or, for more on setting and meeting your writing goals, check out 8 Steps That Will Help You Start (And Finish) Your Book and Useful Resolutions For A Writerly New Year.
8 thoughts on “The Thing You Need To Know Before You Write In A New Genre”
I don’t know where to fit this question in, but it has to do with genre. I’m in the process of writing an action/ organized crime story, but I want to include some aspects of the paranormal in the story, so the reader is convinced that ghosts exist in this otherwise rather grounded world. However, I do not want to make it a part-horror story. Do you have any tips on how to combine these rather unusual themes?
Great question. I think this can definitely work. The most important thing is to set rules and expectations for your world up front and then consistently play by those rules throughout the rest of the story. For example, in the Harry Potter series, the magical world exists alongside the real world, and there are “rules” about how those worlds interact, how you get from one to the other, etc. In Lewis’s The Magician’s Nephew, there’s a similar idea–there are magical forces at play in the real world, and there are certain ways magic can and can’t have bearing on the real world. Both of these examples have heavy fantasy and magical elements, but my point is the books set the rules and expectations of the world for the reader, and then the authors play by those rules throughout the rest of the book. I think you can accomplish the same with your book. Yours may be more strongly grounded in reality, but as long as you show readers what kind of world they’re in and you stick by the rules and expectations you set, they’ll buy into it.
You make a great point about “the heart of your writing that transcends genre.” By keeping some themes similar, you won’t totally alienate a built in audience.
Great point, thanks for sharing. The same is true of voice – while genre changes a lot of things about how we write, a clear voice tends to shine through and offer a definitive link between projects.
can genres be newly invented? is it applicable?
New genres can indeed be invented, as well as evolving out of older genres. Usually, however, a genre is recognized and named in retrospect, once enough works have been written within it to create an observable trend.
Which two genres have not been blended yet?
The truth is that every genre which has been identified and named has already been blended in some way with every other named genre, successfully or not. To be the first, you’d really have to be on the cutting edge of literary trends, searching out microgenres before they make it big. (At time of writing, ‘seapunk’ is apparently a thing, and I’d bet you could be one of the first to mix it successfully.)