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Ask Goodreads > How soon should an author change the genre of their novels?

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message 1: by George (new)

George Hamilton | 16 comments I am deciding on which novel to work on next, and one of the choices involves a shift in genres, so I would like your help on making the decision as to what is an appropriate time to shift genres.

My first two novels can both be classified into the following genres: General, literary, drama. The first novel also has the historical tag because it is set in 1960s to 1970s, whilst the second novel has some thriller elements.

A couple of the ideas on my list for the next book can be put into the general, literary, drama genres with thriller elements (these will involve much research and take close to a year to complete). But I have a screenplay that received some good reviews on Zoetrope, which can be quickly rewritten as a comedy drama with a romantic sub-plot. The word count would make it a novella, which is much shorter than my previous two works, both being over 100,000 words. Is this too much of a switch in genres for the third book? I plan to use my same name for all my books. I would love views from both readers and writers.

Thanks for your help.

George Hamilton

message 2: by Lorna (new)

Lorna Collins (Lorna_Collins) | 92 comments I write in several genres: nonfiction, mystery, romance, fantasy.

Write the book you want to write - the one you'd want to read. Don't ever over-think the genre, word count, etc. until the book is completed. Then you can tailor it to fit better into a particular genre. You'll probably have to make additional changes before it's published to meet your publisher's requirements.

My favorite to read is romance anthology. I love novellas, and the story length suits my own tight writing style. I talked a few friends into joining me to write one. We now have four published, including "Directions of Love" which won the 2011 EPIC eBook Award for best romance anthology.

My latest mystery, "Murder in Paradise," written with my husband, Larry, is currently a finalist for the 2012 EPIC eBook Award for best mystery.

We NEVER planned to write mystery, but the story and characters were so compelling, we had to write the first book. We're now working on number three in that series.

Don't worry about changing genres. Your fans will follow you, no matter what you write. And you may discover new ones in the new genre.

message 3: by [deleted user] (last edited Jan 22, 2012 05:15AM) (new)

George, Lorna's correct. I write in 2 genres - YA fantasy and Christian historical fiction. In fact, in the latest 5 star review of my historical on Amazon, the reviewer bought the book because she enjoys my 'other' work. And I'm gaining a new audience.

message 4: by Monette (new)

Monette Bebow-Reinhard (MonetteBe) | 45 comments There are people who think you shouldn't change genres. I'm not one of them. I think the themes of my work come through no matter what genre I work in - cultural, environment, spirit, psychological. If people like my kind of themes, they'll follow my work. I'm thinking of dabbling into sci-fi next - already do historical, horror and fantasy.

message 5: by George (new)

George Hamilton | 16 comments Thanks, Lorna, Shawn and Monette. This is all very encouraging.

message 6: by Michael (new)

Michael Henderson (Michael_Henderson) | 19 comments I have a different view. The same rule applies to writing as it does to painting or practicing law.

Look at what successful authors have done. Stephen King writes horror. I think the book on Kennedy strays from that, but look at his body of work in general. Same for Tom Clancy, Dan Brown, and about any others you can think of. They stick to their genre, with only a few variations here and there with books that, although they may sell because of the readership, aren't as successful as those in the genre they are accustomed to.

Painters are told to stick with a style, which is analogous to genre, even to the extent of being a painter of flowers, or of beach scenes, etc. Paint consistently in one style because that's what people expect to see when they look for your work.

The other thing is, that each genre, to some extent, has a different format. A mystery is different in structure than a horror story. Don't reinvent the wheel.

Certainly write whatever you want to, but I believe the dogma is to stick with a genre. Maybe you could use a pen name for the work that is outside your main genre.

I have thought about this question because my book on Amazon turned out to be a horror novel. That is actually my second book, the first is not published (it's being edited), but it's horror, too. And my third as well. It's not what I set out to do. I want to be a literary writer, which is how you get to move around in subject and genre, by the way, but literary is a difficult sell. Horror works for me. But now I think I may be stuck there, particularly if anything I write sees a real publisher.

