Wednesday’s Rambling Writer – Why We Write What We Write + ROW80

Last week I wrote a post on Why We Write (don’t worry if you missed it you can find it here). I thought this week I would extend this even further and look at Why We Write What We Write (whoa that’s a mouthful). If the meaning was lost among all that alliteration what I mean by that is how we select a genre for our novels.

For most people (and I stress most not everyone will fit into these categories) the what we write fits into one of two categories:

1. We write what we like

2. We write what we know

For some lucky souls they will write what they like and what they know.

Okay so I guess we should look at each of these individually:

1. We Write What We Like

How do you know what you like? You like what you read. If you walk into a book store (if you are lucky enough to find one that is still open) what section to you gravitate towards? Does the romance section lure your affection? Do you find yourself hunting for the latest mystery? Who are your favourite Authors? No doubt they are the ones you are aspiring to be like.

Of course you could always be like me and not really have a favourite genre. I am an eclectic reader. Thriller, Horror, Paranormal Romance I like to spread my affections around :). So does that mean that I should try my hand at writing multiple genres? Not at all, but I will get to that in a bit.

2. We Write What We Know

Ever wondered why the main characters in virtually all of John Grisham’s books are lawyers? Yes that’s right – John Grisham was a lawyer before he decided to try his hand at writing. Often writers of historical fiction have degrees in history. It is pretty simple if there is an area you know lots about, no matter how insignificant it might seem, not only will you  be able to write realistically in those areas without requiring months of research, but odds are you will enjoy it as well. I am a scientist and even when it isn’t intentional, tidbits of scientific knowledge filter their way into my books.

Okay, so we are writing what we like and what we know. So now you probably have a list of about 3-4 genres that you could write in (and that doesn’t include the hundreds of subgenres available). Here is the bad news – you need to pick one. WHAT?!? Yes, that’s right. You need to pick a single genre, your own niche in the market and concentrate on that. Why? Because if you are going to have a ‘brand’ as an author, readers need to be able to associate your name with your genre. Think back to my John  Grisham example, I can guarantee if you see his name on a novel you automatically know that it is going to be a legal thriller. Am I right? He has a brand.

Now, before you come back at me with the ‘I am never going to be a best selling author like John Grisham, I’m sure people won’t mind if I switch around between genres’. Are you sure? How would you feel if you read three thrillers from a particular author – that of course you loved because you have just picked up that author’s newly released fourth book – but hang on, it’s a romance!! Blech… And guess what? Now you are probably not going to buy book five even if the author has gone back to the thriller genre.

How do you pick a single genre out of the 3-4 you have narrowed it down to? Get ready for me to contradict myself. There may be better ways to acheive this but I would say – try writing all of them. Now maybe it isn’t the best idea to write an entire novel in 4 different genres, but perhaps try your hand at short stories in a range of genres and see what feels right. What do you enjoy writing? In what genre to the words literally flow onto the paper without you even having to think about it? And that, my friends, is what you are meant to right..oops… I mean write.

Do you write in one genre or multiple? Do you agree with my advice or would you like to meet me behind the bikeshed after school? (Just kidding I have a pathetic right-hook and I’m a bit of a fraidy-cat). What do you like to read? Do you write in the same genre? I would love to hear from you.

Okay, so now I am off to follow my own advice.

Oh… no wait. Almost forgot my ROW80 check in. My Round of Words in 80 Days campaign (refer here if you have no idea what I am talking about) is going great guns. Well sort of. My main goal to write a minimum of 500 words a day for 80 days is still going great. And this week I added in the additional goal that for the next few weeks (we only have just over 3 weeks to go!) I want to write 5000+ words for the week too. This week I didn’t comment on as many blogs as I would have liked and I still have finished reading We Are Not Alone but for the most part I think I did okay!

Word Counts for the week:

Thurs – 583

Fri – 606

Sat – 711

Sun – 1073

Mon – 539

Tues – 568

Wed – 1011

Total for the week = 5091

I hope you are doing well with your ROW80 goals as well. See you all next week.

Jody Moller

14 responses to “Wednesday’s Rambling Writer – Why We Write What We Write + ROW80

  1. Ugh, amazing work on your RoW goals! I’m envious but pleased that someone’s keeping up, even if it’s not me.

    I find your thoughts on genre to be interesting, because it’s something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. I know the advice to pick one genre and stick to it is sound advice, but it’s something I can’t help but feel compelled to be defiant about. The thought of being restricted in my writing in any way is just cringe-inducing for me, which I think is why my fantasy novels (since that’s the genre I lean towards more than others) are really light on the fantasy and heavy on just the characters and story. By keeping the fantasy elements to a minimum if possible, it feels like I might trick myself into not being tied down to that particular genre. It’s the same that, if I manage to get something to work on e-publishing here soon, I almost don’t want it to be genre fiction, because then perhaps I will not be basically marrying myself to a genre in an experiment.

