If you’re a writer, you probably have a favorite genre, right? Maybe you’re one of the rare writers who enjoys writing poetry just as much as you enjoy writing mystery novels and feature articles.
I wish I could remember the first genre I began writing. I was a kid, so it was mostly likely a strange combination of words I strung together with bright, chunky markers. What I do remember is lying awake at night as I wrote little poems and ongoing stories in my head, captivated by the characters I created with my imagination. To me, they were real.
When I studied writing in college, I knew I had to get serious and choose one genre to study. Serious writers learn their craft inside and out, and I decided it was time to focus. So what did I do?
The least practical, least profitable genre of all.
Don’t get me wrong; I loved writing poetry. I still do. It will always be a creative outlet for me, and getting nominated for a Pushcart Prize was an incredible honor that I still haven’t fully comprehended.
Through college, I wrote nonfiction regularly. Eventually, I started dabbling in fiction, too. The more I wrote, the more I realized how beneficial it was to not limit myself by genre. Just because I studied one didn’t mean I couldn’t write others well, too.
Whether you write just for fun or for profit, here are some benefits of writing in multiple genres:
Writing in multiple genres flexes your creative muscle. The same techniques you use for writing a novel aren’t always the same techniques you use for writing a personal essay or a poem. Writing in each genre allows you to practice different techniques for communicating effectively. When you know what works well for each, you can figure out how to translate those techniques across genres effectively.
Writing in multiple genres provides a creative outlet. Say you write personal finance ebooks for a living. You’ve mastered the craft of informative nonfiction, but you’re aching to write something a little more creative. Spending an hour each day writing in a different genre will help satisfy that creativity craving, but it will also expand your nonfiction writing skills. Study storytelling, plot, and character development. Write short stories. Outline your first novel. Storytelling is effective for every genre, so it’ll be a good investment of your time.
Writing in multiple genres provides income. Not everyone writes for a living, but let’s say you want to. You know what’ll sell, but it’s not necessarily what you want to write. (Remember how I chose to study poetry in college? Yeah. That.) That’s okay, because if you’re in it for the joy and the income, you can still make it work. Pen names exist for a reason, and there are plenty of authors out there writing in multiple genres under multiple pen names and making diversity work for them. You know how they say you shouldn’t put all of your eggs in one basket? That’s solid advice for writers, too.
Writing in multiple genres allows you to explore different publishing options. One of my goals as a novelist is to try indie publishing and traditional publishing to find out what works best for me as I work toward my writing and publishing goals. I plan to self-publish my With Love series as I seek representation for another novel I’m currently writing. On the other hand, I have no plans to self-publish my poems. I write those for fun, and occasionally I enter them in contests and submit them to literary journals. And the nonfiction? That happens right here, on this blog, this blog, and this blog. (I’m gonna need more coffee.)
Writing in multiple genres allows you to explore both the literary and commercial writing worlds. Literary writers will probably cringe at this, but you don’t always have to sacrifice a successful writing career to stay true to yourself. Yes, there’s a chance that what you want to write isn’t marketable enough to make a living. (I’m looking at you again, poetry.) But if you’re willing, you can make yourself more marketable by writing exactly what people want to read. Some might call that selling out. I call it savvy business ownership. Write under a pseudonym, if that helps. Then you can continue on your way to winning that Pulitzer for your literary novel without worrying about diluting your personal brand or losing your spot in the Elliptical Poets Club.*
No matter what you write, branching out into different genres is good practice. It’s like varying your exercise routine. You might run four days a week, do Pilates or lift weights the other two, and take a day off. Your main goal might be improving as a runner. But ultimately your efforts work together to burn fat, build muscle, and make you a stronger, healthier human overall.
Likewise, you may want to write paranormal romance novels for a living. Studying, reading, and writing in other genres can help you flex your creative muscles, expand your storytelling skills, help you become a well-rounded writer — and ultimately, help you achieve your personal writing goals.
*I don’t know if that’s a real thing, but if it is, let me grab my fedora and my venti soy latte and sign me up.
Do you write in multiple genres? How has it helped you become a better writer? Let me know in the comments below! And before you go, don’t forget to download your free copy of The Complete Social Media Cheat Sheet for Novelists!