I recently finished reading a book that was high fantasy, Dragon’s Path by Daniel Abraham, and loved it. However, when talking with a colleague about the book, he mentioned other books by this author that are more science fiction based. When I started read these books I was surprise how different his author’s voice sounded. This got me thinking about how changing genres affects you and your writing.
Switching genres is like switching jobs.
It might be in the same field, but you still have to learn the basics before you can move on. Every author has a voice; however it changes based on what you are writing. I once attended a workshop that had the participants take one of their scenes and rewrite it in another genre. Mine was fantasy and I chose to write it as a mystery. Not only did I have to shift how I perceived my characters and their interactions and relationships, but I found my author’s voice had adjusted as well.
Every genre has its own structure. Mysteries tend to start about the same way: someone gets killed and everyone is a suspect. If it’s a romance you’ll start with two singles and a meet cute. In science fiction or fantasy world building is important to establish right away. Making sure your clear about the bones of the genre your tackling will help successfully navigate the various arcs and challenges at the right times. Ultimately you want to bring your readers along for an exciting ride.
Take your time
If your diving into new writing territory be sure to do your research so you know what you’re getting into. I have always had a love for mysteries and wanted to write one as a short story, but once I started I felt lost in the red herrings. I realised there were key elements to developing setting, characters and raising the stakes that I needed to flesh out before I just dove in. Planning and creating a strong plot really helped to create structure I hadn’t needed to do before. Making sure you have all the answers you need for the genre you want to write in will save you time and frustration.
The most important part of writing in a new genre is to enjoy and have fun. Writing is about the journey as much as it is about the destination.