One of the main disadvantages of being a writer is that there are only so many stories we can write.
This knowledge is highly frustrating. Taking a glance at my Notes app, I have enough ideas lined up to last me a career, yet I know I’ll probably only work on one or two of those before thinking up something fresher.
To some, it isn’t as much of a problem. Some writers prefer to specialise in one genre, and that’s cool. If you enjoy writing in a particular genre, then you should do that. However, there are another set of writers out there — writers like me — who enjoy exploring different worlds and sets of conventions. Enter, the multiple genre writer.
The Multiple Genre Problem
Many authors argue that a writer should stick to one genre because breaking free of this convention ‘dilutes their brand’, as it were. This is a fair argument. If you write thrillers and then suddenly throw a romance out there, your readership will be baffled, and probably go sit in a corner and sulk while figuring out what the hell’s going on.
However, I think there are two problems at play here.
Firstly, the idea of any author as a ‘brand’ discomforts me. It gives the impression that said author is writing in such and such a genre/style because that is what their brand image demands, and not their creative impulses.
Just a note: I’m not slating the idea of the author as a brand from a business point of view. That’s a different thing. ‘Branding’ yourself is everything, from how you come across, your website, social media, etc. But creatively, I struggle with this ‘brand’ idea. Really, you should follow your creative impulses, not the constraints of your self-imposed ‘brand’.
This whole idea of a ‘brand’ comes from traditional publishers, anyway. With self-publishing, authors have the freedom to explore whatever the hell they want. The rules have changed, so enjoy that freedom if you so desire.
Secondly, I think that fearing reader confusion is an over-simplistic view of our audience. Listen, people are clever. If you put a new book out, chances are they’ll read the blurb/see the cover, and decide whether they want to buy it or not. If they throw themselves into buying it without even investigating, then they’ll likely be the sort of reader who picks up and loves all your work regardless of generic constraints.
I just want to give you a little bit of context, ’cause I like doing that. I’ve currently published four titles. One is a suspense-horror short story, one is a science-fiction thriller, one is a coming-of-age childhood mystery, and one is a creepy horror. I’ve never had any complaints from readers about mixing it up with multiple genres.
Why haven’t I? Personally, I think it’s because my writing style holds it all together. I write with interchangeable themes in my work, often upbeat things like loss, and the desire to put things right. If you can find a theme or a motif, you can get away with writing in multiple genres. You don’t need a pen name — all you need is your creativity.
As with everything in writing, I think the key here is to follow your own path rather than the path somebody has forced on you. If you are comfortable writing in one genre, then that’s absolutely fine. If you want to write in multiple genres, then that’s absolutely fine too. It matters more that you, quite simply (if only), write a good book. Do that, and you don’t have to bother about all this single/multiple genre silliness.
So, there you go, dear reader. You have personal permission to write whatever the hell you want. I have to dash: I have a thriller and a mystery to work on…
What are your views on writing in multiple genres? Are you a single genre person? Why does that work for you?
Image courtesy of Enokson via Flickr.