Writing in an unfamiliar genre can bring a boost to your attitude and a bump to your skills. We can always learn from other genres, from other styles of writing.
If you’re in a writing rut that you want to climb out of, a new genre may be just the push that will get you up and out into fresh air. Of course, you may enjoy your rut and consider it not a rut but a comfortable spot that fits you perfectly. And that’s perfectly fine. If you’re productive and creative and have more than enough to do, you may not have the time to try a new genre. After all, writing in a new genre will require extra time plus extra research and study on top of what you typically undertake for a new project. But if you have the time and the desire, if you have the urge to tackle a new genre or a new form of writing, if it’s time to shake up your writing life, I challenge you to do it.
If you write sci-fi, try a contemporary mystery. If you write romance, try a coming of age story. If you write mystery, tackle historical fiction. Explore the components of the genre you want to try. Read half a dozen popular books that exemplify the genre. Pull a couple of them apart to see what makes them suitable for the genre. Visit websites devoted to the genre. Learn what makes this other genre different from the genre(s) you typically write in. And then start planning your story.
You may want to create a detailed outline, at least one more detailed than usual if you’re typically a pantser. Give yourself a boost right from the start by figuring out your setup, at least some of it, ahead of time. If you’re writing a murder mystery, gather a cast of characters and make certain that each could potentially be the murderer. Figure out how the murderer did it and how he got away. Determine how the sleuth, amateur or pro, figures out who did it. Have fun devising clues and red herrings.
If you’re going to take on a romance, figure out what the hero and heroine will love about the other, what each has that the lover is attracted to or needs. Come up with original sidekicks for each. Devise a problem that will force the couple apart and an even bigger issue/event that will draw them back together despite their differences. Imagine why the lovers are attracted to one another and not to others.
If you want to try a literary novel, come up with a character whose psyche is worth delving into, a character readers will follow into the depths. Develop a character who’s multifaceted, who can’t be fathomed in five minutes. For any new genre, devise a fresh story world or look for ways to make a familiar world feel different, maybe alien.
What You Will Gain From This
Polish your known skills and lean on your natural gifts while at the same time searching yourself for abilities and affinities you didn’t know you possessed. Like one of your characters, push through the unfamiliar world, learning along the way. Recognize that a new experience requires not only new skills but a new outlook. Maybe a new understanding of the circumstances you’ve ventured into.
See if there aren’t ways that you’ve never explored for making setting more vibrant or important. Take the time to explore setting in fiction, looking for setting elements (such as politics or global events or social issues) that you’ve never before used in a story. Push yourself. Discover those hidden talents and commit to developing the new skills you’ll need to be successful with a genre new to you. Explore—see what’s available to aid you. Discover which parts of this new world most appeal to you and which you may have no use for, at least not right away.
And once your adventure is finished, once you’ve explored and written a novel in that new genre, take what you’ve learned back home with you. Don’t forget what you discovered outside of your original world. Put those discoveries to work for you and the books you write in your usual genre.