Tag Archives: Jim Butcher

Why Genre Hopping is your best friend

27 May

Shannon, here, to announce our last guest blogger. That’s right. Our last. I will be back on May 29, but today is a wonderful day, because Ryan Attard – author of The Legacy Series – is sharing his thoughts on genre hopping, something we both feel very passionately about. Ryan has blogged on here before, so you might be familiar with him, but if you’re not, check out his website and podcast by clicking the links.

This is one of those subjects that gets a bad rep just for daring to go against the dogma, as established by . . . who knows who, and who knows where. Personally, I dislike rules and constraints of any sort – the reason I am an artist is because I wish to express myself in a free manner, and trying to limit art in any way shape or form makes that very difficult. After all most of what we consider rules are nothing more than guidelines that we misunderstood or took too literally.

Case in point is genre-hopping. For most old school authors this is a cardinal sin punishable by artistic death. I fail to see why. From a technical stand point it does make a shred of sense: if you’re just starting out and try writing fifteen different genres at one go your head will implode to the size of a jelly bean. Most likely you’ll end up with fifteen really good idea that are always ‘almost done’.

However I am addressing serious writers, ones who make a commitment (be it themselves or a slave driver – I mean, publisher) to finish their project. If you are that kind of writer then you and I have much to discuss. Genre hopping is your friend, but unlike marketing (who’s the jackass in the corner with the corny jokes) or editing (that anal guy who’s always correcting other), this guy is more like that erratic insane friend whom everyone keeps their distance from until you try engaging with him. And here’s why you should engage with this dude:

Anyone here ever get writer’s block? If your answer is yes, then join the club. Writer’s block is nothing more than your brain going “TAKE A FREAKIN’ BREAK, MAN!”

And how do you take breaks? You do something else, of course. See where I’m going with this? No?

Writing in multiple genres (let’s say 2 or 3, for kitten’s sakes; don’t overcompensate) means that when you get tired of writing, say, your urban fantasy novel, you can always go to your adventure thriller. You are still writing, so you are still productive – you’re just shifting focus. By way of an example I am going to use myself (and shamelessly plug myself in the process). When I was writing Birthright (coming to you in a few months) I was also writing Book 1 of the Pandora Chronicles (coming to you whenever my publisher decides to get a move on). If you’re of a similar mindset as myself, then you’ll easily get bored of the same old, same old. So switch it up – write something else.

And guess what? By the end of it all you won’t have ONE book but TWO. (That’s twice the fans and twice the money just in case you can’t get a hint.)

Now let’s talk marketing. Yeah, I said it: Marketing.

Don’t be afraid of it – it only looks evil. In reality marketing is what puts that story that you worked so hard for in your reader’s hands.

I’m going to get a little technical but stay with me. There are two types of growth in a business: vertical and horizontal.

Vertical growth is when you grow within a level – sort of like building an apartment complex. You get one apartment on top of the other. Horizontal growth is when you build the same ground floor but in different areas.

Let’s translate this into writing markets. Authors usually pick one market and write for that, i.e. JK Rowling is very famous on the fantasy genre for writing the Harry Potter series. That’s a perfect example of vertical growth.

It’s also the easiest in terms of branding. Think about it; it’s easy to establish yourself in one market if you are dedicating all your efforts to that one market. So you get Rowling with fantasy, Keri Arthur with fantasy romance, Rick Riodan with YA mythology-based urban fantasy and Clive Cussler with adventure thrillers. You genre becomes your branding and once this happens it’s nearly impossible to shift to another genre. How many of you can tell me the name of Rowling’s new book? I bet you had to look it up.

For most established (and old-school) writers, genre hopping after you’ve established yourself in a particular market is suicide. It’s like having HP Lovecraft write a historical romance about daisy-picking: that just won’t do (not unless something with teeth and tentacles was involved).

bdedebgfSo does this mean that horizontal growth is better? Not in the least. But it can be smarter if done at the right place, at the right time. Let’s take Jim Butcher as an example. Jim had just begun making a name for himself in the Urban Fantasy market when he released his epic-ish fantasy series. And in recent years, he also released a steampunk series. So why wasn’t the community in uproar? Because he timed it well. He established himself as a multi-genre author whilst growing vertically in his main market, allowing him to expand in multiple genres (markets) at the same time.

