The idea of writers changing their writing style and genre is a topic that is continually being scrutinised by readers and writers alike; from writing under only one genre strictly not budging from this, to writing different genres under pseudonyms, to the most recent view of genre hopping under one name.
A quick Google search on the topic, however, will show you that all of these notions are in practice today, and are the centre of a confusion of comments, emotions and views. So what is it about changing writing styles that sparks so many debates? And what has turned this into being considered a no-go area for so many writers?
Changing your writing style is a big decision for a writer; you already have a distinct voice that anyone who reads your work regularly can recognise, and a fan base that are keen to know what else you can produce. But, more often than not, when a writer does consider a change in their writing style – moving from one genre to another – they are met with a critical reception, even before the idea has been fully formed. The very thought of an author writing something their readers do not expect, and are not used to, can result in negative comments from both the readers and publisher alike. And, occasionally, results in writers being discouraged from even experimenting with different styles of writing altogether.
After reading and hearing so many discouraging views and comments, and so many articles and advice columns that warn writers against changing their genre and style of writing, it is inevitable to ask the question, why should a writer not change their writing style? Why does a writer need to conform to only one? And why should a writer rely on only one group of readers, when in fact, they could build up a new group of readers too?
There are two things to conside: you, the writer, have spent many hours researching and writing work that has allowed you to have an expertise in that field, and has gained you a group of avid readers, and therefore changing styles would harm that strong connection and, as a result, not be as successful.
Yet, experimenting with styles can expand your experience and development. The more styles you use, exercise, and become confident in, the more depth can be added to your work. As far as the fan base is concerned, you have already established a basic understanding with your audience – an audience who knows, and has a respect for your voice, and the uniqueness of your style and that is what captivates them. Although the new genre may not be the existing audience’s first choice to read, having enjoyed your previous work could intrigue them into taking a look at your new work. And inevitably, as with any new work, there is a new audience waiting.
So now that we have established that a writer changing their style and genre is not as harmful to their current audience, it is time to focus on another obstacle – the writer. Although you may dream of writing under a different genre, of having the freedom to write whatever you want, there is still a fear of moving away from what you know and are familiar with. This is an obvious obstacle that needs to be removed for you to flourish.
The main point, however, is that you know you want to change genre, and you have that in mind. You even know who your characters are, where the story is set, the plot, the plot twist and even the unexpected ending. The missing link, however, is courage – the courage to forget about ‘what might happen if…’ or ‘what will readers think if I write…’ and focus on what you want, and how you want others to know about it. It will, as expected, be a challenge writing in a new form, but the end result will be something that you will be proud of.
To give you a little stepping stone to help you start your new masterpiece, here are a few quick tips to get you inspired:
The most efficient way to write anything is to read similar works. Reading will give you an idea of what works and what doesn’t, and give you inspiration on how to progress with your own. This will begin your research in the new genre/style as well.
As obvious as it may sound, to have a story written, you need to write. Dreaming up the most amazing idea, will only ever be that – an idea, until you write it down. Use what you’ve learned from reading your new chosen genre/style: literary conventions and/or devices as well as avoiding clichés.
Don’t become too attached to your words. Being able to look at your own writing and cut down on what you don’t really need can be more effective than anyone editing it for you. Also, read it out loud, this can help you notice anything that may need a pause or that might not flow. Then get others to read it! They’ll notice anything you didn’t before trying to get it published.
For a helpful guide on writing a novel, take a look at British science fiction author Simon Morden’s tips for novel writing.
By Iraj Waqar