Saturday, March 24, 2012

Gender Genre Bender

Conventional wisdom (which, from my experience, is usually anything but) has it that writers should write in one genre and stick with it, gradually building an audience who enjoy that particular genre and who will eagerly await each new release, all the while knowing exactly what to expect. And of course, this does work very well indeed for the Stephen Kings and John Grishams of this world. But that same "wisdom" would have it that to do otherwise is sheer folly, confusing your readers at best, angering them at worst, and making brand building nigh impossible.

This thought has troubled me in the past, not least because not only have I never written in strictly one genre before, I also don't think I ever could. But I have come to the conclusion that, for me at least, this will not be a problem, despite the dire warnings from above (the above paragraph, that is, not the Almighty).

Everything I have ever written or ever will write comes from a point of inspiration that has (or will have) pushed me into telling a story and creating a world born from that initial idea. I can't write to order, and in order to write strictly in one genre I would undoubtedly find myself having to manufacture ideas within the confines of that genre so as not to stray from what is expected. For me, that would be unbearable. It would turn writing from an art form into a sterile, by-the-numbers chore. I simply would cease to write.

I also believe that plenty of readers enjoy reading in more than one genre. I do, just as I enjoy different genres of music and movies. I can't conceive of listening solely to one type of music or watching only action films, for instance. Imagine how much I'd miss out on! Yes, I know there are fanatics out there that are like that, but I think most people enjoy mixing it up from time to time.

Anyway, if a reader likes a particular book I've written, I like the idea of giving them the opportunity to read something else of mine that's different than what they just read. Not everything I write is different from everything else, of course. Just about all of my work falls into either contemporary fiction/realism or a dark humor/absurdist category. Getting much more specific than that, though, is challenging.

So anyway, I feel quite comfortable writing across genres, in different genres, and any which way in between. As long as what I put out is good I don't see that I have much to worry about, and as long as I'm not constrained by the limits of a single genre, feeling like I have to write to order, the ideas will stay fresh and the writing will make its own case.

Finally, think about this: The Hunger Games has so far sold approximately 23.5 million copies in the U.S. alone. Are all of those millions exclusively readers of YA novels? Of course not. It's simply the most popular (and how!), so most people want to see (read) what all the fuss is about.

And that is exactly what will happen with Schism and The End of the World...just as soon as I've fine-tuned the marketing strategy! (But don't quote me on that.)

By the way, the photo above is of Marilyn, who some (very, very few) will remember as having had fleeting success as a pop singer in the early 80s with a song called "Calling Your Name." Ahh, those were the days...cheesy, tacky, but somehow still kind of sweet.

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