One of my favourite podcasts to listen to is the Self-Publishing Podcast. The three hosts, Sean Platt, Johnny B Truant and David Wright, are in full favour of genre-hopping and horizontal growth. According to them (and I fully agree) it wiser to build horizontally and then grow vertically rather than the other way round. To prove their point, they have multiple serials in multiple genres, and only in the past two years have they fully built each and every one of them. Now their library of titles is well over a dozen and that’s what you want as an author.

The idea of a one-hit wonder is not a viable career option. Writing professionally is a hard job: one that requires constant work at improvement and getting more titles out there.

Once again you have to be smart with genre-hopping. Writing in 4 different markets is not the best of ideas. Start with one, and then expand to an adjacent market. That way you get overlap value.

Let’s say you wrote a book for market 1 and later on wrote another book for market 2. When you decide to write another book for market 1, you won’t only get people from that market but also a few from market 2 who are just curious about your work. Those are your true fans.

In my opinion this is one of the best strategies you can use to sustain a long term career. Sure it’ll take you five years instead of two to fully stabilize your roots, but once you do, it’ll be very hard for you not to make it. If you’re concerned with name branding, just use a pen name of an abbreviation like Johanna Penn does. Same author, different pen name, different market; problem solved.

The worst thing that can happen to an established author is to finish their series and then sit on their ass twirling their thumbs. However, when you’ve spread your roots on a wide area, you can always wrap something up and move on to the next project.

After all a writer writes – period. Genre, word count, language – these are all frosting to a cake. So if it doesn’t matter, why bother with it? You’re a writer and an artist. Write what you want to write, in whichever way you want to write it, and power to ya, baby.

– Ryan Attard

Guest Post: Ryan Attard: The Fleeting Muse

21 Oct

Shannon here, just to introduce this upcoming author. Ryan Attard is the author of Firstborn, the first book of the Legacy series, coming out December 13th. You can follow him at his website or check out his novel on Goodreads. It’s also on Amazon. I’m also giving away pre-releases of his highly anticipated novel in exchange for a review, so feel free to email me at shannonathompson@aol.com.  Now, onto his hilarity:

This one is a question I get a lot.

Where do you get your inspiration? What inspires you? What makes you want to write?

I’ve exchanged banter and jokes about the so called muse – usually with regards to a ‘writer’s block’ (which by the way does not exist).

But before I go into a tirade about what floats my metaphorical boat, here’s some history. Muses were Greek goddesses of inspiration. They’re usually in a cluster (as most ideas are) and hovering around some poor bloke trying to sew together the pieces of his mind. I may have added the last part. Two reasons I like using the word ‘muse’.

1. Only a naked dancing woman has enough power to torture me as much as my ideas do. (Too much info into your personal life there, Ryan.)

2. I’m a hunter x  hunter fan and ‘Terpsichore’ is an special ability of a cat-humanoid mass murderer. And one of the bdedebgfcreepiest abilities in the series.

Also, no one can pronounce the name Terpsichore – which represents the muse of dance. See above for reference about dancing naked lady.

My sources on this are on Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Muse). Because I am both lazy and supportive of questionable resources. Also, I like fiction.

My muse is a bitch. She doesn’t transmit ideas, so much as carpet bombs them. I find myself lying awake at 4am writing entire pages of notes and spider webs, giggling like a villain from the Ghostbusters (the cartoon. Cos I roll old-school). I used to sleep with a note pad near the pillow so that when ideas struck, I would just reach over and scribble notes down, without having to roll over, or even open my eyes. Perhaps not the cleanest of ideas but I decided I like my sleep whenever I can get it. An idea is just like a baby: sucks all your time, gives you mood swings and you’re not sleeping. Ever.

I decided to start writing once I caught up to my favourite series, and did not want to wait for those lazy authors to write the next book. I thought ‘Sure I could write a really long essay and divide it in chapters.’

Then I spent the next 2 years figuring out exactly how to write a book and how long it takes to get a GOOD piece of work done. My apologies to the authors – now I feel your pain.

Oddly enough Literature is not my main source of inspiration. I still read, of course, but I found myself unable to properly enjoy books. The inner editor catches errors and proofreading passes like its his job (Well, it is) and I find that I study novels rather than read them. So it largely depends on the author and genre with me. I’m extremely picky.

