Netscher, Caspar – The Man Writing a Letter – 17th c (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
In writing, the topic of exploring genres generates many opinions. On one side, the traditional views advice us to pick a genre and stick with it, while other less conventional views encourage exploration of various genres, until you settle on one. Other writers believe that you should write what you want, when you want. I think it all depends on your long-term goals as a writer.
What you want to achieve down the road, and how you view your writing career in the future will determine many of the decisions you make today about your writing. Most aspiring authors who are serious about writing as a career, are mindful of it, from the beginning. No one picks a pen and paper one day and says, “I am going to be a writer.” At least I hope not. There is some thinking or dreaming, a desire that turns into research about the topic, consideration, learning, and planning. Whether you prepare early in life and follow that road after high school, or whether you know the path but other life circumstances take you away from it, there is always a process that brings you back to decide, research, learn, and plan. For example, someone who wants to take advantage of the technology and writing venues of today to make quick money will bypass the process, and self-publish in a haste whatever they want just to make a quick buck. If not profitable, the person will abandon the endeavor. I wanted to make this distinction because how a serious writer approaches his/her career is very different from how a person who wants to publish a few books to make quick money does it. This shows in the writing, the reader can tell.
The first thing a serious writer will consider, besides publishing traditionally or self-publish, is what genre(s) appeal to her/him. Most likely, the aspiring author will read and learn about those genres, and mentally make a decision to write or not write in that genre. Most likely, we write what appeals to us. Then the aspiring writer considers the dilemma of publishing – traditional versus self-publishing. Most likely, that will lead to learning and researching before deciding. If the writer wants to follow the traditional path of publishing, he/she will stick with a genre for a while. Many times, will change pen names to write another genre. A writer who decides to self-publish will stick to a genre in the beginning but might end up writing in other genres that interest him/her. The pressure of traditional publishing is off as far as selecting another pen name for different genres, so the writer makes a decision about this in a way that works best for her/him. The goal is a long-term writing career, so there is no need to make quick decisions or judgements as far as following genres, trends, because the goal is not quick money but establishing his career path and growing in it.
Genre hopping without a plan/goal in my opinion is risky for a writer, especially if the writer has not decided yet if traditional publishing is what he/she really wants. A few successful self-published authors have gone back to the traditional model once they have been discovered and offered contracts. However, the reason they were discovered is because they managed to write successful books in a particular genre, and they grew in it, resulting in a decent amount of readers. Now, these authors have the freedom to publish traditionally, and self-publish on the side, depending on their contracts. On the other side, many known best-selling authors who published traditionally, are abandoning this model, and are self-publishing. The issue of genre matters whether you are starting out or have written for a long time. It does not matter so much if you are not serious about a long-term writing career, since the goal is to follow the trends and make money. Don’t get me wrong, serious writers want to make a living too, but they hold their craft at a different standard. The craft becomes priority, not the money. Watch the interviews of best-selling authors who have been writing for some time, and you will see that most of them did not set out to write to make money; they did it because they had a passion for it.
Consider your long-term goals as a writer at the same time that you are considering genre hopping.