I write contemporary romance novels, and I love reading them as much as I love writing them. I also love to read historical westerns, military suspense, and fantasy. And I don’t just write novels – I’ve written devotionals, essays, and dozens of local news features. I like all of these experiences because I know they’re all helping make me a better contemporary romance novelists. It’s all about versatility.
V is for Versatility
Lots of experts say to read outside of your genre, so I’m doing it. This year I’ve read my first memoir, my first Ray Bradbury and, I’m almost embarrassed to admit it, my first Hemingway. Definitely not like anything I’ve ever read before, but so revealing. I’ve seen old and new authors follow and break ‘the rules’. I’ve read great Deep POV, bad analogies, and beautiful dialogue. I’m learning about all kinds stories.
I plan to keep up this discovery in literature, but I don’t think reading outside of my genre is enough. I think every writer needs to try his or her pen at something completely different.
I’m not just referring to other fictional outlets. Short stories and other genres are great experience, but they’re still the same general principle. I think everyone needs to explore the unfamiliar realm of non-fiction.
When I started pursuing publication for my first manuscript, I realized that I needed more general writing experience. I decided to take any by-line I could get, fiction or not. That left me writing for a free local weekly paper (how’s that for adjectives?). I wanted by-lines at any cost, including planning commission meetings.
I’ve also covered school board and township board meetings. I’ve conducted interviews with actors who can talk about their work for hours and teachers who answer in five word sentences because they like to focus on the students more than themselves. I’ve written about things that I enjoy and policies that I can’t stand. I’ve had to cut 1200 words down to 500 and try to expand 200 words into 600.
Now I’m getting ready to wrap up manuscript #3 and I’m more confident than ever. I know how to meet deadlines and word counts. I’m okay with editors making changes. I’ve also learned a lot about people and their careers. All of this will eventually make its way into my novel writing.
I know that I have a lot yet to learn (and practice), but I also know that by reading and writing so many different styles on a regular basis, I’m learning (and practicing) my skill set every day. I could focus only on contemporary romance, but why limit myself? I’m not just a romance novelist – I’m a writer. I want to be the best writer I can possibly be, so I plan to continue my study in versatility.
QUESTION: Have you trapped yourself in a genre hole? How can you become more versatile?