Writing Genres

There is a perception among many writers that the rules of writing change from genre to genre and a writer can only truly master one genre.

Unfortunately, that is just one opinion.

In 1972 there was an interesting book by an author who had sold moderately well by the name of Dean Koontz. Since that time, of course, he has done much better for himself.

I got a copy of the book way back then and read it, a couple of different times. What he wrote was so simple, so elegant, so logical, that it made perfect sense.

The rules of writing do not change from genre to genre. The stylized formats may change but the writing itself must follow the same rules as any other well written work: character development, plot, conflict, and so forth.

One does not have to learn an entirely new artform when changing genres. But one should be familiar with the styles currently represented in the field.

Mister Koontz then went on to show how this worked by taking the same basic story line and re-writing it in several different genres. It was ingenius.

Anyone who has mastered the basics of writing well should be able to convert the story into a different genre, if need be. The styles of the new genre woulod have to be studied (of course!) but other than that small adjustment, there should really be no problem.

As always, it helps to read a lot in that genre and write pieces to test with readers of the genre but none of that is a very hurdle.

Of course, you first have to master writing. And character development.

The rules do not change merely because you changed the sets or the costumes. People are – and always will be – people.

A Mountain of What’s-in-a-Name

Robert A. Heinlein wrote under several pen-names for various reasons. Stephen King wrote under a pseudonym as an intellectual exercise.

I was not attempting anything like a world record or anything but I had a few more than those two… combined.

Yes, at one point, I had seventy-one pen-names, but I have since greatly reduced that number. A lot of people may not understand why I had so many… I mean, what was the purpose? Why would one person need that many “aliases” if not for… well, some purpose that is not entirely aboveboard.

Actually, it was never intended to mislead people or to try and hide my identity. It was geared for the print publishing industry… that is, for when I ever got published. I wrote a LOT of different styles and for a wide variety of genres, as well as had a rather large output – I have written a 100,000+ word novel in eight days.

In the regular print industry, publishers expected an author to do a book a year… tops. In some special circumstances they might do more but nothing on the order of what I saw my output being when – and if – I was writing full time as a career.

Also, several agents had suggested I utilize a different name for each genre, in order to more completely “brand” myself as an author of a particular genre. It made sense… at the time. And so that is how I approached the business. Each genre had a different “persona” writing the material.

As time went along, I was able to create a biography for most of the different names. Yes, just as an author would do for the characters in their stories – creating a rather lengthy and involved “backstory” that may never see the light of the printed page – I created the “backstory” of each of the pen-names, being able to draw from each one’s “personal history” for use in their stories.

But the print media never “discovered” me or my multi-personality disorder and I have since gone the indie route to publishing. And as the books were written under different names, that’s the way I have started publishing them. But now it seems that the entire exercise was a waste of time.

Sure, it helps keep track of the genres and makes it less confusing for the readers – who wants to read a good sci-fi yarn and then find your “favorite author’s” new book is a romance? Or a mystery? Or a gruesome horror tale? Certainly readers use a little more latitude in their decision-making processes but would it be too much of a stretch to make all the genres by a single name?

Anyway, after much thought on the subject, I have trimmed to list of all the names that have not been published in one form or another, which leaves me with the much more manageable roster of nineteen pen-names. Basically a single name per genre. Does anyone see this as still too many or is the issue really a non-issue?

Should they all be by the same name and merely announce the genre on the cover? Such as “A Horror Tale by” and another: “An Historical Urban Fantasy Western Juvenile Cozy Mystery”?

Or is a name-per-genre about par for the course?

Any thoughts?