The Trouble with Genres

…is that I like more than one of them. Admittedly, it’s not quite so problematic when you put it in the context of reading – it’s wonderful to have a wide range of reading material because that almost always guarantees that you’ll never be bored. But it can be a nightmare if you want to be an author. That’s certainly my problem right now.

What's Your Request?
I don’t know what to write! (Photo credit: MTSOfan)

Choose one, and move forward

Conventional wisdom dictates that, if you want to be a serious writer, you need to pick one core genre and stick to it. So if you start with fantasy, you need to write nothing but fantasy (you can mash it up with other genre, but it still needs to be fundamentally fantastical). If you start with romance, you need to stick with romance. If you start with comedy, every damn thing you write afterwards needs to have something funny in it.

Trying to switch genres over the course of your career – especially if you find some kind of success – is disastrous, because readers are used to expecting certain things from you. They associate your NAME with a particular experience. And, if there’s one thing that we human being hate, it’s originality.

Don’t argue with me on this one. The sheer success of reruns alone should prove that we’re naturally suspicious of the unexpected.

Why I find this problematic

The thing is, I tend to approach writing the way I approach reading – I write what I feel like writing. Some days, I have romance in the brain. Other days, I have this strange industrial fantasy narrative going off in my mind when it’s idle. Then there are the times when I start applying monologues to random people or scenes I see on my hour-long commutes home.

This is, of course, the result of having grown up a voracious reader. There was a time when I read every single thing that I got my teeny-tiny hands on. Eventually, I managed to figure out which genres I REALLY like; and there are many of them. Even worse is that there are certain types of narrative that I find difficult to integrate with each other – like romance and mystery, or comedy and “serious women’s fiction”. Which means that even if I want to stick to, say, romance, I’ll probably find myself deeply unhappy.

In other words, I’ll likely not find any real success in the book market because I can’t stick to just one genre.

The pros and cons of pen names

The obvious workaround for the issue of wanting to write various genre is applying a different author name for each of them. For example, Jayne Ann Kretz writes romantic suspense (in contemporary settings) but also writes futuristic/fantastical romantic suspense as Jayne Castle and romantic suspense (in historical settings) as Amanda Quick. The obvious advantage of doing just a thing is making things much easier in terms of marketing the books. Saying that a book is “by Amanda Quick” immediately attracts the people who already like the stories under that pseudonym.

Of course, it also makes marketing complicated in the sense that you may or may not need to work extra hard to promote your work because you’ll be handling different personas. This is especially true today, when an author is expected to have her own website and handle her own social media accounts.

So what do I do? Hell if I know.

What do you think?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s