Writers often lock into one genre, whether by choice, at the urging of their mentors, or simply by accident. But what if you’ve had success as a poet, but you long to give prose a try? Or maybe you’re a suspense writer who is itching to try your hand at a Western. If lately you’ve felt your writing is a bit stale, switching genres can be a great way to successfully refresh your writing career—and maybe even gain some new fans—but only if it’s done correctly!
How To Try A New Genre Without Damaging Your Writing Career
1. Read, read, and read some more! Reading like a writer is especially important when you’re preparing for a genre switch. Read a wide range of selections in your prospective new genre: established classics, offbeat contemporaries, recommendations from your friends, etc. If you’re thinking about giving poetry, short stories, or personal essays a try, browse through a selection of literary journals for pointers on what editors are currently publishing.
2. Pinpoint your strengths as a writer. Many talented writers fall out of love with writing because they try to fit the wrong mold. Sometimes the genre in which you begin your writing career doesn’t necessarily showcase your best talents. For example: You write prose but have a lyrical and rhythmic style. Give poetry a try! Or maybe you write romance novels but always get preoccupied with suspense arcs—why not try writing a mystery? After you finish your short stories, do you feel you have more to say after “THE END”? Maybe your short prose can be expanded into a novel.
3. Shake things up. Is your established readership growing bored with your work? Instead of trying to win them back with the same old tricks, wow them with something totally new! Making a drastic switch into a new genre will create intrigue, and that’s a great way to revitalize a stagnant writing career.
4. You can always switch back. Uh-oh…what if you change genres, only to realize you want to scrap your efforts and go back to your original genre? That’s okay—your efforts weren’t for naught! All the new skills you learned by trying a different genre can help breathe life into your writing style. Did historical fiction give you a newfound appreciation for research and detailed settings? Did writing poetry teach you how to create rhythm in your writing? Take those lessons back to your original genre and put them to good use!
Switching Genres Can Affect Your Marketing Strategy
Readers are creatures of habit—they expect similar styles from their favorite writers, and tend to get grumpy when those writers don’t deliver. If your change is relatively minor—a short fiction writer foraying into essays or novellas—then readers probably won’t mind. In this case, you can continue to focus your marketing efforts on your existing audience.
But if you’re making a huge genre leap—a children’s book author transitioning into adult romance or erotica—consider creating a totally new author brand. You might even want to consider using a pen name and creating new social media profiles to appeal to a new group of readers.
QUESTION: Have you ever switched genres? What was the most important lesson you learned?
I haven’t switched genres (yet!) but I have ideas which range from fantasy, women’s commercial fiction and mystery. Quite different from each other! I think I’ll change my pen name between the genres.