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The Game of Switching Genres

It's almost a year since I launched my first novel and I'm furiously working away at finishing my second, while contemplating a third and outlining several non-fiction books. It reminded me of a guest blog I did during the launch last year and it still rings true so I guess I'm still a multi-genre writer... although my dream is to be a full-time novelist :) So, here are a few thoughts I shared as I was first entering the realm of fiction writing and still hanging on tightly to other non-fiction writing projects...

Image from, Tao by Danilo Rizzuit
On this the occasion of the launch of my first novel I pondered briefly on whether or not  I’ll be giving up the other writing I do… not a chance!  Mental Pause is my first novel but my first book was @Home in Dubai, a non-fiction, published traditionally by Summertime Publishing, and my second was a self-published e-book about doing your own PR, all of which I enjoyed writing equally.
giving up the other writing I do… not a chance!

Before becoming a freelance writer and author I was a PR practitioner for 17 years. I switched gears on a daily basis, sometimes several times in one day. I guess the actual ‘genre’ was business writing but the nuances for each communication were very different depending on the audience and how we were reaching them. The vehicle used to communicate the message would often dictate the length, style, tone and perspective. Knowing the differences was the first step in creating a piece of writing that suited the situation.

In 2007, I went freelance and began to have more control over my time. I explored other types of writing, even resurrecting some short stories I had written in college. I brushed them off, re-wrote them to update them just a bit, took a deep breath and posted on what was then, The Fiction Writer’s Platform. The first two stories I submitted received Editor’s Choice Awards, which made me think that perhaps I had the chops for fiction.

When I started out writing Mental Pause, I approached it the same way I would approach any writing assignment, other than knowing it was going to take a whole lot longer than writing a press release or some web copy.

Successful methods for writing across genres:

-       Look for inspiration to spark an idea (for business writing or non-fiction, it usually comes from a client brief or an area of expertise, for my novel it came from a night sweat).
-       Write a synopsis of the idea. Just get it all down… it’s what I call a mental dump.
-       Determine the target market for any type of writing before you get too far into it because that will dictate some of your language use and the level of writing.
-       Write an outline. For business writing it’s usually pretty sewn up before I write the bulk of the piece, for non-fiction it starts with a fairly complete chapter outline but for my novel it evolved as I wrote from a loose idea and a bunch of scenes from my initial mad ramblings of a peri-menopausal woman that I had dumped into a document. I know some authors need to start with a more prescribed outline but your personality will guide you here. The important thing is to just write.
-       Do the background research, which is equally as important for both. For non-fiction, it lends credibility and for fiction, believability.

Some writers prefer to stick to a niche because once they have a formula it’s like a comfortable old shoe. It also makes it easier to market yourself. For me, I like variety and the marketing challenge keeps me on my toes.

How about you?

Note: This first appeared as a guest blog on Morgen Bailey's Writing Blog on April 18, 2013 during a virtual book/blog tour for Mental Pause.


JeriWB said…
I would much rather dabble in multiple genres than stick to just one, but then again, I might change my mind if I could adhere more to a formulaic approach. The more I write, the more I feel an aversion for creative nonfiction.
Hi Jeri, I totally agree... but then I look at all the ideas and outlines for the non-fiction books I've thought about writing and there are a couple I know I just have to write! We'll see what transpires :)

Happy writing!
Nancy Christie said…
Like you I write in multiple genres: copywriting and article writing (to bring in the money) and fiction (primarily short stories) because it is my passion. (FYI: my short fiction collection is coming out this summer--yay!)
But even copywriting allows me to hone my skills, not to mention giving me background details that may end up in a short story!
I wish I could spend all day writing fiction, but unless I win the lottery, that will have to remain a dream! But at least I am doing what I love--writing--and supporting myself doing it!
Hi Nancy,
So True! I still write the web copy, feature articles and press releases and develop social media strategies (writing a tweet is still writing!). My dream is to become a famous novelist but, in the meantime, my non-fiction/copy writing is paying for my fiction writing addition :)

It's so nice to see that I'm not alone in this multiple personality, multi-genre writing zone :)

Write on!
Oops! I mean my 'fiction writing addiction'!
Christine Rains said…
I like writing in multiple genres too. It exercises my skills as a writer, and keeps my muse on her toes!
Hi Christine,
I think a multi-genre writer's muse must not only be on his/her toes but be ready to do a little tap dance too!

Cheers :)

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