Lately, I’ve been writing and putting out books in genres readers haven’t always seen from me. It’s a stretching for me. It’s helped me to not only redefine myself internally, but also to give myself a much needed break mentally and emotionally as well. But is it always good to write in genres you might not necessarily enjoy reading?
Honestly, I think the answer is yes- for the most part. (Yes, there is a reason for my partial answer!) Do I read contemporary romances? Yes, but not many. I have a few romance authors who write contemporary who are auto buys for me. They’re my link to the great wide world of contemporary romance and in some ways they’ve always been my “you’ve reached the big time” ideal. Does that mean to me that I need to write contemporary to be a success? No, but it does mean that when I do write contemporary, I look at myself and my writing a little more critically and with a bit more depth than I normally do at other times. Why? Because it’s more natural for me to write paranormal romance. Heck, it’s more natural to write BDSM with paranormal elements. But a straight up contemporary without the BDSM or any touch of urban fantasy, paranormal or anything mysterious is asking a lot. (Oh so very much!) So writing a straight contemporary is a good stretch for me on occasion. It really helps me to see where I’ve grown and where I need to work in my writing.
When I do dabble and step into this pond, there’s always something new for me to enjoy and to admire writing in an unfamiliar genre. Yes, I mean about myself and others who do the same thing occasionally. There are some great authors who really rock the contemporary genre something fierce. I can only hope to do justice to the genre and not look completely and utterly foolish. By the same token, I hope by taking the time to go into genres I might like, but not normally write, I can expand my readership as well as expand my writing horizons. (This is fair warning for those in the fantasy and mystery genres—I am coming. When, I don’t know, but I am coming!)
How do you go about writing in a genre that you normally don’t read much of—research. Find an author you enjoy and read their stuff. *waves to Sasha White* Let me tell you, I love Sasha’s BDSM books. In fact, I won and read My Prerogative and it really blew my mind not just with the BDSM aspects, but with the contemporary setting in anytime. Here’s the thing though, the BDSM was subtle, though for those in the know, it was so there. Yet, for those who might not be familiar with it, the kinky sex aspect was such that you really felt for the characters- both the hero and heroine. It could be anywhere and any-when from today through the next decade or two. That’s the mark of a great contemporary book. You really don’t notice too much of the small things that might be out of place because of tech advances, though if it’s too great, then the book might need to be updated. I really enjoyed the book from the beginning to the end and felt compelled to go back and read the others that are loosely related.
The other thing to do is decide the basics of any story- the where, when, and how. Get your GMC (Goals, Motivation, Conflict) going and fill it out. This doesn’t mean the pantsters out there can’t just get writing—you just need to be aware of writing in the “now” but also of what I call the “always now.” It’s that idea of the story always being current, always being now, no matter when you really wrote the story. It keeps it fresh and alive. Make sure you pick a where you know about. It does make it easier if you’ve been to that city, make up that city or whatever it takes so that you can bring that secondary character to life. It’s important part of writing a contemporary- the setting plays a role, sometimes it’s huge, sometimes it’s emotional background noise, but always it’s a factor. So don’t skimp! This goes for any genre, not just contemporary- it’s important that your setting be real and also be part of the story, though subtle in most cases, otherwise, it feels like the story happens on a stage, not in a real part of the universe.
The last thing I can recommend to anyone writing outside of their regular genre for the first time is get a crit partner or someone to read your story who writes in that genre. That way you can get quality feedback that will help you to correct the mistakes you might make in the early drafts. More importantly, you’ll discover something else important in doing so—you might find someone whom you can trust with your normal stories and enjoy working with so you can both grow as authors as you continue writing in your unique points of view. This really does help. It’s made my life easier in many ways, even in my regular writing. *waves to Selena Illyria*
Writing contemporary for me was originally how I wanted to break into romance—but it wasn’t meant to be. It wasn’t my genre of love. Paranormal is and will probably always be that genre. Yet, I’m discovering that contemporary can give me thrills and some growth that I can see tangibly because it’s so different from what I normally write. Yes, it’s important to always learn and grow as a writer. It’s important to occasionally stretch those wings and fly by taking on a new genre or perhaps even going off into a new market entirely sometimes. It helps you to learn just how much you are capable of doing and in the end, it makes you appreciate what you’re good at and improves you for your next work in what you enjoy the most. That’s why eventually, I’ll reach out into fantasy and mystery as well– because I love those genres and I want to grow into them as well. I want to be able to write well in them and give myself a chance to show my skills there too.
Don’t ever think that you have to choose one genre over another. There’s no reason why you can’t have your cake and eat it too. Unless of course you can’t have gluten! Then you have to make sure everything is gluten free! Sometimes, you can get the best by combining genres, but that’s another topic altogether. One we’ll cover another time. But right now, remember– it’s okay to write in another genre, especially one you’re not used to. Just take your time, make sure you research it thoroughly and have someone who writes that genre or reads it a lot give you a read through. That way you’re on top of it. By doing these things, you can succeed in writing in a genre you’re not used to and do well in it. Plus, you might just find out that it’s one you might actually enjoy.