Questionable: What If I Write a Lot of Different Stuff?

Chacha wrote:
I have been writing for a long time, started self-publishing in 2012 . . . [G]iven that I have not yet found an audience, is it likely to kill me that all my stuff is not in the same style? . . . I’ve got romance novellas, romance-adjacent contemporary novels, historical novels. My published contemporary novels are in three (so far) different styles. Two are alternating-first-person POV. One is 3rd/omniscient. One is straight-up 1st person. . .

First, those things are not style.  Style is the way you sound on the page, your word choices and rhythms and world views, and chances are great that your style stays the same no matter what you write. I write ghost stories, romantic comedies, caper romances, demons, etc. but they’re all in my style; they all sound like Crusies. 

What you’re talking about is genre (romance, adventure, etc.). 

It helps a lot if you stick to the same genre because that’s easy to market. Basically, if you shift too far out of one market, you’re starting all over again to find an audience.  But that’s shifting from romance to horror, or from sf to mystery, it’s not about point of view or the kind of lovers you write about or demographics.  If you write romance, that’s your genre, and even if you switch between M/F and M/M and F/F, it’s still romance.  Having people of color or LGBTQ characters won’t have any impact; that’s what the world is made of.  What determines your brand, if you will, is the genre and how you interpret it.  And since you’re writing stories you want to read, chances are good there’s one genre at the base of all your stories, the way mine are all connected to romance in some way.

I’d like to think that eventually people will find the series and like it *as* a series, and be willing to roll with the differences in viewpoint and style in order to follow the (long) through story and the recurring characters. Is possible, or is crazysauce?

You know, it depends on the stories you write and how well people like them, especially how well they like the characters and the world and want to go back to it.  Not everybody will follow you no matter what, nobody ever wrote a book that everybody liked, but in the end, you gotta write what you gotta write, so it doesn’t matter.

Well, it doesn’t matter from a writing standpoint. Remember, I just got a book turned down because all they wanted from me was romantic comedy. So yes, from a publishing standpoint, sticking to one subgenera is a great idea. But you’re not a publisher, you’re a writer; you write ’em, they sell ’em. Write what you need to write; you really can’t do anything else.

8 thoughts on “Questionable: What If I Write a Lot of Different Stuff?

  1. Squee! My question! Thank you so much.

    Well yes, seeing it laid out by a professional, it’s clear that what I’ve written is all ‘love stories’ if not always conventional romance. Even the one that’s got a mystery is more a love story than anything else. So yay, I’m a romance writer!

    Again, thanks.

  2. This brought up a thought I’ve often had – there are certain authors that I’ve identified in my mind as being romantics. That is, no matter what they write, they tend to lean towards a romantic relationship somewhere in their writing. I don’t tend to read straight-up genre romance, but I do want romance in what I read. So if I like the premise of the book, I can be pretty sure those authors will deliver on the emotional content I want. Sharon Shinn is one, Connie Willis is another, Jenny is a third. There are others, but I can’t think of them at this time of the morning.

    Anyway, the short version of what I’m trying to say here is that there are authors I would follow across just about any genre and POV (except second person POV, because some things are just not on!) because they have demonstrated that they have a voice and a sensibility that comes through no matter what they write.

  3. On Goodreads there is a group called Friends of Eloisa James and Julia Quinn which has a Monday puzzler which is an excerpt from a romance book and people try to identify it. Often people know the author but not the book because of the author’s style and tone. If you read a bunch of them you will get a sense of how individual style can be.

  4. Yep, I can’t get rid of my voice and world view, even when I’m writing for someone else. Wherever I go, there I am. Which is why it surprises me that people like my post-apocalyptic stuff. Yeah, really dark stuff happens, but it’s all surrounded by my belief in human resilience, humor (slapstick and otherwise), and smart women. People shoot each other dead, and then they have moral crises about what they have to do to stay alive. There are big bads, and the good people want to get rid of them, but only after they’ve tried to reason with them. – Yep, this is not Mad Max.

  5. I’ve always disliked that some publishers made writers assume psuedonyms for different categories of fiction. I feel that I’m smart enough to read the taglines and back cover.

    Then I saw that many years ago, people thought that Memoirs of a Geisha was an autobiography and were *upset* that it was fiction. So I threw my hands up in defeat and just read everything I wanted.

    I think most audiences are smart enough to find an author’s backlist, and read what they want to. ESPECIALLY if the author has a really good website that is easy to navigate. I loathe the sites that make me click on a series name to read the titles in that series on another webpage. Argh. Time is money, time is precious, thyme is a herb that grows in gardens. (Heh, thanks Nickelodeon.)

    The worst time I was caught by the book blurb/write-up was with the Dragonkin books by GA Aiken (Shelley Laurenston) which were written in the main character’s first person voice. Back then I wouldn’t touch first person with a barge pole. It was only when I opened a physical copy in the library and saw that it was in third, that I ended up reading it.

  6. The one that always got me was that people got confused by The Madness of King George III and thought there were two movies before it, so the film studio had to drop the III from the title.

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