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Wednesday, September 7, 2011




As someone who writes in multiple genres, I'll be the first to admit I should probably pick one (or maybe two) and narrow my focus. No doubt, specialization is typically better than generalization. Can you imagine a Tom Clancy book without his extensive techno-intel details? And when your heartbeat is irregular (and we’re talking need-an-aspirin irregular, not Jude Law irregular) you want a cardiologist, not your primary care physician.

To draw on this medical parallel, authors who write in multiple genres are the primary care of the writing world. Like the trusty family doctor, we diversify—not because we don't want to absorb the specific schooling required for specialization, but because our interests are wide and varied. Our muses are A.D.D. and simply cannot commit to one genre. Today, we must write that book about measles (YA), but next month we may feel compelled to pen a story about massive head wound (paranormal). Okay, so comparing paranormal to a head case isn't really fair, but you get the point.

While the multi-genre muse is a delightful creature, she requires discipline if she is to be successful. Like the primary care physician, she must stay current—keep abreast of trends in medical technology (and steampunk, smart bomb technology, string theory, Cosmo’s top ten reasons men stray, etc., etc.). For the writer, lack of specialization dictates more research.

To excel in any genre, an author must understand her specific market. She must read widely in that genre, understand the nuances, follow the trends. Sci-Fi writers must know basic scientific principles, paranormal writers must create new worlds, crime novelists must understand police procedure. While the multi-genre-ista might not need to understand Regency England details to the same extent as a specialized historical writer, she must be credible.


What does this mean for multi-genre authors? Let’s suppose the Regency author mentioned above decides to write romantic suspense. Her effort probably won’t require much of a stretch if she decides to write Regency suspense. Chances are, her knowledge of the period will include period weaponry, early 1800’s law, and the basics of the Pinkerton agency. However, if she decides to write modern romantic suspense--ya-ya-yah. The author had better know every Google search trick and have a friend in law enforcement. Unless she happens to have a background in criminal justice, this author will need to understand modern weapons, DNA technology, basic forensics, CSI procedures, jurisdiction, etc. In short, she’s got a pile of research ahead of her.

To summarize, writing credibly in multiple genres requires more research. A lot more research. Two genres demand almost twice the study, three…almost three times…and so on.

Ironic for a muse that can’t commit, huh?

6 comments:

Linda Lovely said...

I agree wholeheartedly. While research is essential to get those details just right, reading extensively in a genre you want to enter is equally important. And if you don't like reading in that genre maybe it's not for you!

Kari Thomas said...

As an author who LOVES the research part, Id have to say if writing in too many genres required alot more research then Im a happy camper! LOL!

Great Post!

hugs, Kari Thomas, www.authorkari.com

Judith Ashley said...

As a writer who really does not like to do research (oh, a trip to Ireland is an exception), I do understand the importance of having an accurate story - even if I don't know for sure that Tom Clancy's techno-stuff is right, it seems right and people who do know tell me it's right! I admire those of you who delve into the details in order to educate the reader as well as entertain.

Thanks, Robin for a great post!

Sarah Raplee said...

I like the way you linked writing to medicine, lol. You made a lot of good points in this post.

Since my muse jumps genres, I guess it's a good thing that I love to do research. Hadn't thought of that before!

Sandy L. Rowland said...

A great post. So much effort to commit to writing different genres.
But hey, if you're going to do it, do it well.
Thanks for the information.

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