Monday, January 24, 2011

The Great Genre Debate

So I'm posting from my phone today, as I've returned to the great hallowed halls of higher learning.

There's been a lot of debate going around the blogowebs recently about writers who write in more than one genre. I've been following this new sport with some interest as it's rather applicable to me. I would link to the other posts but I'm going to be a bad blogger and point my finger up there where it says I'm blogging from my phone today, and hope you'll forgive me.

Everyone who has already written on the subject has some great points. But I feel like I need to weigh in because I am in a unique position to do so: of the six novels I have done any amount of writing on (three complete, three in various stages of drafting/editing), none of them have been in the same genre.

*waits for you to pick up your jaw*

Now, see, this sort of thing seems perfectly rational to me. There's that old writing adage about reading what you write. Well, dang, I read EVERYTHING. My interests as a reader are far-spread, to say the least. I read for story, not genre, so any book that piques my interest will come home with me no matter who or what is inside.

I also read a lot (or at least I thought I did until I started hanging out with writers all the time). So, check-- I feel perfectly comfortable saying that I read what I write. And I write in the genre the story needs.

Next point: writing in multiple genres won't sell. Well, I have to admit having a serious advantage here in being an un-pubbed writer. It's true-- every time I hear of a well-known writer in one genre jumping to another, it just feels wrong. But sometimes it works. And I write because I love it, so unless there's a deadline saying I have to write something in particular over my head, I'm probably not not going to write an idea I have just because it doesn't fit with what I've already written. When sales are an issue, I'll reconsider.

In the meantime, I write the best stories I can until something sticks. To me, that "sticking" is another valid point-- writing in all these different genres is akin to me researching my strengths. Maybe I totally suck at commercial fiction but I'm not bad at YA. I'd be fine with that. But how would I know unless I tried both?

Even so, I can't promise that when something does stick I'll only ever write in that genre again. But I know enough about writing to know that right now, I am indulging myself because I can. Hopefully my stories will be able to find homes even if they don't all fit in the same box, but I'm willing to fill a certain box more than others if that's where my strength is, and keep the others a secret.

So there. Write what you want because you can. Even if no one else sees it, it still deserves to be written if you want to write it.

*All typos in this post are purely the fault of writing from my phone and having no time to spellcheck due to my next class starting right now. Sorry!


Queen 'Bina said...

A fantasy novelist I love- Robin Hobb- also writes as Megan Lindholm (whom I have not read yet). She says she does this because she writes in two very different styles. Having a pen name signals to her readers which style they are getting with this book or that book. I thought that was brilliant!
I also have written in several different genres. I've learned a lot from each one. I've also learned that my favorite stories and characters all came from a fantasy novel I wrote. I guess that's a signal or something. But if I feel like straying from fantasy, you can bet I won't hesitate for a moment. If I write a non-fantasy novel that I just love, maybe I'll have my alter-ego author it.
Great post today; cell phone and all.

L. T. Host said...

'Bina-- I've touched on this subject before, but it never fails to make me feel a little less crazy knowing other people feel the same way I do. I have thought about "just" having an alter-ego(s), and that's definitely an avenue I would look into if the need arose. But-- that's all stuff for later, when (notice I refuse to say "if"-- it's not vanity, it's hope!) I'm published. Right now, I just enjoy the freedom of writing whatever the ideas come to me as!

C. N. Nevets said...

For what it's worth, my completed novels (never-to-be-published) are epic fantasy and space opera sci fi, and my incomplete novels include a mystery. My short stories include westerns, hard sci fi, and literary fantasy. All that on top of thriller type stuff. So I definitely understand writing all over the map.

Susan R. Mills said...

So far, I've stuck to YA. You make a great point here, though. Might as well write what you want while you can. I imagine a time will come when you are more restricted to a certain genre.

L. T. Host said...

Nevets-- read your post, too, and completely agree with all of your points! Just wanted to share my take on it. I don't necessarily think there's any one right way about anything. What works for some people doesn't work for others. I just like to try.

Good to see that you've stretched your legs a little, though!

Susan-- I feel that we are sometimes at an advantage as yet-to-be-pubbeds. We have freedom published authors might not. Time to seize it!

K. Marie Criddle said...

I always imagined myself the YA fantasy type, but there are times I find myself scribbling things that could only be found in adult literary fiction. Maybe one day...
I do love the idea of genre hopping. It allows for so much mental muscle stretching which, for a writer, is the most effective exercise.
Treadmills are good, too.
And lifting tiles, too, I'll bet.
I should go now.

C. N. Nevets said...

Yeah, that's why I thought I'd clarify. :) I think my post may be giving a slightly wrong impression. haha

I really was specifically responding to the question, "Why limit yourself?" with the implications that boundaries are nothing but suffocating.

I do think it's important for writers to wander a bit and play around with their imagination. It probably helps that I've been writing stories and novels since I was thirteen, so I got a lot of that playtime in before I really thought about publication.

L. T. Host said...

Marie-- funny you should mention lifting tiles. I've apparently worn off all my muscles gained from hauling books at ALA-- tiling on Sunday has made me sore in several places. LAME.

I like your YA fantasy stuff, admittedly, but I know I'd like your adult literary stuff, too!

Nevets-- Oh totally! And I will again say that I just share what works for me-- some people work better within boundaries. Some don't. I CAN work within boundaries but right now am enjoying the freedom to play with what I want. And I'm right there with you-- think I tried to write the first ten pages of a novel when I was 12 or so, too.

dolorah said...

Especially while un-pubbed, I think authors should write a wide variety of stories. How else are you truly going to know what you like best to write?

There is so much potential out there. I think I write short stories mostly because it is accepted to write multiple genres.

And I with you on the wide reading range. I'll read anything that interests me.


Unknown said...

Ah for the hallowed halls of greater learning . . . I had all sorts of "clever" things to say a moment ago but glancing at the clock I now see that Anthropology calls and will content myself with saying the somewhat less clever I love reading all of your manuscripts no matter what genre.

L. T. Host said...

Donna-- exactly. Words= stolen from my mouth.

Taryn-- Awww, thank you!

If you're on campus on Wednesdays this semester we should meet up!