If you’ve hit a rut with your work in progress, maybe it’s time to switch things up. Have you ever considered writing in another genre? Now could be the time to give it a shot. However, before you dive into unknown waters, be prepared.
Why Try a New Genre?
First, think about why you might want to try your hand at writing in another genre. Maybe you’ve struck out a few times with the one you’re currently writing in. Perhaps it’s time to stretch. Or maybe you feel you’ve gained the skills necessary to make the move. Or, perhaps your reading tastes have shifted. These are all good reasons to make the move. The only potentially bad reason to do it is to chase a trend. If you have no interest in the genre, by the time you learn enough to nail it, its popularity might have faded. Do yourself a favor: ensure your labor is one of love.
Step 1: Read Widely
There is no substitute for reading widely in your new genre. No articles, guidebooks, or hacks will replace seeing how the experts do it. You need to enjoy what you’re reading, and hence what you’re writing. If you think sci-fi sells well, but aliens and intergalactic travel bore you, that’s a sign you’re not in the right spot. However, if you are drawn to the genre, pay attention when you read. Be analytical. What did you like? What didn’t you like? Which story could you tell hasn’t (exactly) been told before? Reading will inform your writing.
Step 2: Research
In addition to the reading, do research. What’s selling in that genre? I’m not saying this so you can chase trends, but if you like speculative stories, have werewolves run their course? Are vampires back? Is rom-com in or are people drawn toward darker tales? It’s important to understand what’s come before, so you know where your manuscript fits into the canon.
Another useful task is to read articles and advice columns about your genre. What do the experts know that you don’t? How do other authors approach their work? Whether or not you agree with the information is up to you, but you should know it. Finally, ask the fans. Look at forums or simply talk to people who read what you like. What’s draws them to it? What conventions do they love? Which ones would they like to change? It could be both helpful and spark your creativity.
Step 3: Meet Genre Expectations
Every genre has its expectations. You can meet them, you can subvert them, you can put your own spin on them, but you need to know them first. Genre readers engage with that category for a reason, and if you unknowingly violate the expectations of it, you’ll alienate potential fans and/or appear clueless. For instance, romance readers don’t ask for much, but they do want the central conflict to be about the will-they-or-won’t-they relationship, and they want the story to have a happy ending. Don’t deliver on either of these? You’ll hear about it. Find out what your genre expects and meet their demands.
Step 4: Get a Second Opinion
Don’t let a little reading, research, and minor requirements inhibit you from expanding your horizons. Want to try writing in another genre? Go for it! However, once you’re done, get a second opinion. Find a beta reader or two, and get some feedback. If you’re successful, maybe it’s time to call yourself a writer of a new genre.