Wide Load

There’s an interesting discussion thread going on at John Rickards forum these days, and oddly enough it has nothing to do with monkeys or dirty old ladies. The question is whether authors ever get bored of writing in the crime genre:

Not another carefully-constructed character piece about Lives Gone Horribly Wrong? Not another Life On The Skids gloomy crime story? Just once I wish I could write something about dinosaurs/a grocer’s shop in Walthamstow/the Boxer Rebellion.

It’s an interesting question because, almost without exception, every crime author I know reads widely in the genre and across several others. Whether it be graphic novels, literary fiction, non0fiction, romance, or time-traveling character studies of small inbred mammals, the influences and inspirations are broad. But of those same authors, I don’t know of many who write outside their genre very often.

Sarah and I were sort of talking about this the other day. Both of us were a bit sick of writing what we were writing and admitted that if market and publishing concerns weren’t a factor at all, we’d both probably be writing very different things. My desire to write the great America chick lit novel is widely known in these parts. But what does that have to do with genre boredom?

I have actually written quite a bit in the short form outside of genre. that’s mostly because I was in a university creative writing program that frowned suspisciously on anything with plots or guns or strippers. But I mentioned to Sarah that I think this is how genres are reinvented. I think authors take on forms and genres they might love to read and mix in their other inspirations. You mix your sci-fi interests and your romance interests and such and voila, a new sub-genre is born. Or you fail miserably because you can’t be categorized. Okay, maybe this theory needs further exploration.

So how do you all avoid boredom with the genre you’ve chosen?

3 thoughts on “Wide Load

  1. I started to comment last night, but realized my answer required a bit more thought.See, I write for a living and have for 30+ years. The stuff I write includes print ads, TV spots, short corporate films, documentaries, medical copy, brochures, your Aunt Martha’s birthday card and the occasional matchbook cover.I’ve also ghost-written two novels and I’m currently writing a direct-to-DVD feature that promises to be a real gobbler.That’s what I do for money.My books I write for love. I think about the market, sure, but it doesn’t dictate what I write, it just makes me wonder if what I write will sell. Sure, I’d love to write a blockbuster that would set me up so I wouldn’t have to write any more of the money crap, but I don’t know how to do that. I’m not sure anyone knows how to do that.So I write the stories that interest me (some of my short pieces are love stories), and I try to learn how to make them better along the way. It’s a slow process. As Chaucer said, “Life so short and the craft so long to learn.”No one asked my advice, but if you had I’d tell you to write what you love, not what you think will sell.But then, I have just the one book out while others in my class are on their third and fourth.To quote another of my favorite writers, Mr. Vonnegut, so it goes.

  2. Recently, I was prompted by an agent (who didn’t offer to represent me) to write a thriller. Starting with an email about two weeks earlier, and in earnest the night before Bouchercon, I was pulled aside over and over again in what I can only call an intervention. “Jim, why are you doing this? It’ll never work.”And they were right. I had a great hook and no characters. Frankly, if I don’t give a damn about the characters, no one will want to read it.I may drag this story back out and see if I can get it to work, but for now, the thriller in its current incarnation is dead.

  3. Argh! Didn’t finish my comment.Anyway, the thrust of everyone’s advice (all of them published or close to the publishing industry) was “Write what you love, not what someone tells you.”That won’t stop me from taking ghost writing assignments, tie-in assignments, or other stuff that’ll pay the bills. But I have to get to a certain point to get that kind of work.And I can only do that if the books I try to sell now are ones I believe in.[OK, now I’m done.]

Comments are closed.