Monday, October 15, 2012

Pigeon Holing

I listened to a great podcast from Writing Excuses the other day. It was on Pigeon Holes and how many writers decide on a genre they want to write and stick to it like glue, never branching out.

I've been thinking about this a lot. (You can find the episode Here. Just push the play button at the bottom of the post.)

Jonathon Maberry joined Mary, Dan and Howard on this episode and he talked about the importance of writing for many different markets. Jonathon has written everything from Shoebox Greeting Cards to YA dystopian to text to the back of Burpee Seed Packets.

Wow, right?

I was so impressed with his versatility!

Right now I'm writing a middle grade fantasy novel which is the first in a series. I didn't plan on writing a series, but because of the problem in the first book there would need to be more books to solve the overarching problem. But I'm not going to write the rest of them until something happens with the first. No sense wasting all that time, right? And...there's another story idea that keeps tugging at me.

Okay. I've gotten sidetracked.

Anyways, I started out writing poetry and picture books (doesn't everyone start with writing picture books??) I sold a bunch of poems to The Friend (although they've only published two) and I came super close to selling a few of my picture books. Oh! So very close. It was sad.

Then I started down The Novel Path.

And I tried to do everything for awhile. I'd work on the novel. And then the picture books somewhat. And scribble out some poetry here and there. I felt like I was trying to go down too many paths at once!

I gave up on the picture books and poetry and focused on the novel writing.

Every now and then I think about my abandoned projects. I think a few of those picture books have some real potential.

But I don't know if I have enough brain space.

And then there's the fact that as writers we're often told we should find our niche and stick with it. Focus! Our name is our brand. And all that jazz.

But I also agree with Jonathon that it's important to be a diverse writer. It takes a long long time to finish a novel. I'd love to have poetry and picture books out there circulating and possibly getting published. Or maybe even try my hand at writing short stories for magazines.

So, what about you? What do you think about this notion? Do you write one thing? For one genre or age group? Or do you have your hands in multiple writing pots? 


  1. I feel like every time I write something, I have to learn something new. So I write a different kind of book every time. (MG/YA of different genres) I like to think there are themes that connect from one to the other pretty logically, but since I don't know which of any of these will be published, I'm not sure how obvious the connections will be to external readers who don't have the full map. At this very moment, I'm writing a lighthearted, light MG fantasy at the same time I'm writing a much more serious YA contemporary, which is nice for getting a break from the one or the other. But I do worry a little about logical publishing followups. *Logically,* it seems that having a couple of books in the same vein before branching out would help your overall marketing strategy. It's just that sometimes, the strange book writes itself first.... (Although, maybe it will be the strange book that sells, and I'll need to write a bunch more "strange books" before branching back to what I started with.)

    In short, I think it's easier to come up with a clear plan once you have published something. Before you sell, all options are more or less equal, I think.

  2. Every novel I write is an attempt to be something different. I'm even thinking of doing a period thriller next, which is totally out of my comfort zone (but the idea is so cool, I can't pass it up). No pigeon holing for me. I like to branch out and try new things. :)

  3. I primarily want to be known as a YAyoung writer but I don't think that that would stop me from doing anything else.

  4. Interesting topic. I don't foresee me writing novel-length fiction that isn't fantasy (or possibly sci-fi) but anything is fair game in short stories. I may have a non-fiction book in me, but time will tell...

  5. What a great post. I think it's important to stretch ourselves and write in all directions, if for no other reason than to keep fresh. And it's fun to mix it up. Most artists get tired of the same ole after a while. Writing different genres/ages/fic or non keeps us sane.

    That said, my picture book mss are just messy. And, you know, terrible. But nonfic? I'd totally go there. MG? Done that. Fantasy, too. Now, I'm working the thriller angle. So fun!