And it may even be worse than we think. Stephanie Meyer is probably not a horror writer, but a writer about vampires (or worse, teen vampires). The pigeon hole in which we find ourselves may be very narrow.

So, my opinion is: stick with the genre.

Michael E. Henderson

message 7: by Michael (new)

Michael Logan | 9 comments I agree with Lorna, and think we all get too hung up on genre. I always write the story that speaks to me at the time, and worry about genre later. If this book is the one that's in your head, go with it. In my view, trying to shoehorn all of your work into one genre limits your creativity and you may end up finding yourself becoming formulaic.

There are plenty of authors who skip around. Christopher Moore is one, and Ian Banks (who adds a middle initial for his SF work) is another.

message 8: by George (last edited Jan 23, 2012 01:08AM) (new)

George Hamilton | 16 comments Thanks, Michael E Henderson. Yours is the first voice to go the other way on this one, and I must admit I'm still uncertain. I've just found another screenplay I wrote which is in a similar genre to my first two books, and I'll consider using that also.

Michael who agrees with Lorna, I would love to skip around with genres, but I'm not sure if the third book is the one to do it with. I suppose the advantage with KDP is that if it doesn't work I can always pull the book out.

message 9: by Michael (new)

Michael Logan | 9 comments You're welcome. This slavish adherence to genre has been driven by the publishing industry for so long. What I find surprising in this brave new world of indie authors is how many still stick to one genre. If I like an author, I'll follow him/her across genres.

Readers should be given the chance to make their own choices - after all, it is usually pretty clear from a cover/blurb whether it's worth giving it a go or not.

message 10: by [deleted user] (last edited Jan 23, 2012 04:30AM) (new)

Michael, you use 2 good examples of the industry 'dogma'. However, in the case of Meyer, she can't write - period! I would shutter if she ever tried to write another genre. :)

That said, I believe if the genre isn't too far afield from what one usually writes - nor change voice & styles - it shouldn't hurt. In fact, my historical fiction research and background helped in creating my fantasy world. What I know of kings, knight, society, mythology, folklore, etc., became the foundation and makes the transition between the 1 genres easy.

message 11: by Monette (new)

Monette Bebow-Reinhard (MonetteBe) | 45 comments I think, also, those that you point out, Michael, are success stories. There are those of us who try different genres because we want to see if we like them. There's nothing wrong with that. I've been successful with Bonanza novels but that doesn't mean it's all I'll write. I love reading sci-fi and really enjoy the one short story I've written, so why not try a novel-size? I also have a fun idea for a fiction memoir that's literary, and not genre. I'm not gonna pull back and say, whoa, not my genre, idea, go away. A person who makes a smash with one idea will certainly try to repeat that. Often to less than stellular results. Stephen King writes very good stories that aren't horror - witness his success with his Richard Bachman stories once people found out he wrote them. He took his publisher's advice not to put out non-horror in his name, and they didn't sell anyway. King is better when he writes outside his genre, because his later horror novels just weren't good. I hear his new book is.

message 12: by George (new)

George Hamilton | 16 comments Lots of interesting ideas to chew over here.

message 13: by Noor (new)

Noor Jahangir | 17 comments unless its a sub-genre of the genre you're already working in, I'd suggest you use a different pen name. David Farland suggested that readers treat an author's name like a brand and expect to get a particular experience from reading their work. I mean just look at how Twilight fans reacted to The Host.

message 14: by Monette (new)

Monette Bebow-Reinhard (MonetteBe) | 45 comments Yeah, King tried that. He ended up going public with it. I plan to use a pen name for my Grimm Fairy Tales, because I am a Grimm. Other than that, no. As I said my themes will be consistent, no matter what I write. I think King's are, too. And in the end, I think writing different things makes him better.

message 15: by Michael (new)

Michael Jecks (MichaelJecks) | 16 comments Interesting comments. Personally, I'd love to break out of my genre (historical fiction) because it'd be good to stay in the present. I wrote a thriller last year, but because it's modern day, all the mainstream publishers decided not to take it. May well push it out through the internet and see how it goes.

