Thursday, April 24, 2008

Genre Hopping

I get asked a lot, through the blog and in person, about genre hopping. Many of you have interests in different areas, and after finishing a book in one genre wonder if it’s okay to start something fresh in a brand-new genre, or if you should stay in the genre of the book you’re currently submitting. In other words, if you’re currently submitting a contemporary YA romance, is it okay to be writing a fantasy for your work in progress.

I say, go for it. Part of the publishing process involves discovery—discovering your voice, which genres suit your voice best, and which genres you really have a passion for—and until you get that magic publishing contract in hand, there’s no one out there telling you what you can or cannot do. For the unpublished, you should use this point in your career as a time of exploration and growth. And you should have fun with it.

Once you do get that contract it’s time to settle down and start looking at things with more of an eye toward business. That certainly doesn’t mean the exploration and discovery should stop, but it does mean that while you might want to be working on that big fantasy, the reality, and your next contract, says you only have time to do another YA right now. When authors first get that publishing contract I encourage them to start focusing, at least while they’re building a name for themselves. That doesn’t mean you can’t publish in both YA and fantasy, it just means that you need a plan to do so. You probably don’t want to publish YA, a year later fantasy, and a year later YA. I would encourage you to establish an audience first and branch out from there. How soon you can branch out and into what is going to vary from author to author. It’s going to depend on what genres you’re interested in, the path your career is taking, and the market, so I can’t give you specifics.

Growth and discovery are what makes authors truly successful so don’t limit yourself, just realize that this is a business and because of that some of the decisions you make might have to be based more on what’s best for your career and less on what you really want to do creatively.



T. M. Hunter said...

Even without a contract in hand, how does anyone find the time to write in more than one genre? Perhaps having a day job doesn't help, but with all the effort I spend on my SF novels and short stories, there's nothing left for some of the other ideas floating around in my head.

Kimber Li said...

I've always wondered about this one and have received a variety of advice on the topic. Personally, I do feel like I'm figuring out what genre I'm best suited to at this point in my maturation. The only hard part is figuring out which story to polish up next!

P.S. We're throwing a Cyber-Launch Book Party to celebrate the release of Lisa Shearin's second Fantasy novel, ARMED & MAGICAL, all day today at the Enduring Romance blog. Despite the title, we review all genres, except Horror and Erotica. Be there, but watch out for the Chippendale Dancer clones. They're actually goblins.

Kate Douglas said...

My first love is actually romantic comedy, but I've had my greatest success writing really dark erotic romance--go figure! I would love to do both, but I have to agree with Jessica--if I were to come out with something light and fluffy right now, I imagine I'd lose my core audience. I solve the problem by occasionally writing something short and funny for an epublisher. The readers there know me well enough to accept my quirky side.

Liana Brooks said...

Thank you for the post.

I do write multiple genres, usually sci-fi and fantasy but sometimes I venture beyond that in to more contemporary storylines. When I hit a block or a snag in a storyline or editing for one piece I'll bounce off and work on another piece to clear my head. I tend to circle around three or four stories at a time in various stages of writing and polishing. It's the way my mind works and I'm content with that.

But I have been concerned about how you branch out from one genre to another and how it would be received if I queried fantasy first but next offered a science fiction piece. I've seen published authors do this (Terry Pratchett, Neil Gaimen, Orson Scott Card) but didn't know where it started.

With your advice in mind I'll probably query science fiction first and maybe be able to slip a fantasy piece in somewhere down the road. All I need is an agent who won't be picky about the types of science fiction I'm writing, and who won't be fazed by a switch from hard core sci-fi to science fantasy (not in the same book or universe I promise).

P.S. Kimber- I hope the party goes well!

Kristin Laughtin said...

I'm in the same boat as just_me, tending to switch between science fiction and fantasy. However, I never write extremes of either- my sci fi isn't very hardcore, and I tend more towards science fantasy than the "pure" elves-and-wizards variety.

But when I get the urge to write outside of those genres, I funnel it into short stories. It gives me another story to practice with, and helps me get the story out before it explodes inside me. In the best cases, I can tweak the story enough that it fits into my preferred genre anyway!

Mark Terry said...

Isn't this why God invented pseudonyms?

Aimlesswriter said...

Thank you for this post. I've always been afraid to admit I write in different genres. Especially since I'm active in our local RWA. lol. Can I admit to them I write about serial killers? Yikes! Sometimes the story pushes itself along and I just never know where we're going till we get there.
After reading this post I think I can breathe again.

Melanie Hooyenga said...

Aimless, I just finished reading a romance series about a serial killer, so hope is not lost!

I wrote memoir first and it seems like anything you write after that, besides another memoir, would be considered a hop. I'm not even sure which genre my current wip falls into, but it's closer to contemporary fiction (I don't want to say literary) than sci-fi or fantasy, so I suppose that's a natural next step.

Akasha Savage. said...

I think every writer needs to explore a bit when starting out. To try a little bit of this and a little bit of that. After writing in a variety of genres I have at last settled where I feel I am happiest: in the horror/fantasy camp. This is the genre I like to read, therefore it's the one I feel more comfortable writing about.

Anonymous said...

Interesting subject.

....BTW what happened to the Romantic Suspense competition results?

This comment has been removed by the author.
KATZ said...

Great thoughts, thanks. I'm at this point in deciding what to write next... stick with my current style/voice or try something different...
Guess I'll go with what sounds the most fun right now! :)

Anonymous said...

This is very interesting being as I'm going through something similar right now. :)

My first love is dark, gritty, scary suspense. I, however, discovered my natural voice is more conversational and light. I've struggled for a year going back and forth.

While I realize (I'm unpubbed) I can write whatever I wish at the moment, I don't want to query agents and editors with a genre I'm not ready to spend the next several years writing in.

I guess I'm viewing this as a business even before I get published. :)

Suzette Saxton said...

Fabulous blog post! I will be linking to it tomorrow from the Query Tracker blog. Thanks for talking about genre hopping.