My writing has been undergoing a transition this past year, and I must admit, I’ve been struggling with my present work in progress. I’ve outlined it, I’ve written character profiles. I’ve done tons of research on the topics within. I’ve actually started the blasted thing over—from page one—three times now. I’ve even considered putting it aside and starting something new . . .
But I’m not a quitter. Plus, I’ve invested almost a year on this novel, and I refuse to have let all that time and effort go to waste.
So, what’s the problem? I’m switching genres. Well, not drastically—this novel will still have a supernatural element. But I’m reaching beyond the label of supernatural romantic suspense and trying for something a little more mainstream. Something that may or may not have the love story as the main focus.
Yikes. It’s like standing on the edge of a very deep pool–an abandoned one–and having forgotten how to swim.
This morning I did an Internet search: Switching Genres. It didn’t take long to discover I’m not the only one who’s gone through this. I also uncovered a treasure trove of advice and guidance.
One article by author Juliet Blackwell (who happens to be a favorite of mine) was published in Writer’s Digest in 2015. Ms. Blackwell describes her challenges when she decided to leave her trademark genre—mystery—to write the standalone mainstream novel, The Paris Key. Here are some takeaways I found particularly useful.
1. Just because it’s not strictly a “mystery,” you still have to drop clues to keep the story moving forward. That’s the key to keeping any novel properly paced: drop clues about what may or may not happen next. Leave the reader wondering what’s on the next page.
2. Even though the stakes may not be as high in a mainstream novel, there should still be a ratcheting up of the drama as the story unfolds.
3. Setting is everything! This is particularly meaningful for me because I love the settings in my novels—they become characters in their own right. In mainstream novels, settings play a bigger role than in some other genres. (Yay! I don’t have to worry about over-describing my settings anymore. Well, maybe not as much.)
4. The structure, or bones of the story are not as uniform in mainstream as in genre fiction. In other words, the author has more flexibility to develop the story at their own pace. As Ms. Blackwell states: “In mainstream novels the story is allowed—required, even—to meander a bit, giving the reader a chance to explore the minds of the characters and to dwell in an alternate reality.” It’s all about the arc of the main character, so the pace is not as intense. In short, the reader really gets a chance to get inside the character’s head, and to live in his or her world.
Thank you, Juliet Blackwell! You have just addressed just about every stumbling block I’ve encountered in trying to eke this story out of my fevered brain. You’ve given me permission to write it as I felt it should be written, and not according to the pattern to which I’d become accustomed.
Like I said before, I love the Internet. 🙂