Writing in a New Genre

3 Feb

Maybe you hit a slump with your usual genre. Maybe you’re feeling the urge to explore. Maybe you just want to. Sometimes, authors want to write in a genre they’ve never written in before, but they don’t know where to start. Well, that’s what I’m here for. In fact, I recently went through this myself, so today I’m sharing three tips and a little story about what I learned from this attempt. I hope it helps you explore a new genre!

1. Ask Yourself Why

First and foremost, I truly believe every author should ask themselves why they want to write the project they are currently sitting down to write. Why? Because being honest with yourself might save you some heartache. If you’re chasing a trend, you might find your passion burns out rather quickly (or when the trend passes…because it will, probably before you finish your first draft). This will make you feel like you wasted your time and energy, even if you did technically learn from it. So…take a step back before you sit down to write. Why are writing this book? Why are you writing in this genre? Are you following trends? Are you the best person to tell it? What is the main reason for switching genres: the story, the genre, the characters, the challenge, etc.? What drives you the most is up to you. Knowing why you’re writing it and what your goals are for it will help you stay focused.

Isn’t it fun to discover a new genre?

2. Read the Genre

If you’re not reading, you don’t have the tools to write. I know, I know. There are so many people who loathe that rule, but it’s true. Reading within and outside of your genre helps you see what has been done before, what is expected, and where you can succeed. Have you read widely in this genre? Have you seen gaps that need to be filled? Do you understand your reader’s expectations? What about successful tropes or overused ones? Read, read, read. You will love it. And if you don’t enjoy reading it, then you probably won’t enjoy writing it. Find the genre where you feel at home.

3. Research the Genre

This is a step I’m not sure many consider, but researching the history of your genre can give you excellent insight. You’ll come across controversies, learn how it correlated with history, and watch it expand into what it has become today. By knowing this, you might be inspired by the greats or see where the shape of your genre is most likely headed. Rather than chasing trends as they pop up, this might help you walk down an educated path of where that trend might pop before it ever happens…and you’ll have your book written, rather than scrambling to finish something. Again, this isn’t about chasing trends, but rather—at a fundamental level—knowing what needs to be done next in order to fulfill readers’ wants/needs/desires ahead of time. Make sure to check out writing blogs. Look up your favorite authors in that genre and see if they offer writing tips in interviews or elsewhere. They’ve already written this genre and made mistakes, so listen to their lessons ahead of time. You might still make the same mistakes, but at least you’ll recognize it for what it is and move on to the next step. Let knowledge guide your passion.

As an example, I generally read and write YA SFF, but last year, I set out to write my first historical. I still haven’t finished. It’s been SUPER hard, much harder than I anticipated, but I set out knowing I wanted to learn first and worry about publication later (if I ever pursue publication with it at all).

I began by reading all the historical fiction I could get my hands on. (I already read historical fiction, but I pushed to read more.) I tried different sub-genres and time periods and styles. In between books, I researched my time period thoroughly. I took notes. I researched again. I took MORE notes. I visited libraries and museums. I took notes again. I organized. Then, I began to write. Funny enough, even though I thought I had all the notes I needed to write, it became quite clear the moment I sat down that historical fiction demanded more than I expected and totally different tools than SFF. I made mistakes. I backtracked. I set it down. I came back to it. I wrote again. I took it to my beta readers. I deleted over half of it. I started over. I continued to write. Most recently, I’ve set it down again. But I still love it. And I don’t feel like I wasted a second of my time.

In the end, I was passionate about the tale. I was willing to learn and make mistakes. I still haven’t finished the novel, as it was my first attempt, but I believe in the story. I might pick it back up. I might not. But I believe in trying new genres and following your heart and challenging your art. Just don’t let bumps in the road convince you that you’re failing. You are trying. You are learning. And that’s something to be proud of.

Every author in the world had to write in their genre for the first time.

Why can’t this be your first leap toward success?

~SAT

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27 Responses to “Writing in a New Genre”

  1. depatridge February 3, 2018 at 3:42 am #

    Great thoughts you’ve expressed here I thought. Why not!