Still, regarding other authors, I know plenty who dribbled along in "their" genre, and then broke out into a different one and because of that, developed their new theme. People went back to their earlier works later, but the authors stayed with the newer, more successful genre. Who? Well, Terry Pratchett got nowhere with his "Carpet People"; it was Discworld that made him a millionaire. Lindsey Davis was happy with romance but once she discovered crime, she never looked back. Same with Daphne Wright, Deryn Lake, and many others. I think the main thing is, keep writing what interests you - because if it doesn't interest you, it sure as hell won't interest anyone else!

message 16: by Monette (new)

Monette Bebow-Reinhard (MonetteBe) | 45 comments And that's the other point - you won't really know what you're good at until you try other things that interest you. Don't do them if they don't interest you. But once one makes you successful, then you can stick with it. But while I make the perfect Bonanza novel, there's just not enough market to stick with it.

message 17: by George (new)

George Hamilton | 16 comments I'm hearing you all!

message 18: by Bridget (new)

Bridget Bowers (bridgetbowers) | 9 comments I think as writers we must first -- write. You tell the story that you want to tell. Unfortunately, everything needs a label in order to find an audience. At least until your own name can be enough to draw someone in on its own.

No matter what the genre is, you have to tell your story the way you want to tell it. Readers will either like it or not. Writing to fit a mold can only hinder your creative side.

You can always use a pen name for works outside your comfort genre or if you are uncertain you want to be known for that style of writing. Just don't limit yourself to what you create because you are afraid of crossing genres.

message 19: by Marty (new)

Marty Beaudet (AuthorMartyB) | 38 comments My first three novels are all in different genres. If I acquire a substantial following for any of them, I'll write another in that genre for that following. (My first novel sold about 250 copies and garnered positive feedback from about 15%. Only one negative.) If one genre is predominant, then it may become my focus in the future. I have lots of different kinds of stories in me.

message 20: by George (new)

George Hamilton | 16 comments Although I have lots of different stories, I feel I prefer telling a particular type, so I wouldn't feel comfortable deciding what genre to pursue based on which became successful first. The 'other' genres would only crop up on occasion.

message 21: by Victoria (new)

Victoria Slotto (liv2write2day) | 11 comments My personal belief (and experience) is write what you are inspired to write and worry about "labeling" it later. Let the creative process take you where it will. There are a number of writers who blend genres now.

message 22: by Monette (new)

Monette Bebow-Reinhard (MonetteBe) | 45 comments Right - cross-genre is getting very popular.

message 23: by Marty (new)

Marty Beaudet (AuthorMartyB) | 38 comments Monette wrote: "Right - cross-genre is getting very popular."

Although it's hard as hell to market, whether online or to booksellers. It's got to be pigeonholed into one of the existing categories.

message 24: by Monette (new)

Monette Bebow-Reinhard (MonetteBe) | 45 comments It's getting easier. If you really look at them, most literary novels are cross-genre.

message 25: by George (new)

George Hamilton | 16 comments My last published novel was cross-genre, but when Amazon DTP only allows 2 categories, it's difficult to classify it. Maybe we need a new category for such novels. Literary doesn't do it in my view, as it says highbrow and scares many readers off.

message 26: by George (new)

George Hamilton | 16 comments Alan Rinzler's article: Ask the editor: Is it OK to cross genres? provides some good answers to my question on changing genres. I like his idea of the alpha tag.

message 27: by Victoria (new)

Victoria Slotto (liv2write2day) | 11 comments I just read an article--an interview of author Diana Galbaldon--in the January issue of Writer's Digest that provides a comprehensive analysis of genre-related decisions.

message 28: by George (new)

George Hamilton | 16 comments Thanks, Victoria, I'll have to check if my library stocks Writer's Digest.

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Authors mentioned in this topic

Tom Clancy (other topics)
Michael E. Henderson (other topics)
Stephen King (other topics)
Dan Brown (other topics)