Genre Hopping

February 16, 2012

A long, long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…not really, but my head liked the sci-fi sound when I started typing. Let’s try this again. Once upon a time…gag! I like fairytales, but that’s too cliché. How about, it was a dark and stormy night…but it wasn’t, fortunately, because I hate horror.

It was a sunny July afternoon about 15 years ago when I opened the mailbox to find a publishing contract. I’d known for weeks that the contract was coming, having already received “the call.” A small publishing house wanted to buy my picture book. For a couple years prior to that call, I’d been a member of SCBWI, writing for children, working with an illustrious critique group that included multi-published children’s book authors. With that call, I thought I was on my way.

Even though the advance was barely enough to cover one month’s rent and the press was small, I jumped at the chance to see my book in print. I signed on the dotted line without finding an agent first and waited for my check to arrive.

I was anxious to hear about my illustrator and see the first galleys. So when a Fed-Ex package arrived a few weeks later, I figured my wait was over. Inside was an addendum to the original contract, rendering our agreement null and void. Apparently, the publisher had been on shaky ground. They folded, taking with them my dreams for publication. Sure, the rights reverted back to me, and I was free to shop the story elsewhere, but the blow weakened my resolve.

I poured my energy into my blossoming freelance writing career, and the money started coming in. It seemed silly to turn my back on a sure thing, so I rarely returned to the children’s writing. Eventually, I dropped my critique group. I packed away my collection of manuscripts and rejection letters (the days of snail mail everything), and I closed that chapter of my life.

Over the years, I’ve wondered what I’d be doing now had the book reached the shelves. Would I have written more and made a name for myself in the world of children’s literature? Would I still be writing romance at this point in my life?

Those questions conjure images of multiple names and dual marketing plans: two of everything! I’m not sure I could handle double duty. As it stands, my website hasn’t been updated this week. (My guilt is insisting I do it right after this blog post.)

How about you? Do you write in multiple genres? Would you? How does a writer balance writing/working in two totally different worlds?



6 Responses to “Genre Hopping”

  1. TheOthers1 Says:

    I’m not sure I’m versatile enough to write in two different genres. Maybe versatile isn’t the right word. Maybe creative enough is better. I wouldn’t mind trying, I’m just not sure what my other genre would be. I write romance and dabble in erotic lit. So would my different genre have to be like dystopia or something like that? That’s hard to figure out.

    • It IS hard to figure out. I think part of the difficulty stems from the voices in our heads. When I was writing children’s works, I heard the rhythm and pacing of children’s books in my head. Of course, that was what I was reading in my spare time. Now that I write romance, I hear the rhythm and pacing of romance in my head. I wouldn’t know where to start with another genre. 🙂


  2. taristhread Says:

    A little bit, mostly I’ve thought about what will happen WHEN I get the call, will I be able to write in more than one genre, or whether I’ll focus on one.

  3. Summer Says:

    You’ve certainly made me think Elley and for me the answer would be no. As you say it’s hard when the voices in your head (hehe) and your whole creative outlook is focused on a particular genre. You’d have to read extensively too, to get a feel of what’s currently on the offer for that area. It would be too time consuming. However it would be fun to try a subgenre like medical romance and contemporary if you’re a romance writer. I think I could do that.

  4. […] Elley’s post yesterday made me do a double take. I had an almost identical experience with a children’s book. At the time, I was freelance writing for magazines and wrote a regular column for our local newspaper. I had no intention of writing a children’s story, until…the train accident that had me laid up for weeks. Okay, the truth is that I stepped on a Thomas the Tank Engine toy that one of my boys had left in the hallway. When I stepped on it, somehow it rolled in a 360-degree circle…and so did my ankle. Third degree sprain, cast and weeks in bed, but doesn’t it sound better when I just say “the train accident”? […]

  5. I’m pre-published, but do write in different genres, picture book, middle grade, and adult fiction. Currently, one takes a back seat while I’m working on the other — if I should be so fortunate as to become published in both “worlds”, I will have work to do to keep all the juggling balls in the air, so time will tell. It’s difficult to say no to the ideas that demand expression, though…

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