Writing in Multiple Genres Can Be Bumpy: Three Tips to Ease the Process
When creating a novel, it’s often common procedure to simply stick to the genre you’re most familiar with writing. For me, that genre is crime fiction. With so many factors to consider when adjusting your books, your brand, and your target audience, it can be a tricky road to success.
Given the steep competition in traditional publication and the plethora of self-published releases, an author today can’t dismiss the idea of pivoting to a new genre out of hand. Not every author finds success right out the gate. Sometimes, the path to success can be a little longer, writing in multiple genre till the author locks in on the one that’s a hit with their audience. I know many thriller authors who also write romance or scifi, albeit under a pseudonym.
This can be a confusing process, and many authors wonder about the pros and cons of writing in multiple genre.
If you’re a writer in that state of confusion, here on Daily (w)rite is an established author who has been there, done that, and is kind enough to share her advice. Cindy Fazzi is a Filipino American writer and former Associated Press reporter, who has worked as a journalist in the Philippines, Taiwan, and the United States. Her contemporary thriller, Multo, will be published by Agora Books, an imprint of Polis Books, on Sept. 26, 2023. Her historical novel, My MacArthur, was published by Sand Hill Review Press in 2018. Her articles have appeared in Electric Literature, Forbes, and Writer’s Digest.
She’s a wonderful example of why changing genres doesn’t have to be taboo.
Take it away, Cindy!
Most writing teachers say you’re better off sticking to one genre. It will make your life easier in terms of writing, building a brand, and nurturing an audience. Maybe so, but it hasn’t stopped authors like Margaret Atwood, Nora Roberts, and Emma Donoghue from writing in multiple genres.
Award-winning Atwood is as comfortable writing historical fiction (Alias Grace) as speculative fiction (The Handmaid’s Tale) and children’s books (Bashful Bob and Doleful Dorinda). Roberts is known for her romance best sellers (Bride Quartet series), so she uses the pseudonym J.D. Robb when writing suspense (In Death series). Donoghue adeptly jumps from contemporary suspense (Room) to historical fiction (The Wonder) to children’s books (The Lotterys series).
A literary agent once advised me and other writers on a discussion forum to stick to one genre until after we’ve established ourselves. Only then should we think about writing in other genres. If only the path to publication can be as straightforward as that.
I write in different genres out of necessity. I discovered that sticking to one genre is great only if everything is working out for you. As a Filipino immigrant living in America, I want to tell stories about the Filipino American experience. My first attempt at fiction featured an undocumented Filipino immigrant. Nobody wanted to represent or publish the manuscript.
Instead of giving up, I tried my hand at another genre. My next two manuscripts were historical novels featuring Filipino protagonists. None of them got published. I was on the brink of giving up again when I experimented with writing a romance featuring white characters.
Guess what? My unagented romance (In His Corner, 2015, Lyrical Press), which I wrote under the pen name Vina Arno, got published. The third genre I tried was the breakthrough I needed. It paved the way for the publication of one of my historical novels (My MacArthur, 2018, Sand Hill Review Press), which was also acquired and published without an agent.
And the first novel I wrote? I revamped it, changing the book’s point of view from that of the undocumented immigrant to the bounty hunter chasing her. It’s called Multo (meaning ghost in Tagalog), and it will be published by Agora Books on Sept. 26, 2023. I’m on my third literary agent, but Multo is my first book sold by an agent. You see, signing with an agent doesn’t guarantee a book deal.
Three Tips for Writing in Multiple Genres
It’s not easy writing in multiple genres, but I plan to continue along this path. If you’re thinking of doing the same thing, here are a few things that might help you in your writing journey.
#1 Find your core story or overarching theme.
Apart from my “experimental” romance, all my novels are about Filipinos or Filipino Americans regardless of genre. It’s my core story. In Room, Donoghue tells the story from the point-of-view of a sweet five-year-old boy who considers the things around him his friends: Sink, Plant, Wardrobe. Soon it becomes clear that the tiny room is the boy’s entire world. He and his mother are prisoners of a kidnapper. Donoghue, like Atwood and Roberts, write about women and their struggles. Survival and empowerment are among their dominant themes. So, what’s the one thing that drives your stories? It’s the key to writing in multiple genres.
#2 Use a pen name to separate your genre.
Just like Roberts, the late Anne Rice used a pen name. Rice was known for her vampire books, but romance readers know her as A.N. Roquelaure. J.K. Rowling writes detective novels as Robert Galbraith to separate them from her Harry Potter books.
The downside to using a pen name is that it typically entails establishing and maintaining separate social media accounts. Promoting your works to different audiences means twice the work. When I used a pen name, I maintained two author pages on Amazon and Goodreads, one for my pen name and another for my real name. My social media posts were separate. Even my contact lists for book reviews and promotions were distinct.
#3 Create a brand as an author not based on a genre.
Write the best book you can regardless of genre. Elevate your writing to the highest level by revising as much as needed, attending writing classes and workshops, and working with critique partners or groups. If you have the means, you can hire a developmental editor before you start querying agents or submitting to publishers.
In the end, your writing is going to be defined by the quality of your work – your voice and storytelling. Readers should be able to expect compelling writing and stories every time they pick up one of your books.
In an online MasterClass on creative writing, Atwood downplayed the fuss about genres by saying that they are nothing more than the shelves in a bookstore. Identifying and judging books by genre is the work of the literary critic, not the author. “Your job is to make your novel the best of its kind that it can be,” she said.
Do you worry if an author writes in different genres? Would you read books in different genres by the same author? If you’re an author, do you write in multiple genres? Do you have questions for Cindy or advice for others?
My literary crime novel, The Blue Bar is on Kindle Unlimited now. Add it to Goodreads or snag a copy to make my day. The sequel, The Blue Monsoon is on Goodreads and also up for pre-orders! And if you’d like to read a book outside the series, you can check out You Beneath Your Skin. Find all info about my books on my Amazon page or Linktree.
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