Thursday, October 17, 2013

Genre Monogamy

Part-time Whore Jane Kindred is here for one final week before Allison returns. 

And this week, I’m going to be the killjoy. I believe in genres. Which is not to say that I think they can’t be crossed, mixed, mashed, twisted, and turned on their heads—but I still respect them as classifications with innate value. Among other things, they’re for readers to know what they’re getting. Most romance readers don’t want to read 1,000-page sword and sorcery fantasies. And the reverse is also usually true. As a reader, you learn to trust a certain voice, to look for more by an author whose voice you’ve come to love, and if that voice suddenly changes, it can feel like a betrayal.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I think blending genres or writing in related genres or subgenres is great. Where I have issues is when writers try to write all over the map. I’m sure there are some who can do it well, but I see a lot of unestablished writers who don’t seem to be developing a strong voice in one genre or another. Sometimes it looks like throwing everything at the wall to see what will stick. It also feels a lot like writing only for the money. It’s one thing to write for money, hence this blog’s name, but writing only for money just leaves me cold. Writing is something I will always do for love first, with the hope that one day, the money will come along as a bonus.

Years ago, when I was taking photography in college, I remember one particular assignment midway through the semester where I was shocked to find I’d gotten a D. I’d started the semester with As and Bs, but my grades with each assignment had been dropping just a bit lower, until this one kicked me in the gut. I thought I was doing something interesting, making sure all of my photos were different, exploring different techniques, being adventurous. My instructor asked me what was interesting about my photos and I had to admit as I stared at them on the table in front of him, I didn’t have an answer. I think I said something like, “well, they’re diverse.” He replied that I needed to learn how to do one thing well before I tried doing everything. He also explained that it was the hallmark of a mature artist to develop a recognizable style. At 20, that concept hadn’t even occurred to me until he said it to me that day and I began to look around at all the artists I loved and realize why I loved them.

That lesson stuck, for good or ill. I’m still trying to get good at what I do. For the most part, I write epic fantasy with a somewhat urban/paranormal flavor. While I’ve also written erotica, I prefer when the fantasy and the erotica are in the same package. That’s what works for me as a writer. When I write erotica without fantasy, I can do it technically well, but my heart isn’t in it. I’ve also tried writing romance (with and without erotic elements) without the fantasy or paranormal, and it just falls flat. Maybe it’s just that I’m not as multi-talented as other writers, but I feel strongly that I need to love what I write. If other writers who hop genres truly love what they’re writing, then maybe it works. But for me, I find it difficult to divide my love and attention. Maybe I’m actually a monogamist after all.


  1. "He also explained that it was the hallmark of a mature artist to develop a recognizable style."

    I think there are quite a few of us still searching for that -- the recognizable style without the recognizable story.

    Thanks for taking over the Thursday slot, Jane! It's been a joy having you here.