Most writers seem to be under the impression that they have to choose. Crucially, it is often thought that only those who find the right genre and stick to it can succeed.
However, looking at the evidence provided by recent commercial mega-hits such as Twilight, Hunger Games and the Divergent Series, I would say that there seems to be a current trend towards successful cross-genre fiction.
All three titles combine their distinctive genre with the romance genre.
Paranormal Horror and Romance
Scifi and Romance
Scifi and Romance
Plus they also all fall into the genre of Young Adult (YA).
Personally, I am convinced that it is partly due to their combination of genre conventions that such a vast amount of readers have found the stories told in these books so compelling.
In my own writing life, I work across three distinct genres (Horror, Scifi and Fantasy).
Whilst I am open to combining any of these three genres with romance (if the story requires it) I haven’t yet thought about the possibility of combining the three main genres in one book.
Yet the question is beckoning: why the hell not?
In fact, I can think of three advantages for writers who open themselves up to innovative cross-genre projects or who write across more than one genre during their writing career:
1. Remaining consistently engaged with your project
Of course, I can’t speak for any other writers (wouldn’t dream of it to try) but when it comes to my own experience of writing fiction, I often find that creating subplots that go beyond the dominant genre of the work I am engaged with provides me with a sense of variety that keeps me consistently engaged with the project. This is particularly true when I get to the parts of the story that I am not excited about writing but know I must complete in order to conclude the project. Writing across more than one genre and even combining two or more genres in one project can be a very helpful tool to prevent procrastination or a drop in quality. After all, what writer wants his/her readers to be able to pinpoint which bits the writer loved writing and which were the boring, necessary bits to move the story along?
2. Counteract writer’s block
Writer’s block. I know it well. One minute your fingers are flying over the keyboard, fashioning whole new worlds from the fairy dust of inspiration. Characters are having vivid conversations in your head that still read well once they appear as written script on the screen of your writing device. Next thing you know, your head is empty, words no longer want to flow from the synapses of your brain to the tips of your fingers. Suddenly that panicky feeling comes over you as you realise that the muse has left the room (possibly even the country) and that you have no idea if she’s ever going to come back. You look at your half-finished story (or worse, the much-dreaded empty page) and you begin to doubt yourself whilst “Hello darkness my old friend..” by Simon and Garfunkel is playing the soundtrack to your ruined writing life. At least, that’s what it usually feels like to me. Given that I write a large amount of my work on trains (commuting to my day-job), I can’t afford to wait for inspiration. Every second counts. Writing across more than one genre allows me to counteract writer’s block by having more than one project on the go at any one time. If I get stuck with one, I work on the other and vice versa. This means that I can write anything, any time, anywhere – all the time. This also works when switching between main plots and sub-plots within cross-genre projects.
3. Reach a bigger audience
First of all, let it be said that there is absolutely NOTHING wrong with writing within one genre, reaching a defined audience who like to read within that one genre. There is a multitude of authors who have had great success doing exactly that. (I am looking at you, R. L. Stine). And yet, when I look at authors such as Stephen King, best known for paranormal horror hits such as ‘It’ and ‘Carrie’, I can’t help but wonder if the man would have become the legend he is if he had confined himself exclusively to that genre. Looking at the success of ‘The Shawshank Redemption’ and ‘The Green Mile’, I doubt it. As far as I am concerned Stephen King is showing the rest of us writers how it’s done. The lesson I take from King’s career is this: write what you want to write regardless of whether it fits with what else you write. Don’t become predictable and don’t buckle under the pressure of readers’ expectations. Feel free to go beyond boundaries and genres and let creativity flow freely. This way you are offering your genius to more people, reach a larger audience and probably also have more fun.
Image Attribution:By Billy Hicks (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons