Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Genre wars

To be honest, sometimes writing feels a little like high school, minus the bad fashion and angsty poetry. Well, maybe not the first one. Talk to me again in 10 years. But I've noticed around the internets that a lot of writers define themselves by the genres they write. I think we're all aware of the preponderance of YA writers who blog, but I see it amongst the romance writers, middle grade writers, sci-fi and fantasy, and even mainstream adult fiction. We've all chosen our cliques.

Let me be clear about one thing before I proceed: I have no problem with this. If you feel like you only want to write one genre and you're all "once a Kappa Kappa, always a Kappa Kappa" then I'm totally cool with that. Some writers are truly only interested in one genre, whatever that genre may be. Believe me, I've read Summerland by Michael Chabon; some writers are better off in certain genres than others (for reals, though, I liked it despite its flaws. I even wrote a song inspired by the title DON'T JUDGE). Me? I couldn't write sci-fi to save my life. Too much learning and technology for my celebrity-engorged brain.

But for me, I like a lot of genres. I'd like to write in a lot of genres. The current WIP is a YA, but I have several ideas in the pipeline for fantasy, mainstream fiction, downstream fiction, upstream fiction, downwind fiction...you get the point. So when someone asks me, "what genre do you write in?" I tend to want to answer "whichever one my brain suggests." I'll be the first to admit that I tend to segment people. If someone is a singer, they can't be an actor. If someone is a writer, they can't be a dancer. You choose one thing and that's the thing you do.

But the real truth is, most people are good at a lot of different things. Innovation comes from versatility, and from putting together disparate ideas to form new ways of thinking. When we confine ourselves to one space - or are confined by others - we get tunnel vision. We get people who say no instead of yes, people who don't consider moving out of their genre because that's not what you do, people who block innovation because they're afraid of what the change will bring.

Woah, I went all political on you there, didn't I? My bad. Have a panda!

My point is, we shouldn't hold ourselves to genres if we don't want to. Most of my favorite books cross several genres, and deal with subject matters that aren't typically addressed in said genre (like this lady or this guy). So go forth and innovate! If you want.

1 comment:

Elana Johnson said...

This is an awesome post. And so true. Write what sings to you, no matter the genre.