21. Writing in Different Genres

Welcome to my blog on Writing in Different Genres.

What kind of an author are you?

When I started writing I wasn’t sure what sort of author I wanted to be. I had so many stories and characters inside my head that I didn’t know where to begin writing. But I relied on my gut instinct and discipline to guide me.

Writing a novel of 90,000 words can be a mammoth task. It’s a lot of solitary hours writing alone and I had to be as entertained as my readers. Very often I have several projects on the go at the same time. For example, I’m just publishing BOOK OF HOURS but I am also editing another book of short stories I hope to publish later in the year. I also have another love story that’s had several rewrites and needs a few more. Plus I still write new short stories.I consider it a lucky opportunity that I can write and experiment and practise my craft in any genre I chose.

Many writers and authors believe there are SEVEN basic plots to any story.

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Christopher Booker’s Seven Basic Plots are as follows:

1. Overcoming the Monster
2. Rags to Riches
3. The Quest
4. Voyage and Return
5. Comedy
6. Tragedy
7. Rebirth

His successful novel states that books / plays etc.. fall into these seven archetypal categories. Tales dating back through the ages from folk stories and ancient myths to popular and more modern TV soap operas and films all fall into these seven categories.
When you sit down and analyse them, he has a point.
Stephen King’s part memoir and part masterclass On Writing is also an inspirational book. It provides a practical view on the craft of writing and contains information that is interesting. He describes his near death experience and the effect it had on his writing.

If you know what genre you want to write in then the old adage of, read widely those writers that you would like to emulate, as their successful formula could work for you. It’s what publishers and agents are interested in. They know that authors like Patricia Cornwall and her protagonist in Dr Kay Scarpetta have been successful. Dick Frances had a winning formula with the horse racing / breeding world just as John Grisham was successful in the legal world. The book market also goes in trends – the current trend is crime noir.

Each of these authors fitted into Christopher Booker’s Seven Basic Plots (I’ll leave you to figure out which ones) and they have been successfully published over consecutive years which goes on to prove my second point.
Publishers and agents want an author who is capable of writing more than one book in that specific genre. It’s about sustaining the discipline of writing – it’s a job and, like most employment, it takes time effort and energy.

There are days when you don’t want to write. That’s normal and it’s human nature. When that happens to me I always vary my routine. I’ll do some research or I’ll go the the library or a coffee shop. I’ll have a change of scene from the normal place I write. I will also walk my puppy, cook dinner, meet friends or sit on the beach.
It’s about change and stimulation. It’s equally as important to let you mind free. Sometimes when you are picking up weeds – a plot point can suddenly be solved.

I try to write every day. Sometimes I can write a short story of 2,000 words (first draft) in two or three hours but on the days when it doesn’t flow, I don’t panic.
I buy different newspapers to have a more balanced and informative view on the world. I’ll tear out articles that are of interest and keep them in a special file. In my file, I might find another idea for a short story or a saved article that might be relevant to my current novel. Then when I get an idea and that tingling excitement creeps into my body, I have the urge to grab my laptop and write.

That’s when it’s all worth while. Once you’ve worked out what genre you want to write in, then read around ideas, and create your own file. BUT nothing is cast in stone. You can always change your mind and write in another genre.

That’s the excitement of writing. You can turn a comedy into a quest and a romance into tragedy.
REMEMBER: You may have finished your novel but you might have to ditch the first couple of chapters and get straight to the action in the first pages. Hook the reader in.  Entertain them. Keep them wanting to turn the pages – no matter what genre you’re writing.

Next blog post: The Trusted Reader.

Christopher Booker, Seven Basic Plots
Stephen King, On Writing
The Guardian, Writing Tips by Other Authors

Janet Pywell

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