I was talking with two writer friends recently on retreat. One of them is a little less experienced. She was musing on what genre she might like to write in next. She is currently writing a Young Adult but is not certain that it’s a genre she wants write in all the time. She is keen to finish her YA book but she is also eager to explore other stories in different genres to see which one suits her best.
I suggested whilst still working on the YA novel, she experiments with some short stories and see if anything grabs her. Writing short stories would give her the ability to play with different genres and different ways of writing, new voices and new methods, without committing herself to the slog of a new novel.
In other words, she should rent the story house before she buys it and writes a novel.
With all the talk of finding one’s voice as a writer, I firmly believe the best way to do that is to set yourself the task of writing a series of short stories.
Write down the names of all the genres you can think of including mash ups, mix them all up and put them face down in a pile. Then write down the style – first person, third person, single viewpoint, multi viewpoint, experimental, repeating these as many times as you need to so that you have the same number as you have genres. Mix them up and place them face down in a separate pile. Finally write down a series of random words or phrases. Make sure you have as many random words or phrases as you do genres and turn them over.
Now, from each of the piles choose a piece of paper. For example:- Crime, Third Person, Sunny Day.
Bam! Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to go write that story and then the next one and the next one.
Some of the genres will not suit you. Some of the stories will be a struggle to write. Some you’ll never want to read again.
There will be stories which fall squarely in your wheelhouse and with which you’ll be completely comfortable. Though fun to write, these stories won’t tell you anything about who you are as a writer that you did not already know.
It’s the stories in between where the magic happens. Like putting on a comfortable coat, genres you have never tried before will totally suit your writing style, whole new areas of writing could open up to you as a result. The only limits on your imagination are the ones you put in place.
So next time you are stuck and not sure what style suits you or which genre to concentrate on, why not rent the story house for a bit and then you’ll know whether you want to buy it or not.