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View Full Version : Do you think writers should stick to one genre?



Radhika
05-26-2011, 06:34 PM
I for one, am writing books or get ideas in all different genres, even going across age groups and things that are totally opposing one another.

Yet, there are many writers who focus entirely on one genre and similar themes.

Which do you believe is correct, or do you feel it varies between writers?

Puma
05-26-2011, 06:38 PM
I think it varies with writers. People who are interested in more than one thing don't want to be stuck writing the same type of thing over and over (unless they're tremendously successful and crank out one after another formula style). Puma

Aaron Wilder
05-26-2011, 06:40 PM
I find that a lot of my ideas are thrillers with other genre elements. I don't feel like I'm cheating across genres, but don't feel that I'm just writing the same style of book or story all the time.

waylander
05-26-2011, 07:47 PM
Agents and publishers prefer writers to stay within genre boundaries because they don't bring much of their readership with them when they cross the boundaries. If you are selling books as a crime writer then few of your followers are going to pick up your next book if it is a romance.

MJNL
05-26-2011, 07:54 PM
Writers should write what they want to write, be that in one genre or all possible genres.

And if you're worried about publishers not wanting you to stray outside your fan base, don't be. That's what pseudonyms were invented for. You can have multiple names, and each of those names can essentially have their own career.

Kate Thornton
05-26-2011, 07:55 PM
I write short stories in virtually all genres. If I'm stuck in one, I start another and usually then get un-stuck.

I prefer to write mystery & science fiction, but have written romance, literary and fantasy, too.

..

Alpha Echo
05-26-2011, 08:01 PM
I don't think there's a "should" about it. I think that writers "should" write whatever they want to.

For myself, I'm just more comfortable staying in women's fiction. I've tried my hand at crime, and I don't think it was horrible, but I'm in my element when I'm writing women's fiction.

Other writers can bounce around between different genres at will, others still wake up one day and decide they're just ready to try something new.

I think that it is a good thing to try other genres, even if it doesn't turn out all that good. It's healthy for writers and nonwriters alike to broaden their horizens.

TheMindKiller
05-26-2011, 08:10 PM
No. Absolutely not. Not in a million years.

Write everything. Nonfiction, fiction, YA, children books, Science Fiction, Erotica... whatever. Just write. Don't limit yourself. Write articles on what it feels like to write articles then submit those magazines and write about that. Write about cheese, the moon or a new bacteria you found in a local truck stop.

Write short fiction, write long fiction, write obituaries. Use a pen name if you have to, but don't limit yourself or what you write because you have a fear dragging you down.

The more you write the more successful you'll be. The most successful writers aren't the writers with one or two books beaking on a bestseller's list and then never writing again. Many writers make a living writing dozens of books that never see fame or glory but because they write a lot about a lot of different things, still make plenty of money and live comfortably and do what they love. I think limiting yourself would be a terrible idea for any writer.

gothicangel
05-26-2011, 08:35 PM
My first book was a psychological thriller, then with my second book I tried to switch to historical. A few days ago I realised I was writing an historical thriller.

You obviously can't take the thriller out of the girl. :tongue

stormie
05-26-2011, 08:37 PM
I have MGD. Multple Genre Disorder. And I'm fine with that. :)

Phaeal
05-26-2011, 09:04 PM
I'm happy in the SFF supergenre. Of course, that breaks into two big genres (science fiction and fantasy), each of which includes a lot of subgenres. Hard to run out of new things to try, though diverging from one subgenre to a very different one could still lose one readers.

One thing I'd be concerned about: If you DO prefer one genre to others, it might be best to establish yourself first in that genre. How frustrating if you were successful with light romance, for example, with publishers clamoring for more, but your real true love military SF was calling out to you in a drill sergeant's stentorian tones.

waylander
05-26-2011, 09:39 PM
Writers should write what they want to write, be that in one genre or all possible genres.

And if you're worried about publishers not wanting you to stray outside your fan base, don't be. That's what pseudonyms were invented for. You can have multiple names, and each of those names can essentially have their own career.

But you start out as an unknown writer each time you move to a new genre and your publisher has to try and build you a following while your established following wonder when your next book is going to appear.

jeffo20
05-26-2011, 09:44 PM
I find that my attempts at novels are what you'd call 'commercial fiction' or maybe bordering on 'literary fiction' but the short stories I'm writing tend towards suspense/horror. I'm not sure why that is.

AlwaysJuly
05-26-2011, 10:08 PM
I think there's nothing wrong with writing across genres if that's what you like, but it certainly does have its own set of career implications (as discussed above). I'm going to try for a career in multiple genres, though.

rugcat
05-26-2011, 10:55 PM
But you start out as an unknown writer each time you move to a new genre and your publisher has to try and build you a following while your established following wonder when your next book is going to appear.This is absolutely true.

And a corollary is that if you're a moderately successful author in one genre, like F/SF, you can often sell your next book or series on just a proposal

If you switch genres, say to mystery or middle grade, your previous credentials mean almost nothing -- you're treated much like a first time author.

Not to say you shouldn't try something different if you want. But publishingwise, it's more difficult.

Libbie
05-26-2011, 11:15 PM
Write what you feel inspired to write! I think most writers really only have great strength in a small handful of genres, but there are some folks who can understand and work with many more!

Of course, it is also true, as others have said, that writing in too many genres can make it difficult to build a good backlist.

MJNL
05-26-2011, 11:47 PM
But you start out as an unknown writer each time you move to a new genre and your publisher has to try and build you a following while your established following wonder when your next book is going to appear.


