Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Author Guest Post: The Genre Tightrope by Danika Stone

Guest Post by Author Danika Stone

This year I have two books coming out. Let’s amend that. Within one month I have two book releases. And although they come from different publishers – one Canadian, one American – and the names on the covers are slightly different, they were both written by me. They’ll hit the shelves at almost exactly the same time.
Sound strange? That’s because it’s an anomaly.

When you write a book, genre is a clear enticement to your audience. Readers who love thrillers tend to read more of them, YA fans read YA. So when you query, the agents you seek will be looking for the genre they represent. The problem is, many writers find themselves pigeon-holed into writing the same genres over and over again, caught by the trap of their own success.

I refuse to live that reality.

I want to tell the stories I’m compelled to write – All of them! – and they vary hugely. I’ve written everything from YA, to NA romance, to science fiction, to crime thrillers. I want that freedom more than I want the comfort of an expectant audience. But how do you do that without losing your faithful readers? You walk a tightrope. It’s difficult, but with practice you can do it. Sometimes you can even make it look easy.

Here are a few rules I’ve found that have helped me along the way.

1.      Learn your genre roadmap and follow it. This is something I learned the hard way – by rewriting. If you write YA, there are certain expectations of character and plot; these are completely different than the world-building exposition of Science Fiction. Know what those building blocks are and use them to your advantage. Your future self will thank you.

2.      Separate your publishing personas. By using variants on my name – D.K. Stone and Danika Stone – I’ve cued my audience that what they’re reading comes from a different head-space. Separate websites add to this awareness. (Danika Stone and D.K. Stone.) Everything you can do to keep the genre separation clear in your audience’s mind helps.

3.      Write with the end in mind. Whether you’re an uber-planner with a scene-by-scene breakdown, or a wing-it-as-you-go author, you should still have an idea of whose bookshelf the book will eventually end up on. Is it a teen? A middle-aged mom? An octogenarian? That choice will inform your plotting and voice. And if you catch yourself changing bookshelves partway through the first draft, be aware you’ll likely have to go back and fix it.

4.      Know your genre’s voice. I have distinctly different writing styles for thrillers versus YA. Edge of Wild involves sensuous description with dark, gritty imagery whereas All the Feels uses texting and digital media to tell its story. When I’m writing a book, I use playlists to keep my creative mind tuned-into the elements of that genre. Classic themes worked well for Edge of Wild and pop / electronica brought me into the tech-savvy world of All the Feels. By keeping the voice of my writing clear, you can make the writing shine.

5.      Break the rules with purpose. Yes, you need to follow genre… but rules are sometimes meant to be broken. One of the best parts of being a multi-genre writer is that you have the capacity to change. Need to add depth to an otherwise light romance? Add in a bit of secrecy from the mystery genre. Want to release the tension in a brutal science fiction battle? Toss in a bit of YA banter. By using these elements sparingly, you’ll maintain genre, but you’ll add a new layer of complexity to your writing.

So how do you know if you’ve successfully balanced writing in different genres? In the end, it’s the final product that counts. Success is in the readers who love both books you’ve written. It’s in sales and reviews. But most of all, it’s in the writer’s ability to be excited as they write. And for that, I’ll leave you with a quote from multi-talented Tom Hiddleston, interviewed at the BFI London International Film Festival:

 “It’s very important to me to make different kinds of things. I never want to be too attached to one kind of film. I want to move freely between things. I think it’s a way of keeping things interesting for me and hopefully keeping things interesting for an audience.”

I couldn’t have said it better myself.

About Danika Stone

Danika Stone is an author, artist, and educator who discovered a passion for writing fiction while in the throes of her Masters thesis. A self-declared bibliophile, Danika now writes novels for both adults (Edge of WildThe Intaglio Series and Ctrl Z) and teens (All the Feels). When not writing, Danika can be found hiking in the Rockies, planning grand adventures, and spending far too much time online. She lives with her husband, three sons, and a houseful of imaginary characters in a windy corner of Alberta, Canada.

You can find here online at her website, on Twitter, and on Goodreads


Tracy Terry said...

Interesting topic.

I must admit to getting the tinniest bit frustrated when an author I love goes 'off genre' but only because of where I place books on our shelves.

Preferring to keep all of my lets say Philippa Gregory books in one place amongst all the other historical novels, where do I place her more contemporary novels? Not to mention her YA novels.

Amongst the historical fiction wouldn't be right but then I really want to keep all of her books together and not some in amongst the historical and others amongst the contemporary and yet others amongst the YA.

Hmm, I'm beginning to think a reorganisation is warranted.

Kindlemom said...

Such great insight and tips! Wonderful post!

Naomi Hop said...

Great post! I often wonder what an author thinks when they decide on two different persona's when writing completely different genre's. I do like that it's slightly different, but fans can easily find you.

Midnight Cowgirl said...

This is so interesting! And, yes to Tom Hiddleston :)

Sarah @ One Curvy Blogger said...

Smart to separate your pen names wit different genres. Some readers get nervous when authors post outside of their usual genre. This was fascinating!

Erika Sorocco said...

# 3 is such an important one - it seems like so many people don't know how to end stories, resulting in bad endings that leave the reader feeling disgruntled!


Anna (herding cats-burning soup) said...

Whew that'll keep a girl on her toes and busy with the releases! One of the ladies I work for had four come out in 2 months (re-releases and one new) and holy cow was it something to see. lol Hope both of the releases go well!

Claudia Arroyo said...

I've know of a few authors that have published books in different genres using the same approach, I personally think it is genius! I love how Danika Stone is willing to share all this awesome material with others :D

Cleo Bannister said...

Another great post Lauren and an interesting one at that - I'm all for authors mixing up the genres!

Eli Madison said...

I think Danika made a great point when talking about pseudonyms. I don't completely agree with her, but I think her perspective was really interesting. NA is a world away from YA, and the book blogger part of me is really glad that she's separating her personas in a way that won't lead people to read both books just because they're by the same author. The writer part of me thinks that those different personas are part of the journey of getting to know a writer and his or her styles, but regardless, this was a great guest post! Looking forward to more from Danika :)

- Eli @ The Silver Words

Aylee said...

Oh hey, this author is from Alberta too! That's cool. And she's talking about a lot of things that I've never really considered before. But it all makes sense - and I guess this is why certain authors have something of a pen name when writing different genres.

Sharons Book Nook! said...

Interesting and some great tips too. Thanks for sharing.

Jennifer Humphries said...

Danika so nice to meet you! I love the advice you gave here, "I want to tell the stories I’m compelled to write – All of them!" Thank you for sharing a bit of yourself and your books too! I need to load up my Kindle now!