I used to think that writers were born with a writing skill.
End of story.
But I’ve since changed that point of view.
(Okay, I needed to get that off my chest.)
You may or may not have a talent for writing, but you can develop it. It requires hard work. I’ve also learned that a certain streak of stubbornness coupled with the development of a thick skin really helps.
So the no#1 issue on my mind is - genre. There are a variety of genres to choose from, sci-fi, romance, horror, mystery/suspense and I’ve noticed that most writers find their niche all wrapped in one. To make a comparison, it’s specialist versus the handyman. A specialist is highly skilled. The handy man has knowledge of a number of jobs required around the workplace, like a little bit of plumbing, some electrical, some painting, a little carpentry. A jack-of-all-trades, he has basic knowledge and knows a little something about them all.
In general, writing can be like either, specialist or jack-of-all-trades. Even the great writers will break form or genre from time-to-time. Just look at Fantasy author JK Rowlings of Harry Potter fame, who has recently revealed that she is actually Robert Galbraith, the writer behind The Cuckoo’s Calling, which is a detective novel. The great poet and dramatist, Oscar Wilde, known for his clever, pithy sayings, penned one work of fiction, The Picture Of Dorian Gray.
Reality check. Not just anyone can become a JK Rowlings or Oscar Wilde, even with development. But you can grow as a writer, get published and feel a sense of personal pride... and even become a fairly well-known author... who knows?
It has been said that newbie writers shouldn’t worry too much about genre. They should focus on getting words on the paper. Let the genre manifest itself as the writing develops...
That’s good and well. But we need to think ahead.
I am no master when it comes to the publishing process, but I always say – logic prevails. So further down the line, logic tells me that playing coy with your genre may present a three fold problem. As a reader, I have no idea if it’s a book I like. As a book seller, I have no idea where to put it on the shelf. As a publisher, I have no idea if it’s a genre I represent or if there’s enough of a market to justify the time/money that accompanies the publishing of your book.
A writing buddy once said to me: Write what you want to say. Worry about the genre once it's finished, not earlier. And who cares if you end up not fitting in any specific genre? There's always *literary* Or maybe you'll invent a new genre of your own: "In the tradition of the marvellous Writer-In-Transit's unimitable style…."? Ha! Yeah... right...
So back to the question of choosing genre. I’ve heard a writer say that she did not choose a genre, but the genre chose her. Fascinating thought. Maybe I should just continue with my flash fiction pieces and wait for a genre to come knocking on my door?
Eeeeeeeeeeek! It’s you. *takes one look at my face and bolts*
You get the idea?
But to be serious, I’ve always imagined that I would write mystery/suspense. But that’s only because it’s my preferred reading genre. Is that reason enough? I don’t know. Probably is. I do know that I feel comfortable writing in this genre.
So what if you decided that you wanted to try something in another genre. Where do you start? When stuck for inspiration, anyone can use a picture, word, statement, or even an idiom/proverb as a starting point, for example: “between the devil and the deep blue sea.”
Now, if you want to create a story from that, do you take it literally and write a non-fiction about the freedom of choice and the difficulty that lies therein? Or maybe a sci-fi story featuring parallel universes and a devil attempting to take over a planet? What about a Seussical-styled tale filled with rhythm and rhyme. Or a fantasy about merfolk and a devil? Or a steampunk adventure with a steam-powered boat? What about a romantic suspense/thriller, involving a devilish rogue, which takes place aboard a luxury liner? The possibilities are endless. A simple prompting word or phrase can take you to so many different places. You need to begin to see the world from differing perspectives.
So does that mean I’ll be writing a horror or sci-fi story some time in the future? Probably not. The point is that we need to stretch the imagination... experiment... get out of your comfort zone... keep an open mind... it’s not only about genre, but also about growth!
Develop different ideas.
Put them together.
Your story starts to take shape.
That’s a large part of the growth process... and the essence of good story-telling.