I was leading a workshop where my writing background was known by participants beforehand. To wrap up the session, I took questions, and one student asked this: Isn’t it better to be known for being a horror writer, or a science fiction writer, or a writer of women’s fiction rather than being published in multiple genres and writing styles? In other words, if you’re a poet, then write poetry. If you’re a romance writer, don’t you dare put a scientific essay together. A YA fantasy novel? Don’t even think it if your expertise is historical nonfiction.
Honestly, it took me a moment to come up with a response. I’ve published in a variety of genres, such as creative nonfiction for magazines, horror stories for anthologies, women’s fiction, and literary fiction. Many of my plays—comedies, drama, children’s musicals—have been produced by theaters. On the other hand, hasn’t Stephen King done quite well as the master of modern horror, John Grisham as a legal thriller writer, Margaret Atwood with her gothic and dystopian novels? Shouldn’t readers know what they’re getting each and every time?
Well, yes and no. On the business and marketing side of publishing, it’s certainly to an author’s advantage to stick to one genre and build a following. Writing in one genre allows you to focus on a particular readership, specialized conferences geared towards those readers, and genre publishers.
But when we say we’re writers, we’re saying we’re creative types, and creativity allows us to widen our scope and our talents. Writing in multiple genres allows our technique to flow from one style to another. Writing plays improves our dialogue in fiction, writing poetry improves our flow and imagery, writing horror ups the ante on conflict in anything else we write.
I’ll close with a music example. The late Freddie Mercury was an opera aficionado. I mean, he loved opera and even sang it. But he was front man for Queen, a rock group known for heavy metal. Yet, Mercury combined those two loves to write and perform one of the most celebrated songs in rock history. He called it “Bohemian Rhapsody.” Not too shabby for a multiple genre writer.
Lori M. Myers is an award-winning writer, Pushcart Prize nominee, and Broadway World Award nominee of creative nonfiction, fiction, and plays. Her work has been published in more than 45 national and regional magazines, journals, and horror and mainstream anthologies. She is the author of Crawlspace and other stories of dark fiction and horror. Lori is an adjunct professor of writing and literature and lives in New York.