Absolutely, but if you want writing to be your profession you should be prolific, and if you can be prolific in different genres, you've got more opportunities to succeed.

I call that the work part. It's hard, but it's how you make a living.

wizard tim
05-27-2011, 12:24 AM
This is an interesting question. If your goal is commercial success, you might be best off by working hard to establish a readership in one genre. But if you're not focused so much on the commercial aspect, I'd say write what you want.

There are a few authors that become so popular (King, Gaiman) that they write across genres and it doesn't matter -- the readers follow them. But I think this is rare.

Maybe consider what your goals are for each specific project before you labor through the entire manuscript?

jaksen
05-27-2011, 03:56 AM
Omg just let the stories spill out of you. Write what you want, in any genre, in any length. Just write write write!

At one time writers wrote stories and didn't worry about 'genres' and their readers followed them to whatever they wrote.

Jamesaritchie
05-27-2011, 04:11 AM
A prolific writer does not need to stay in one genre, and agents/publishers do not expect them to do so. It's always writer choice.

But it is best to stick to one genre until you're actually writing publishable books within that genre. Spreading your talent and time too widely in the beginning can mean you never write a publishable book in any genre.

Susan Littlefield
05-27-2011, 05:02 AM
James, that make sense. If you know what you can sell, it makes room for branching out.

Aaron Wilder
05-27-2011, 05:04 AM
You obviously can't take the thriller out of the girl. :tongue

But you can definitely put the thriller into her :)

...I've got to lay off the erotica

Nick Blaze
05-27-2011, 11:36 AM
The way I see it, one of the best ways for a person to grow as a person is to experience and learn new things.

In the martial arts, it's not good to just stick with one martial art and never try any other for the rest of your life. It's usually recommended that by brown belt or ten years training to try a different martial art or school. For instance, if you take karate and from a good school, you are now strong with basic punches, kicks, and blocks. You are good at moving from your center and keeping your balance. But you haven't learned how to lose your balance, and how to use that to your advantage. You haven't learned [many, or any] throws or grappling. So as you become proficient in karate's basics, you start over from the beginning and learn something new. Then, when you go back to karate solely, you have a much deeper understanding of how the body works, a new mindset from a different style entirely (you'll wonder why aikido throws work the way they do, even though it seems so illogical, for instance, which only comes with training it). You can approach the techniques in a different way, see it from a different perspective, and have so much more to add to your training.

Not only that, but there are drastically different cultures involved in various martial arts, which cultivate the mind. Maturing your mind is the best way to advance in the martial arts, as it leads to a calmer, thoughtless reaction in a fight. I get a little disappointed when I hear people say they're fine with who they are and see no reason to change themselves. It's okay to like who you are, but is that a reason not to make yourself a better person? Oh well... ramblings, ramblings.

This applies to writing, as it does to nearly everything. There are some genres of writing that are very hard for certain writers to write. It's great to be strong at fantasy and have no ability for romance. But as I see it, trying your hand at romance can enhance your fantasy. It can take a long time to get proficient at romance, where as fantasy may have been easier, but the I personally see long-term potential in honestly trying your hand at everything.

It can take 10-15 years to become proficient at one martial art and it's always a hard journey. It will take a lifetime to polish the diamond and longer if you can only see one part of the diamond, or have only one tool. Get more tools and a wider view, and making the diamond shine becomes much easier.

So, long story short: I recommend writers try their hand at other genres, but only after they know they're good at their current genre. It gets rid of your ego-- you're good at one thing for so long, it often breeds it-- and shows you that you're still a n00b at writing in some way or form.

rsullivan9597
06-01-2011, 09:09 PM
No. Absolutely not. Writers should write what they enjoy to write. And the contracts they sign shouldn't limit them as such (i.e. watch your non-compete clauses!)

skylark
06-02-2011, 04:28 PM
I think it depends who you're talking about. Pros who have found their niche and know what they are good at? Sure, stick to it. If it ain't broke, don't fix it.

People who are seriously writing for the first time? Absolutely not. You shouldn't specialise too early. Try all sorts of writing. What you assume you'll enjoy and be best at may not actually be the case.

After all, Jim Butcher was convinced he was an epic fantasy writer, and only wrote Harry Dresden on the side while trying to sell his fantasy series...

Nick, interesting you should say that. My kids' karate instructor every so often turns round to them and says "we're doing ju-jitsu today" precisely because otherwise they'd never do throws or grappling. (He's qualified to teach both, before you throw your hands up in horror :) )

Jamesaritchie
06-02-2011, 07:38 PM
I think it depends who you're talking about. Pros who have found their niche and know what they are good at? Sure, stick to it. If it ain't broke, don't fix it.

People who are seriously writing for the first time? Absolutely not. You shouldn't specialise too early. Try all sorts of writing. What you assume you'll enjoy and be best at may not actually be the case.

After all, Jim Butcher was convinced he was an epic fantasy writer, and only wrote Harry Dresden on the side while trying to sell his fantasy series...

Nick, interesting you should say that. My kids' karate instructor every so often turns round to them and says "we're doing ju-jitsu today" precisely because otherwise they'd never do throws or grappling. (He's qualified to teach both, before you throw your hands up in horror :) )

But Dresden is still fantasy. A new writer who spreads himself too thin, too early, is making it tougher to ever write anything publishable. There's plenty of time to write widely, but until you learn to write something that's publishable, specializing is the wisest thing a new writer can do.