Sometimes I think my life would be simpler if I could just stick to writing one genre.
So I am (happily) reconciled to being a multi-genre writer, as I am a multi-genre voracious reader too.
In today's article, Mackenzie Belcastro gives some tips for embracing your multi-genre self.
Wearing two (or more) hats can be a tricky business, especially when it comes to writing.
We like to put each other into boxes with large, clear labels. “Science fiction writer,” “journalist,” even “blogger” today will do.
But what happens when you attempt to don two hats, to glue an additional label to your box?
If slapped on carelessly, you risk confusing the market, jeopardizing your reputation, and threatening the sales of your work. But, if pressed on gingerly, with care and intention, you may find yourself on your way to joining the club of which Ursula K. Le Guin, Joan Didion, and Neil Gaiman belong.
That is, the club of the multi-genre writer.
How does one do this? In answer, here are four tips to help guide you.
#1 Know your goals
Each hat requires its own set of goals. Here are some common examples:
- I am a blogger looking to build a name for myself in order to speak/coach/teach
- I am a journalist working toward writing for The New Yorker or The Paris Review
- I am a novelist looking to land a three-book contract
- I am a poet looking to go on a worldwide book tour
- I am a screenwriter looking to write a screenplay that may be picked up by Hollywood
Write yours down.
*If you don’t know where to start, sit quietly for a while until honesty whispers into your ear. Not enough? Take out your trusted pencil and begin to free-write. Let it come out. It will.
#2 Noms de Plume
Goals in hand we may find ourselves facing the age old question: to pen name, or not to pen name?
Do so only if you deem it absolutely necessary. In other words, if you truly risk confusing your readers, or tarnishing a delicate reputation.
This may be if you’re a children’s author branching out into erotica, or you’re a literary author dipping your toes into the pool of YA fantasy.
If there’s no real risk, don’t have a pen name. It’s intense work building two author brands. So, why add to your already heaping plate if you don’t have to?
#3 Cultivate intentional communities
Aside from your craft, your community is everything. They are your support, your feedback, your patrons, and sometimes even your inspiration. Cultivating and nurturing this community is crucial.
Here are some tips on where to focus if you’re getting started:
- Journalists: focus on meeting editors in person
- Bloggers: focus on e-meeting fellow bloggers and influencers
- Novelists going the traditional publishing route: focus on meeting agents and publishers in both online and offline realms, through industry events (try MeetUp) and via personalized email (canned will be promptly deleted)
- Indie authors: focus on spreading your net wide; build a solid relationship with your readers, connect with indie editors, and seek out mentors—those who have done what you aspire to do
*Your communities may overlap here and there. This is fine, even expected.
As for a web presence, you may choose to have multiples of everything. That’s two websites, two email lists, and two social media personas.
Those of you that went down the pen name route, you must do this. If you have not, you may think of clever ways to merge your two hats, if possible.
Ryan Holiday, for instance, sends out an email once a month recommending books, sometimes throwing in one of his own.
Ultimately, use your judgement—cherish your readers, but don’t forget you are but one person. Be realistic.
#4 Make a schedule
Whether you presently wear two hats, or want to, bear in mind you can only wear one at a time. This may look like working in seasons — a year on one book, a year on another.
Or it may look like divvying up your week — Monday to Friday the journalist hat comes on, Saturday and Sunday the novelist hat replaces it.
Your routine will be unique to your lifestyle and your goals. The important thing is to have one. Regularity and repetition are your friends.
As Mary Oliver says, “The patterns of our lives reveal us. Our habits measure us. Our battles with our habits speak of dreams yet to be come real.”
Frustration & Fear
You may feel distressed. You may question whether you’re a writer at all if you don’t fit into a box. You may feel many things.
When the overwhelm begins to eat away at you, do this: pause.
There’s no use, after all, in beating yourself up for desiring more from your craft than the confines of one small box. The truth is writers write. Sometimes in one vein, sometimes in another.
While others may tell you that you fit this mould or that, it is you and only you that knows what is best. Trust your gut. Accept it’ll change.
At the end of the day, what really matters is not your label but your craft. Write well.
If you do feel like you want to leave one box for another, know that you can. It goes back to number one: set that goal. Learn what you will need to do. Start to take those steps.
Baby steps, dear writer.
Great things take time.
Do you write in multiple genres? If so, how do you manage your pen names? Please leave your thoughts below and join the conversation.
For more from her visit MackenzieBelcastro.com. Or connect with her on Twitter and Instagram at @mackbelcastro.
[Hats photo courtesy Joshua Coleman and Unsplash.]