How to approach writing a new genre

Whether you’re just starting out on your writing journey, have a few books under your belt or are a seasoned bestseller, it’s bound to happen that you have an idea for a shiny new book that’s in a totally different genre than you typically write.

It’s happened to me twice. My first two novels are women’s fiction, and then I was struck with inspiration for a young adcontemporary fantasy. Now I am working on an adult romance with another planned for shortly afterward. So I’ve flip flopped around a little.

Some authors/agents/publishers would say that’s a bad idea. That you should choose one genre and stick to it so that you can build your audience and be consistent. I don’t necessarily agree. This article written by Erin Bowman – bestselling author of both sci-fi AND historical fiction – is a favorite of mine when it comes to this topic.

“Readers love an author less for the genre that they write, and more for the type of stories they create. If the staple elements that readers fall head-over-heels for exist in an author’s newest book, there’s a good chance readers will be happy regardless of that book’s genre or label.

Remember: Labels are a result of bookstore and library shelving. They are a necessary evil of the industry. But readers just want good stories. So go write good stories, genre be damned.”

There you have it.

So now that I’ve convinced you to go forth with writing a new genre, let’s talk about how. Because it can be a bit of intimidating process.

#1 – Do your research.

Writing a novel may sound like it should be same process despite genre. But there’s often lots of variances – big and small – depending on the type of story you’re telling. For example, romances are typically shorter than fantasies and have different beats since the plot is on a smaller-scale and more internal. You don’t always have to stick to genre conventions, but it’s definitely good to know what they are especially when you’re starting out.

#2 – Read.

Don’t you love it when someone actually tells you to go read? It’s the best homework ever! And extremely useful in this scenario. The best way to learn what works and what doesn’t work in a certain genre is to read books in that genre. A few months ago I wrote about how reading like a writer can help you analyze and create a strong story.

#3 – Practice with freewriting.

Starting a novel is a giant commitment, so before you get too far along that journey and realize your craft needs more work, practice! Whether it’s a few paragraphs or a few pages, choose a prompt that matches your new genre and let if flow.

#4 – Seek out specialized beta readers.

Getting feedback on any novel is key, but if your usual readers only read fantasy, their critique may not be as helpful if you’re now writing women’s fiction. But never fear! There are other readers out there who can help, and you just may make some new friends in the process.

#5 – Don’t overthink it.

It’s always nerve-wracking to try something new, and if you’re like me, sometimes that can translate into procrastination and anxiety. So just dive in! Like in all writing, the most important thing is getting words on the page. This story came to you for a reason, so let that creative energy propel you and enjoy the ride!

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