novel writing, nanowrimo, creative writing

Confessions of a Genre Hopper: how to write for completely different genres

#writing #tips #novels #creativity
By Whitney Jones

If you write in different genres, you know that there are numerous difficulties in switching between them. Everything from tone and language to content has to be reconsidered.

I know these pains because I’ve been writing in two VERY different genres for a while now. I’ve talked a lot about the middle grade novel I’ve been working on for the past several years, but I haven’t talked about my secret side writing in Regency Romance.

Yes, that’s right. I write children’s literature and romance. It’s hard to get more different in content and tone than these two are from one another, and it’s often a challenge to reorient myself when I make the leap. I mean, one day your protagonist finds the strength to talk to new friends and the next day your hero finds the strength to rip a bodice. Crazy different genres, guys …

And while it’s difficult to swing between different genres, it can be done. Today I’m sharing with you 3 of the difficulties I’ve encountered when switching between genres and revealing my strategies for overcoming those difficulties.

Difficulty 1–Different Language

When you write for two different genres, you need to consider your word choices especially carefully. Different genres require you to adhere to certain word choices, sentence structures, etc. It’s one of the reasons I don’t like noir–the style in which it’s written does not appeal to me as a reader.

To explore this difficulty from the two genres I write in, let’s look at the language requirements for each.

Regency Romance:

  • complex sentence structures
  • formal or elevated tone
  • difficult or sophisticated vocabulary
  • historically-driven word choice (would someone living during this time period use this word?)
  • R- or X-rated vocabulary (also driven by historical factors–would someone living during this time use THAT word to describe THAT body part?)

Children’s Literature:

  • simpler sentence structure
  • various tones and styles depending on the subgenre and writer
  • less difficult or sophisticated vocabulary choices
  • G- or PG-rated vocabulary (with a few exceptions)

How do I make sure I don’t use the wrong language when I’ve switched from one genre to another?  

I switch up my reading list, too! When I’m writing middle grade fiction, I’m READING middle grade fiction. This not only helps me figure out what stories have been done and what stories still need to be written, it not only helps me see what’s popular within my genre, but it also immerses me in the language used to tell those stories in that genre, and so helps me use that language myself.

Difficulty 2–Different Themes

As I’ve already suggested, the themes for the genres I write in are crazy different. The themes of Romance are usually lust, love, and sexual awakening. The themes for children’s literature are coming of age, growing up, finding out who you are and where you belong, friendship, and family.

How do I make sure I nurture the right themes when I switch genres?

Maya Rodale’s Dangerous Books for Girls is a great place to start learning about the themes of romance novels. Not read it? Do!

I consider my audience. When I write middle grade fiction, I’m writing about kids and for kids between 8 and 12, roughly, and that demographic can be refined even more depending on the type of book I’m writing. A child audience is going to be concerned with what they are experiencing–the horrors and embarrassments of puberty, the frustrations of having clingy or unhip parents, the terrors of moving to a new school or of moving away from all your friends.

But when I’m writing romance, I’m writing about adult women for adult women. Their concerns are vastly different. We might still be concerned with growth, but it’s going to be less “growing up” and more an awakening of identity and self within a strict and oppressive social hierarchy. A penniless servant, for example, might fall in love with a wealthy duke who’s engaged to marry an Earl’s daughter.  And, of course, there’s always the sexual awakening, where the innocent, virginal Miss realizes she wants love to come in the well-chiseled form of the guy whose kiss makes her want more.

Difficulty 3–Different Agents 

This bit of info can be found anywhere you look for advice on finding an agent–not all agents are the same. Those who dig romance may not dig children’s literature, and vise versa.

How do I make sure I’m pitching to the right agent?

I use a two step process:

  1. be aware that the same agents and/or publishers that are interested in middle grade fiction may not be interested in romance
  2. adjust your search terms and mindset accordingly. You’re going to type in “agents for romance” or even more specifically in my case, “agents for regency romance” instead of “middle grade fiction agents” when looking for possible representation.

Final Thoughts of a Genre Hopper

These are just three of the major things you’ll want to consider if you write in different genres. If you’re like me, you’ll have a ton of other considerations to make, like word count (longer for romance), plot, content, character.

All of these things differ because of genre, not just because of audience. You can find coming of age books written for adult readers that aren’t romances, and you can find kids books that aren’t necessarily about growing up.

The important thing to remember is that you have to immerse yourself in the genre as you’re writing it. As you’re writing it, research it, read it, and make connections with others who know the genre as well or better than you do. I’ve joined an online writer’s group through Writer’s Dialogue, and I plan on submitting a short story in the romance genre to a contest held in October by writing site 2Elizabeths!

It may take some work and concentration to rearrange my mind in order to write in another genre successfully, but I think the mental calisthenics are worth it! What about you?

Do you write in different genres? We’d love hearing about it in the comments!

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