Anime, manga and movies are my main source. I think in flashes of movement or panels most of the time – then I go about describing those flashes in detail for your literacy pleasures. And I always need music. I listen to a variety of weird crap by artists which are mostly underground, far away from corporate clutches. I was actually thinking of putting up a soundtrack or playlist in my wordpress site, so if anyone knows how to do that, please help me out.

In fact, the title Firstborn comes from a Celldweller song ‘The Last Firstborn.’ (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2qn5PXWBxEA). This is the first ever track I’ve heard from the artist and the dark melodic and upbeat theme just gave me the perfect imagery in my head. Suddenly I was Erik, killing demons and monsters- saving the world, one sarcastic remark at a time. Over the years I may have ripped off a name from the artist. The main character from the Pandora Chronicles, Professor Nick Solomon, is a huge fan of the EDM group Krewella (as am I).

Like Ryan Attard on Facebook

Like Ryan Attard on Facebook

TV shows have also played a huge role in what I write. I grew up on sitcoms, so my sense on humor is pretty tailored for a specific situation. I love it when I come across shows like ‘Lost Girl’ or ‘Supernatural’ which have a dark humor vibe and despite the blood are still family-friendly. Buffy the Vampire Slayer was a classic that shaped my formative years, and I couldn’t help but model the Legacy heroine after the blonde ass kicking vamp slayer. Although mine’s a redheaded succubus hybrid.

Always a twist.

Ironically I’m also a huge fan of Sabrina the Teenage Witch. (Very manly I know. Stop judging.) I first caught an episode when I was 7 years old and the image of a cheap animatronic black cat telling jokes mesmerized me forever. Years later I too invented a black talking cat named Amaymon. But instead of being a cursed warlock (who has no use in the show other than comedic relief) mine is a demon who has a penchant for frat boy level of partying and complete annihilation. Sometimes in the same night. Also he’s a pervert (of course). I did a character interview a few years ago. Check it out if you can handle it: http://cloeyk.blogspot.com/2013/02/ryan-attard.html

what else. . . Oh right, the martial arts. I use heavy Asian influences and mythologies, because of my love of that culture. My martial arts practice helped me understand concepts such as Yin and Yang and Chi – which in turn I have mutated into the magical system found in the Legacy books.

My muse is also a pot head. I know this because a) she always appears with a puff of smoke and b) she is always funny.

I have list upon list of one liners which I had written down when I first plotted the Legacy books. Over the years I’ve learnt to be a little smarter and divide them up into arcs or books – that way my choice is no more than 5 per arc. I suppose I am guilty of falling in love with lines that are funny but not applicable to the story. I once made the mistake of creating a scene just to put the joke in – which resulted in a giant clusterfuck and sent my entire book down the toilet. So here’s a lesson boys and girls – story first. Character traits, jokes, and other little stuff has to come second. Give the choice always do what’s best for your story, not just the scene. Big picture, people.

I suppose that’s my influence spectrum in a very tight nutshell. I tend to think of various ways to torture characters, like making them babysit a bunch of kids and fight a deranged teen on Halloween. (Now do you get why my muse is high?) This is the plot of Dread Night my Halloween special. Release schedule TBA on my blog.

Here’s the secret to making those muse visits regular – keep going at it. I am always writing, always thinking of new stories. Shannon A Thompson has a great post about highs and lows (https://shannonathompson.com/2013/10/12/one-of-my-lows-as-an-author/) and I couldn’t agree more. Lows after finishing a story are common (she does a better job at explaining it, using nice words and great literature as opposed to me, who tramples of the metaphorical flower bed, stumbling and cursing every ten seconds).

The most important part is not to let the lows get to you. That’s why I don’t believe in writer’s block. My muse is my bitch – she works for me. Sure, most days its an effort to get into it and gradually the flow gets better as you progress, but a true artist never stops just because they don’t feel like it, or just because they don’t know what to write. Here’s what I do when I don’t have the inkling to work: I look at my bank account. That always makes me crack my knuckles and work harder. Poverty is a great motivator.

I’ll leave y’all (Why do I say that? I’m not even American) with a quote from the author who inspired me to write: Jim Butcher.

“I don’t get Writer’s Block – I have a mortgage.”

Stay tuned and till next time,

Ryan (and his muse – who just left)

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