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Writing Outside Your Genre: Why It's Okay To Ditch The Fear And Follow Your Muse

Have you ever brainstormed a new idea that you'd love to turn into your next novel, but are afraid of doing so because you're not sure what your readers will think? Whether you're a new writer or an established one, you may be hesitating to move your manuscript forward because it doesn't fit your idea of what you write, who you write for, or what your overall writing goals are. Regardless of the reasons why you may be holding back, we're here to tell you why it's okay to ditch the fear and follow your muse.

Ditch The Fear:

Let's take a moment to think about what keeps us from pursuing that awesome idea that we'd love to write. For a new writer, it might be that you're worried it doesn't fit in alignment with your future goals. You've got that perfectly sculpted, planned to the nines idea in your head of what an author is and what that looks like. Perhaps you see yourself as a romance writer, but this fascinating new idea that keeps waking you up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat is a horror novel that could rival Stephen King's famous works. On the flip side, maybe you're a well-known author who has several novels to your name and all of a sudden you find yourself bored. Instead of wanting to write the next installment of a planned series, you find the poetry book you've always wanted to write singing its siren's song. You refuse to write it, justifying the decision because it won't fit in with your author brand and what your readers know you for. In both scenarios, each author might be thinking the same thing: I can't write this, who would read it?

The problem is that the longing to follow your muse doesn't just dissipate if you ignore it. The old adage if you can't have something, you'll want it more comes to mind and story-telling is no exception to the rule. Likely you've been daydreaming about your idea for quite some time, constantly pushing it to the back of your mind, having it interrupt at the the worse possible moments (like when you're in bed or in the shower), plaguing you with the shiny temptation of what could be rather than letting you focus and be content with what you're currently working on.

The worry that holds you back is nothing more than a mirage, a cruel trick your ego plays on you because of self-doubt and insecurity. It's the perception that things won't work out if you try, that you'll fail and it'll all be for nothing. It's the fear that your audience doesn't want to hear what you have to say, which makes writing your new story that much more daunting. Let's think about that for a moment. Your army of loyal readers, who have read every word, in every line, in every paragraph, in every book you've ever written- and loved it all- won't read your newest idea? We're calling out this line of negative thinking for the distortion that it truly is. Not writing your novel because no one will read it is a fear-based decision. It's also wildly untrue.

If you think no one will read your newest idea because it's not "on brand" or because it's not what your readers would normally read, then your perspective might be a bit skewed. Undoubtedly these notions have been formed by all the marketing blogs you've read and the advice you've heard other authors repeat like broken records. But when you stop to analyze why these things are said and then compare it to the changing market of today's publishing industry, you can begin to sort out fact from fiction.

So what are the facts, really?

When you're traditionally published, publishers and agents will produce material that they feel match the theme of what's popular within each genre, tailor your work to fit their specific following, and market your novel based on current reading trends. This means that there's less transfer for authors to write within multiple genres and still be traditionally published. This is mainly due to how books are marketed and that publishers want authors who have found success within their genres to stay successful (mainly because it makes them more money). For Indie authors, who have much more creative freedom, the rules are still passed down. Most self-published authors become their own marketing team, which leads to advise-seeking and feeling like they have to follow the norm because they want to be taken seriously and earn money in exchange for their hard work (another deep-seated fear).

The bottom line is that this perpetuates the stagnation we often see writers fall into. It's the reasoning behind that gut-clenching fear that keeps authors from living their creative dreams to the fullest. The truth is that not every reader will like what you write. Not every reader who likes one type of story will like another. But don't let that stop you from writing the story that's in your heart.

Follow Your Muse:

It's time to follow your muse. What is it telling you? If your muse is pointing in the direction of your new story, it's time to let it guide you like a compass guides a ship at sea. It's time to throw caution and your worries to the wind and explore where this new adventure will lead you. Doesn't that sound exciting? We think so!

It's time to address how to get over that fear of losing your readership (whether imaginary or real). The thing to keep in mind is the answer to this next question: What do you like to read? Chances are as a reader you don't just stick to one genre, one author, or one type of story. You've probably dipped your toes into many different stories written in various styles, with themes that span the globe. So if this is the case, doesn't it stand to reason that your readers do the same? Makes a little too much sense, right? If this is true, it means that your readers (like you) crave variety. What better way to give them that than by providing a fresh new novel that they've never seen from you before.

Because here's the thing, your readers like your work because it comes from YOU. Not because you write the same kind of story each time or because you stick to one genre. They read because they like your voice, style, approach, themes, characters, and all those little details that make your stories uniquely yours. These things don't disappear the moment you cross the genre line, and neither will your readers.

Still having trouble believing us? Here's a list of well-known, best-selling authors who have written in multiple genres and garnered success (arguably because they didn't stick to the norm).

  • Augusten Burroughs

  • Neil Gaiman

  • Stephen King

  • Anne Rice

  • Philip Roth

  • Jacqueline Woodson

  • Emma Donoghue

  • Isabel Allende

  • Jennifer Egan

  • Lisa See

  • Margaret Atwood

  • J. K. Rowling

  • Joyce Carol Oates

There are many more, of course. So what are you waiting for? Chase your muse and explore where your writing takes you. We promise your readers will follow.

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