This is a great question! First, I’d encourage you to consider why you want to write in a new genre. Is your current one feeling a little stale? Does the thought of something new excite you? The stories in your imagination just won’t stick with a single genre? You want to challenge yourself with something different? These are all great reasons. In my opinion, the most important reason to switch genres is because you feel excited and inspired to do so.
It’s also fine to consider marketability. I write professionally and I want to make a living at it. I believe it’s acceptable to keep your audience in mind when you’re writing, and to choose projects that have market potential. But this can’t be the only reason. You should be excited by the prospect of writing something new and enjoy the new genre you’re venturing into. If you have no enthusiasm for it, it will fall flat.
Okay, so you are really excited to try something new, but this new genre is a departure from what you’ve been writing. Here are some suggestions to help you get started:
Read widely in this genre.
Find writers who do it well. Think about what you like about their writing style. How do they create suspense, develop characters, work with dialogue, or nail the ending? How do they pull you into an alien world, or keep you on the edge of your seat through an action scene? Different genres require different storytelling skills. Yes, setting will matter in almost all stories, but painting a vivid picture of an alien landscape might take a little more doing.
Know the rules for that genre.
If you’re writing science fiction or fantasy, you’ll be world building. Although your worlds will be uniquely designed from your own imagination, there are things to consider that make for a positive reader experience. If you are actually thinking about writing a science fiction or fantasy novel, here are a few articles that dive into world-building: World Building Basics, Part 2: Making Magic and Wielding Technology, and Part 3: Setting the Stage.
Now let’s go in a different direction, like I did. Suppose you’re a speculative fiction writer and you’ve been bitten by the romance bug. What do you need to know? Well, first off, romance novels have a happy ending. Readers will expect this, and it’s basically a requirement. While there are many tropes in the romance genre, some of the story structure is formulaic. It helps to learn all this ahead of time. Here’s more on writing romance, in all its incarnations: Want to Write Romance? Here’s What You Need to Know.
Bottom line, get familiar with your new genre before you take the plunge!
Consider using a pen name.
If you are writing something in a genre that is completely different from any of your previous works, you may want to consider using a pen name. I feel free to write any kind of speculative fiction under my given name. This includes science fiction, fantasy, urban fantasy, and even horror. Readers of speculative fiction may prefer one over the other, or even exclusively read one over the other, but they aren’t surprised that I write all of them. The genres are interrelated and all fall under the speculative category. These readers may not make the leap to romance, however.
For sure, some of my fans will read anything I write. I love that! But most, understandably, have a preference, and they want to know what they are getting into. My two writer identities are separate but not hidden from one another. Those readers who want to jump genres with me are free to do so. Those who don’t simply stick with one profile or the other.
Writing in multiple genres is much more common in this modern age of publishing. We are free to upload, share, and even self-publish our work independent of a gate-keeping business model. This is freeing in many ways. If you feel inspired to write something different, something in a new genre, I say go for it! As long as you have a passion for your project, and you take the time to learn about your new genre, it can be a satisfying experience.
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