Tips for Mastering Multiple Genres

Stephen King has done it. So has Margaret Atwood and J.K. Rowling. Neil Gaiman, Joyce Carol Oates, Jacqueline Woodson and Isabel Allende have also done it.

These famous authors might be best known for their work in fiction, but did you know they’ve also published works outside of their chosen genre? King might be known for his horror novels, but has also written mysteries and a fantasy novel. Allende has written memoir and Rowling has published non-fiction. You can find more examples at Bustle.

But writing in multiple genres isn’t easy. Experts suggest having some writing experience behind you before tackling a new style of writing.

Why would any writer want to publish in different genres? Naturally, it can help you scratch that creative itch. If all you write is magazine feature articles or press releases, sometimes you get that itch to try something new. Or maybe you get this brilliant idea for a mystery novel and you just have to try to write it.

Other times you don’t want to limit yourself to one style of writing. No one wants to be a one-trick pony. Your writing can get stale and boring that way. Experimenting with a different genre can help you break out of that creative rut.

But how do you begin? Here are a few tips to mastering multiple genres:

  • Read beyond your selected genre. Most writers I know read a variety of books, everything from mystery and science fiction to non-fiction and memoir. Reading different genres exposes you to different writing styles and different ways to tell stories. You have to understand your chosen genre well before you can begin to write it. How can you write a good mystery if you’ve never read one?
  • Focus on one genre at a time. Start by focusing your time and energy on mastering one particular genre before you tackle another one. Stephen King became a master in the horror genre before tackling different genres later in his career.
  • Practice, practice, practice. It can take time and lots of crumpled pieces of paper before you figure out the nuances of your newly selected genre. You might be a strong fiction writer, but writing memoir or a biography requires a different writing skillset.

One of the challenges of writing in multiple genres is managing your time and workload, especially if you’re working on different projects at the same time. Not everyone has the time or inclination to work on several projects at once.

Unless your name is Simon Van Booy, who has published several novels for adults and children, as well as a screenplay and non-fiction. He usually has several projects going at one time. He shares his tips for managing his time and workload with Writer’s Digest.

Booy starts by setting monthly goals for each project. He then breaks down his workload in chunks of time. For example, he writes adult fiction from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. on Mondays, then edits and adds material to it on Wednesday and Friday mornings. Booy also sets aside time on Tuesday afternoon for reading adult fiction and Thursday afternoon for reading children’s fiction.

With that structure, he says he’s able to meet his monthly writing goals on all three projects. By splitting his time between writing, research and reading, he has built in enough variation of work to avoid boredom.

However, there are some downsides to writing in multiple genres. According to The Author Wheel blog, it can be difficult to market your work because you have more reader groups to appeal to. It can also cause readers to be confused if you use your name for the different genres. Readers may see your name on the shelf and expect it to be one style of book, only to be disappointed that it’s something else entirely.

In these instances, you might consider using a pen name for at least one of the other genres, or a variation of your name or an abbreviation. For example, if you are known for writing non-fiction but want to publish science fiction, it might be beneficial to use a pseudonym to find the right audience for your project.

For every new pen name, however, you may have to create an entirely new author platform, including a separate website, mailing list and social media. That can be rather labor intensive to manage all those channels, and you may not have time for that. Only you can decide if a secondary platform is necessary for your work.  

That said, many famous authors stick with their own name when they publish in a different genre. Their name has the cache to attract readers.

Even with all these considerations, writing in multiple genres can be challenging and fun. It can broaden your writing experience and help you find new fans for your work.   

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