    I’m an idealist, though. I do think that some authors have managed to play around with different genres, to varying degrees of success, but, ultimately, when I think about it, it comes down to one single question: “Why shouldn’t I just write what I want to write?” It might not be successful; perhaps not all of it will see the light of publishing. But it fits into my answer to the question of why I write: Because I like doing it.

    Needless to say, great post! If you couldn’t tell by my THREE PARAGRAPHS, it did a lot to get me thinking!

    • thanks for stopping by and commenting. So far with my writing I haven’t followed any of the rules listed above – I have written YA and adult; paranormal romance and contemporary. But I keep seeing everywhere that I need to stick to one – so that will be my job for the next few months I think – to pick one genre and stick to it for a while!!! I hope you have a good week ahead

  2. I like the way you’ve separated “what we read” (“what we like”) from what we write. Those are two different questions, though people often confuse them. I’ll give an example from another field.

    I used to be a musician and I’ve known a lot of musicians. Most play in a specific genre of music. If they play more than one, it’s usually not at the same time. But I’ve never met a musician who didn’t listen to a lot of different types of music. This tends to surprise civilians (non-musicians), but it is pretty much universally true.

    From my point of view, I agree with L.S.’s comment. I have no professional aspirations, so I write what I like. However, there is certainly a “brand” of sorts in my writing, since I always write about the same characters. My first novel was a mystery. My second was a gritty, urban magical realist novel (which had a murder mystery in it, but that wasn’t the main thing). Then I wrote a series of mystery stories. Now I’m working on my third novel, which doesn’t have a mystery in it, as far as I know now. But it does have the detective and her assistant, so there’s some continuity with the rest.

    • Thanks for stopping by Sheri – I am only just starting to wade through the immense list of blogs and visit some fellow campaigners websites. I have followed you on twitter. Are you on google +? We have set up a circle for campaigners.

  3. Great job with the goals!

    You know, this is definitely something that I’ve been kicking around, peeking at the genres that I’m writing and where my interests lie. I began blogging and ROW80 with the intention to write solely for the joy and freedom of creating: I didn’t want to even consider publishing, or building a brand, or considering any sorts of professional aspirations.

    The thing is, that’s changed slightly. I see now how my online activities do translate into building a platform of sorts, and now that my writer’s block seems to be in remission, the possibility of actually completing a novel or two doesn’t seem nearly as impossible as it did before.

    I’ve noticed that what I like to write is much more narrow than what I like to read. I like the example that Anthony uses above about music, because it’s definitely true. I enjoy a wide range of books, devour them like a starving person, but when it comes to writing, I notice a pattern. I like to craft stories with fantastical elements, whether in the form of magic or, say, steampunk technology. I like to write strong female characters, I love to weave in a romantic subplot or two, and I adore world-building. My work (at least in my imagination) has both vivid central characters and lush, intricate worlds, so when it comes to branding, those are going to be the elements that I try to draw upon.

    • Thanks Jamila. I am still completely envious of your 50K for campNaNo – I wish I could write that many words in such a short period of time. I hope you are having a good week.

  4. Jody, your achievements are fabulous…look at all those lovely words!! (Are some of them for your Dirty Fighting Contest entry?? *killing myself*)

    I write sassy women’s fiction/mainstream kinds of books. Plus I’m working on a high-risk pregnancy memoir. I read those sorts of books, but then i read EVERYTHING.

    • Thanks for stopping by Jenny. I still haven’t organised my entry for the dirty fighting contest (I had a quick look but picking a passage with only 150 words was so daunting I put it in the too hard basket – I might have to write a new passage instead I think 🙂 )

      • Jody,

        It’s funny…I made it short to try to be easier and every single person told me it actually made it harder. It has given me something to ponder. Next time (and Tiffany and I have already agreed there will be a next time) I’m lengthening to 250 words. The goal is to strip your writing down to essentials and add back in only what is important.

        The results and edits will be posted on the site on September 20th. 🙂

      • I didn’t end up getting a submission in Jenny (sorry :() I really wanted to but I have been sick and it was all too difficult. I look forward to reading other peoples posts though… (and I will definately enter next time)

  5. Hey Jody, I’m in your YA campaign group. Heck, I can’t stick to one format, much less one genre! I write screenplays, short stories, and novels, and the genres are all over the map. But I keep reading the same thing over and over about branding ourselves. If pinned down, I’d say my main genre is YA thriller (with romance….. and comedy… and mystery…), and I’ll just have to resign myself to picking fun pseudonyms if I want to pursue the other genres.

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