    • Shannon A Thompson February 3, 2018 at 3:15 pm #

      Glad you enjoyed it! Thank you for reading and commenting.
      ~SAT

      • depatridge February 4, 2018 at 1:38 am #

        My pleasure doing so on a good piece.

  2. Don Massenzio February 3, 2018 at 6:28 am #

    Reblogged this on Author Don Massenzio and commented:
    Check out this insightful post from Shannon A. Thompson’s blog on writing in a new genre

  3. Jena Henry February 3, 2018 at 7:07 am #

    Ive been thinking the same thing! There’re so many genres I like to read-why not write one! I was leaning toward historical so I bet start researching! Thanks for a good post

    • Shannon A Thompson February 3, 2018 at 3:16 pm #

      Have fun researching! It’s a blast. Glad you enjoyed the post.
      ~SAT

  4. Charles Yallowitz February 3, 2018 at 7:35 am #

    Reblogged this on Legends of Windemere and commented:
    Great post for anyone considering a genre jump.

  5. Lindsay | Bookboodle February 3, 2018 at 8:15 am #

    Thank you for sharing your tips with Talk of the Town 🙂

  6. noelleg44 February 3, 2018 at 9:42 am #

    I am encouraged by your post! I’ve just made the leap myself – from mysteries to a historical novel. This is not a genre I will stick with, but I have something I want to tell! It’s taken me almost two years to find the ‘voice’ for this book – a long hard slog – but I think I’m on the right track now. I guess I like a challenge.

    • Shannon A Thompson February 3, 2018 at 3:17 pm #

      That is awesome! Thank you for sharing the story about your leap. I also love challenges. It keeps everything fresh and fun. 😀
      ~SAT

  7. suzanna February 3, 2018 at 2:35 pm #

    I think you’ve hit the nail on the head here – reading the genre is the key. Good luck with the historical novel
    #ToTT

  8. joannechillhouse February 4, 2018 at 12:57 am #

    I enjoy experimenting in different genres; it’s stimulating + challenging.

  9. kathleenjowitt February 4, 2018 at 10:05 am #

    I agree wholeheartedly with all your points! There’s nothing so soul-destroying as writing in a genre you don’t enjoy just because you think that’s what people want. Exploring a new genre can be a huge amount of fun, but one owes it to the authors and readers who have gone before to do a bit of research.

    • Shannon A Thompson February 6, 2018 at 8:24 pm #

      Exactly! That question of “Why do I want to write this book/genre?” can seem simple and/or unnecessary, but it’s definitely necessary, because you might realize you’re chasing trends. (It’s tempting, after all.) But writing what you love is what will work out in the end.
      ~SAT

  10. Jenni - Odd Socks and Lollipops February 5, 2018 at 8:46 am #

    This is really interesting, I can only imagine writing Fantasy and that’s what I mostly read, I can imagine stepping out of that one for me would be a difficult one but I think the challenge would have some rewards too. #ToTT

    • Shannon A Thompson February 6, 2018 at 8:24 pm #

      I’m glad you enjoyed the article! Thank you for reading and commenting.
      ~SAT

  11. Giovannoni Claudine February 5, 2018 at 1:26 pm #

    Yes, dear Shannon, I fully agree… it gives you the chance to explore other tasks deep inside. Somehow you may ripen, bringing other thoughts over pages.
    It’s always a sort of challenge since is like when you’re used to dressing one way and suddenly you change stile. In the mirror you need to adjust your feelings, maybe after you have been congratulated by friends… at the end, you like it both ways: the old and the new.
    But, most of all, its take some time and patience.
    Have a lovely week :-)claudine

    • Shannon A Thompson February 6, 2018 at 8:25 pm #

      Thank you for reading and commenting! Great metaphor. I really enjoyed it.
      ~SAT

  12. Jason Case February 12, 2018 at 10:46 am #

    Utterly Agree with all your points.

    This does remind me I think Director Tim Burton said he didn’t want to direct Dark Shadows which makes persons why did he direct the movie.

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