When I first started my research on authorship, one of the tips I came across over and over was this: Stick to one genre.
On the one hand, I get this. As a writer your hope is to develop a fan base of sorts; a group of people who enjoy your work and become return customers. And, should you succeed, that group of people is attracted to your particular style and come back for more of that style. They expect a certain formula, per se. You want your work to be recognizable and specific to you.
Here’s an example:
All throughout junior high and into high school, I was (was? Still am.) obsessed with Sarah Dessen. Dessen’s books are not the first of her genre or niche, but there is a familiarity to her work. Every book of hers was different, but felt the same. I grew attached to her style of story telling and the mood of her writing and look forward to each new release.
But wait, I have a second example:
Mumford and Sons is a band that I grew very fond of after their first album was released—The Cave is still one of my all-time favorite songs. Their second album had a different tone, but the same sound, and it was their sound that I was attracted to. They were a specific mood that I would crave. But their third album, for me, was a little bit of a fail. Artistic growth is a wonderful thing that I fully support, but I didn’t feel that their third album represented the Mumford and Sons that I loved. They adopted more of a pop tone as opposed to their signature folk sound. Because of that, there were other songs and albums along that line that I liked better.
With that said, I don’t believe there is any harm in experimenting with genres. Whether you’re a new or veteran writer, branching out and stretching your mind can only improve your craft. There is a major growth perspective to dabbling in a multitude of genres as well as a potential business aspect.
My novel is a fictional, NA romance/coming of age-ish story. Ninety-Five percent of the other stories in my WIP folder are fictional, NA novels with romantic and adulthood navigation themes. That niche is where I am comfortable. There are, however, a few nonfiction attempts scattered in that folder and, recently, I’ve been trying my hand at contemporary poetry. I don’t know if I’ll ever share or publish anything that I’ve written in the nonfiction or poetry genre, or any other genre for that matter. But do I believe that I will benefit from stretching my limits? Definitely. Do I think a writer can be successful in multiple genres? Yeah. Absolutely.
Back to example one: If Sarah Dessen were to write a nonfictional book, or even a horror story, I would head out to the bookstore and pick it up immediately. She’s already established such credibility with her portfolio of fiction books that there is no reason for me not to believe that I wouldn’t enjoy any type of story from her. I would read work outside of Dessen’s norm because she established such a solid platform, a platform that tells me that she is a skilled and talented writer.
As far as example two goes, I did not enjoy Mumford & Son’s jump from album two to album three because I felt that it was too far of a leap from their start. This is the type of scenario that supports the notion of sticking to one genre. However, Mumford’s third album fell into a more popular and trending genre and I know many people who, as fans of the pop sound, enjoyed Wilder Mind because the band now fit a little more squarely into their music preferences while still maintaining a Mumford vibe.
I don’t think there is anything wrong with following the trend, especially in such competitive and constantly evolving industries as writing and music, as long as you are a) invested in the exploration and b) true to yourself. Experiment, dabble, branch out, but know when something is or isn’t working for you.
Your turn! Do you believe in pursuing other genres? Do you already write in several genres? Let me know what you think!