Saturday, March 14, 2015

Are You A One-Genre Writer?

From reading writer profiles on twitter, it seems most define themselves as a citizen of one and only one genre township. Writers write either mysteries, romances, spy novels, science fictionthrillers, or historical novels, but it seems few cross beyond the city limits to write all kinds of things.

I've noticed I have trouble remaining within the boundaries of one genre. So far I've published a mystery novel and a collection of non-mystery stories, and my next book will be something different. It's probably not the best strategy from a marketing standpoint to keep jumping all over the literary landscape.

I see so many writers on Twitter list their genre in their profile, and first my thought is always, but don’t you want to write other kinds of books? Or are you in the stage of building up your authorial reputation and you’ll tackle those other types of books later when your audience is willing to stick with you no matter what you write? Is it all about acquiring a solid reputation first? 

I marvel at writers who live in one genre and never leave it. I don’t know how they can do it. I want to write all kinds of books and I have ideas for various kinds of books, so how can I ignore all that and keep a narrow focus on just one genre and ride that white horse to success? I suppose I could simply translate all my ideas from several literary categories into one genre and it might work. 

I suspect some writers want to cross back and forth between genres but feel it isn't best for business, and a writer needs to cultivate a reputation in one type of narrative and then later seek to broaden her writing after she has already built an audience. J. K. Rowling and her mysteries, for example.

Conan Doyle wrote his Sherlock Holmes mysteries but felt he had much more in him and wrote other kinds of books: science fiction, plays, poetry, and historical novels. I like to think I'm comfortable in writing all kinds of things—fiction, poetry, drama, essays, scholarship.

Some famous authors use a pen name to publish books in a secondary genre. Rowling, for example published her mystery "The Cuckoo's Calling" under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith.

But I can admire an author who rides that Pegasus one-genre horse and gallops to literary stardom. I suppose they don’t need to do anything else because that’s what they want to do—Saul Bellow, John Irving, Robert Ludlum, John LeCarre. the list goes on.

On the other hand, Tom Wolfe moved from the “nonfiction novel” to fiction with a social commentary bite; for example, “Bonfire of the Vanities,” his modern version of Thackeray’s “Vanity Fair.” I see a lot of “evolving” among famous authors who eventually broke from what they wrote at the dawning of their careers.

Some feel the impulse to venture into other realms of the universe of belles-lettres, some don’t and never stray from that one golden pathway that led the way to a palace in the literary heavens. The feeling of missing out? Or written out in a genre? Or bored with the same old thing and it's time to try something else? I guess “everyone is different” is the appropriate cliché here.

Take a look at my books:

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