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Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Writing in one genre, or branching out? Considering the order in which you write your work

From 123rf.com

Anyone will tell you--you can google this topic, if you want--that you should write in one genre to establish yourself as an author before you try to branch out. It's why J.K. Rowling used a pseudonym when she wrote a contemporary after finishing Harry Potter. It's why screenwriters routinely learn to have at least three scripts in the same genre finished before they go shopping for agents or producers. Establish your name, your brand, because you are a commodity.

In many ways, this is good advice, but I want to pause and talk a moment about goals before you go on with your day and take it.

What is your writing goal? To become a full-time, self-sufficient author who lives off royalties? NYT best-seller list? Or do you just have one story you just want to see on the shelves? Maybe your goal's just, "published author," and you've discovered that it's HARD to get there, and one-shotting it doesn't usually get the job done, so you've had to write several things you care less about to try to build a career for the one thing. Whatever your goal is...

You need to pick your career path, and your publishing plan, to maximize your shot at achieving your goal, and this means that you need to tailor the advice you take and the statistics you follow according to that goal.

I love that kind of "follow one genre advice" because I'm a total nerd about the business side of writing. I love exploring figures and agents and analyses of author's ages (did you know most people write their NYT bestseller in their fifties?). I'm a professional, published author and I'm damn proud of it--

BUT I NEVER want to go back to writing full-time to make a living. I did it, I proved I could do it, and I'm glad I did it because I learned so much about why I want a more active lifestyle. (You can learn more about the pros and cons of writing for a living hereSo for me, the goal is not to make a full-time living out of my writing career, which means I can take the whole career a bit slower, maybe, than some of you can. I am following the "stick to one genre" advice loosely, because I do want to establish a name, so most of my short stories have a speculative element in them--I'm an SFF writer--BUT I'm also tailoring this advice to meet my specific needs. My needs are more focused on supporting certain works that are important to me, than on supporting the identity of an author per se, because I have certain things I need to write before I die. It's about the stories, not about me. 

Your goal's probably vastly different than mine, but my message to YOU is that maybe you don't want to arrange your writing queue only by genre. Maybe consider:
  •  difficulty (do I have the skills to write this piece as it deserves yet? What pieces can I write as practice before I get there?), 
  • timeliness (when will this have the biggest impact? Am I following or leading a writing trend?), 
  • platform (does this abortion piece really work with my overall career right now, or do I want to build credibility as a doctor first), 
  • current published repertoire (how well does this piece fit will previous pieces I've written? Can I cross-pollinate, and use it to market other pieces?)
  • past readership (will this piece, written for a certain audience like contemporary romance, alienate my SFF readers down the line if they discover it? How do I manage, for example, Christian audiences I attract with my more philosophical work, who'll then read my horror and dick-jokes and freak out?)
  • publishing styles (maybe my traditional publishing's all science fiction, but what if I build a separate name for myself in the self-pub world in romance? It's easier to self-pub if you're building off a platform you already have, but can I maybe build a marketing plan to mitigate that?)
  • representation (will I screw over an SFF-based agent by branching out into my ideological gay/lesbian contemporary romantic treatise that she doesn't know how to sell? How can I build a separate platform for that romance over the next ten years so that by the time it comes out I'm not hurting myself and those who work with me? Am I too widely branched to really get an agent? Or, on the other hand, should I focus on several kinds of agents for several works? Better look up the preferences for each agent to see if they want to rep ALL an author's works or just one!)
And things like that.

Career authors are big right now. You have to show the world that you're here to stay, in some way, and building a genre repertoire's a great way to do that. But if you're like me, and you're going to branch out, consider building a separate career plan for each genre. "These short stories will support this novel which I'll time around this career move in my outside life to build credibility"--just an ideal "queue" of releases to create deadlines for you to write towards. I don't always put release dates into my plans--sometimes you just gotta pants your life, too--but I do have my genre plans woven around my MD and interlacing with each other in time. "This kickstarter for this smaller project will help me practice for that kickstarter for that film project in a different genre!" 

Anyway, that's just a thought. Like I always say, I'm just a kid--so if you have any tips for me on this planning stuff, or you're a multi-genre author, share your ideas below! What are your goals? How do you plan your writing career? Where do you see yourself in ten years--and more importantly, what are you going to do TODAY to get there?

Looking forward to hearing your thoughts (so don't leave me hanging).

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