What's Your Story?

Where the magic (er, suffering) happens

As a fledgling writer, one of the things I continually wonder is in which genre I should be writing. I’m not sure how many other writers ask themselves this, but I’ve read in a number of places that its best to hone your craft to as close to perfection as you can in one genre first. Many new publishers and agents begin to think of you as “that” kind of writer, and if you throw something new at them early in your career their enthusiasm may wane or be non-existent, or they may simply not represent this new type of story and have no idea how to help you get it published or promoted. If you have a good relationship with your agent, and you’ve gone through the monumental effort of landing one that believes in you, it’s very daunting to have to think about starting that search again for someone new who will believe in this other type of work.

All that being said, I have a really hard time limiting myself. I enjoy coming up with people and situations that range from blood-and-guts military stories, to surrealist never-could-have-been mythologies, to gritty zombie and horror, to paranormal. I guess the one thing my stories all have in common is that they are only loosely based on plausible reality, which is just fine by me.

The benefit, I realize, is that I am a fledgling writer, and therefore free to write in anything and everything. I’m still so new at the craft that I have carte blanche to play fast and loose with all the genres I want. Goody for me.

One of the things I ponder when trying to decide on whether to solo genre or not to solo genre is what kind of stories do I most like to read? The theory being, if you love to read, you’ll love to write it, right? Problem is, my reading tastes are just as wide and varied, more so even, as my writing tastes. In the last year, I’ve probably read forty or fifty books (not nearly the number I wish I had, but there’s only so much time in a day), and when I think about the ones that have stuck with me the most, the really curious thing is that they are not necessarily the ones I enjoyed the most. Sometimes the story isn’t as compelling as the writing, or vice versa, and those separate, but necessarily integrated, elements stay with you long past the memory of what the story was about or who the characters were. The top five books I’ve read in the last year that still rattle around my head, regardless of how much I enjoyed the story, are: Jim Butcher’s Storm Front, Neal Stephenson’s Snowcrash, Garth Stein’s The Art of Racing in the Rain, Patrick Lee’s The Breach, and J.J. Connolly’s Layer Cake. What do all those books have in common? Uh, they’re all written in English? Otherwise, they’re as different as different can be. The point of this rambling paragraph is just to say, I think, that good writing will out no matter what the story is about, which maybe helps support the idea that sticking with one genre in both what you choose to read and what you choose to write is quite simply a bad, self-limiting, idea.

If the words and the story are there, use them, I say.

What do the rest of my writer buddies think?

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All content copyright unless otherwise specified © 2008-2013 by Tammy Salyer, writer. All rights reserved. Permission is granted to use short quotes provided proper attribution is given.