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About Writing Right: The Blog


Here's a question that pops up from time to time: Is it best to stick to one or two genres when writing, or is it better to write in multiple genres?


Actually, I prefer writing in multiple genres. I think that's a fantastic way for a writer to hone his literary skills and expand his horizons. Writers who write in one or two genres only are pigeonholing themselves and stifling their creativity. No one genre possesses all the challenges that numerous genres combined do.


My first ever published book was a nonfiction tome on growing trees and shrubs indoors. My second was a Romance/Action-Adventure novel set in an exotic foreign locale. As a rule, I enjoy writing fiction more than nonfiction, but I have a degree in journalism and have worked as a reporter, columnist, and newspaper and magazine editor for years; so, nonfiction has kept food on my table and butter on my bread. Both sides! In all, I have published probably tens of thousands of articles and columns on a wide range of topics.


When it comes to writing books, again, nonfiction sells more than fiction; so, publishers are always anxious to find a hot nonfiction topic that they know will put dollars in the bank. Those nonfiction books pay the freight that allows publishers to dabble in all areas of fiction, ranging from genre to experimental—even though far more novels end up losing them money than making it. I've written nonfiction books on virtually every topic imaginable, from science and technology to how-to guides, self-help, sports, legal, biography, history, environmental, pond-keeping, computer technology, gardening, ethnicity, big pharma, and even cancer and holistic medicine. (It helps to be an effective researcher!)


In fiction, I can't think of any genre in which I haven't written, except fantasy. World-building is just not my cup of tea. Strictly personal, of course. But I've worked in the genres of Sci-Fi, Western, Anthology, Mystery, Detective, Horror, High-Tech, Historical, Coming-of-Age, Erotica, Suspense, and so forth. And I learn something new and different about writing effectively from each of them. After writing and conventionally publishing more than 250 books over half a century, I figure I'd better be proficient in more than a few genres if I want to keep from getting bored!


Think of multi-genre writing as advanced training for doctors. First, you get your medical degree. Then, you select a specialty (or two or three or more) and keep on expanding your expertise from there. It might not work for everyone, but it does for me.


Now, it is true that some fiction readers expect their favorite authors to specialize in the one genre they like--Romance or Western, for instance. Those authors sometimes use different pseudonyms for different genres. Anne Rice, best known for her The Vampire Chronicles, for instance, also writes Erotica under the name, Anne Rampling. And in the eighties, she wrote several BDSM erotic novels, using the name, A.N. Roquelaure. Another author, Stephen King, writes all of his work under that name. But earlier in his career, his publisher insisted he limit his output to one book a year to avoid saturating the marketplace. To get around the restriction, King came up with the pseudonym of Richard Bachman. Before long, though, readers noticed the similarities of the two authors' writing styles. After writing a few Bachman novels, he was outed and gave up the charade.

As for me, I don't mind using one name for all my works--books, articles, short stories, columns. I don't think doing so harms my reputation with my readers, and it helps to reinforce my brand name.


In which direction you choose to move is up to you. Think about it, and then decide. Until then ...


Smoke if you've got 'em.

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D. J. Herda is author of the new e-Book series of writing advice, About Writing Right, available at Amazon and at fine booksellers everywhere. His blogs appear on his Website at www.djherda.org. You can also check out his columns, "The Author-Ethicist" and "Fury and the Beast," at Substack. They're free; they're entertaining; they're informative, and they run weekly. Well, almost weekly. Occasionally weekly. Sometimes weekly. (Hey, he does his best!) 

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