Missouri Writers' Guild

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Conference Classroom: Writing in Different Genres

Guy Anthony De Marco will be presenting a class on “Writing in Different Genres” during the fifth classroom session at the 2018 MWG Conference. With that in mind, we present the below essay that first appeared on The Fictorians, a writing collective of which Mr. De Marco is a long-time member.

As a reminder, the regular pricing for the MWG Conference ends April 30, so make sure to sign up before then and save enough to buy a few books. After April 30, the late registration prices will be in effect.

 


Writing Across Genres

In the olden days, about four or five years ago, there was an unofficial “rule” that dictated what you were allowed to write. If you wrote western stories and you had a decent following (which means you had several traditional book deals and an agent), you were supposed to stick with that genre in order to not dilute the value of your name by having it associated with another area, such as fantasy. If you happened to be a prolific writer, you might end up writing under several pseudonyms. Some authors were able to successfully branch out under their own names, but those were rarities.

An older example of this type of reasoning could be found even at the top tier of authors. The name Stephen King was synonymous for a particular type of scary story. When he wanted to try something different, he wrote under the name Richard Bachman. JK Rowling, famous for her YA novels concerning a particular wizard with a peculiar scar, wrote under Robert Galbraith when she delved into crime novels. Once the word leaked that Galbraith was actually Rowling, sales of the book shot up over 4,000 percent.

What about authors just starting out? Should an author stick to one narrow genre and adopt enough pseudonyms to cover the rest? The answer is a resounding…maybe.

If you have a decent following and have only written in one genre, you may want to keep that name “clean”. Otherwise, since you’re still in the honeymoon phase of becoming a world-famous author, you can feel comfortable writing in several genres. If you begin your career as someone who can genre-hop, producing quality stories for different tastes, your potential audience will be expanded and your name won’t be pegged as “that person who writes Lovecraftian Romance novels”.

If you’re comfortable writing different genres, understanding that there are different tropes and requirements for each one, you should consider producing work in whatever genre you enjoy. If you write science fiction but you enjoy Gothic romance, feel free to expand your writing skills by producing work in a new field. In fact, different genres will be classified using BISAC codes, which will allow your books to show up in a catalog search at the library or over at your favorite bookstore. There are many science fiction readers who wouldn’t touch a romance novel if each copy included a golden ticket to tour Willie Wonka’s chocolate factory. The inverse is also true.

If you write novels in the science fiction, western, and romance genres, you have a much wider pool of potential readers. That is three shots at becoming a runaway bestseller, compared to writing three novels in one field. The audience field is still limited by focusing on only one group. If your goal is to become a recognized and respected science fiction author and nothing else, then stick with the one genre. If you’re open to having more kernels of popcorn in the pan (to paraphrase Kevin J. Anderson’s Popcorn Theory), consider writing under one name across several genres.

There is also a middle ground you can consider … genre-blending. Enjoy writing westerns and science fiction? Come up with the next Firefly. Enjoy writing paranormal urban fantasy and romance? Come up with a better blend than the Twilight series.

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