May 22nd, 2015

Pros & Cons of Skipping Genres



photo credit: De proface via photopin (license)

photo credit: De proface via photopin (license)

This blog is the fault result of a question from Cerrisa Kim, on the WITS Facebook page. I’d posted a brilliant Writer’s Digest article about the line between Women’s Fiction and Romance (You can read it HERE).

Cerrissa’s question was more specific though – how I was able to write in two genres? What challenges arose from that? I could have avoided the question, but then she used my name in the same sentence with Barbara Samuel O’Neal’s. *Fan-girl sigh* She had me.

My two genres are WF and Romance, but I think the issues you have to consider, and the problems you run into along the way will be similar, no matter what two genres you write in (I wouldn’t recommend more than two, because you’d be diluting your brand – but more on that later).

Our own Orly Konig Lopez wrote a blog about writing in two genres a while back. You can read it HERE. Go ahead, we’ll wait.

Back? Okay. Here are a few things to consider that may be different in your new genre:


Most YA novels are written in first person, and many Women’s Fiction novels are as well. Do you know how to do that? You may want to do some practice writing to become comfortable with the shift, before you start. First person terrifies me, so I wrote my WF in third person, but I only had ONE POV character. Wow. That’s way different (read: harder) than having two POV characters.

To make it harder (because, of course I have to do that, right?) my character was damaged and closed-off. Which meant she didn’t have a sidekick to bounce ideas off of, and to break the relentless stream of thoughts in her head. Less dialog than my romances, as well. The way I worked around it was to have her act differently than her thoughts. Outside, she was tough and scrappy. Inside, she was out of her element, afraid, and vulnerable.

Voice –

I could never write MG or YA. Those years are so long past, that I just don’t have the voice for it. I’m in awe of people who do.

Historical is a much different voice than contemporary.

Some genres won’t be as challenging this way. For example, Horror and romance both usually involve adults, and may both be in the present day (or both historical). WF and romance, though the focus is different, the voice remained the same.


Again, depending on which genres you’re skipping from and to, this may be a challenge as well. I chose contemporary, and something I know a lot about (Pro Bull Riding), so this wasn’t an issue for me.  I highly recommend that you choose a genre that you read. Each genre has different nuances of pacing, plotting and action, and you’re not going to understand them on a deep level unless you know the genre, intimately.

Here are the advantages and disadvantages that I discovered by genre skipping:


  •  A well deserved rest. I’d only written romance before this last book, and I was weary of the tropes, and restrictions in romance. Don’t get me wrong, I love the genre, and will write more romances, but it sure was nice, not to have to write one. More. Sex. Scene.
  • A new challenge. If we’re not learning something new with every book, we’re not only getting stale, we’re not improving our craft. And that’s very important to me, as an writer.
  • Freedom. These were new editors, who didn’t know me. They wouldn’t buy based on a proposal. I had to write the whole book first. I haven’t written an uncontracted book since I first sold. It was scary. And very freeing. I didn’t have a deadline, staring me in the face, every day I sat down to write. I also didn’t have to consider what my editor would want – I was free to write to make myself happy. Wow, I enjoyed the heck out of that.


  • Risk. What if I spend all this time, and no one wants it? I thought it was a brilliant premise. I loved the protagonist. But then, I’m kind of odd. What if no one else did?
  • Learning curve. I understand romance. I am lucky enough not to get many editorial changes, because I draw between the lines well. Imagine my shock, when I got a ‘revise and resubmit’ on this WF. I currently am typing with my fingers crossed, hoping my dream house will pick the book up. We’ll see.
  • Watering down your brand. Again, this depends on what genres you’re skipping between. Erotica and Inspirational? MG and Horror? Those are totally different audiences. You may have to build a completely new brand (not to mention using a different name). You’d think romance and WF would share an audience, but you’d be surprised. If you have a happy ending in your WF, you may pull some romance readers who love your voice, but WF readers tend not to read Romance. 

Should you genre skip? Only you can decide that. I’ll continue doing it – hopefully writing a romance, then a WF, and repeat.

 What about you? Have you ever considered genre skipping? Ever tried it? Which genres? Have any advice for us?

About Laura

Author Headshot SmallLaura Drake is a city girl who never grew out of her tomboy ways, or a serious cowboy crush. She writes both Women’s Fiction and Romance.

She sold her Sweet on a Cowboy series, romances set in the world of professional bull riding, to Grand Central.  The Sweet Spot won the 2014 Romance Writers of America®   RITA® award in the Best First Book category.

Her ‘biker-chick’ novel, Her Road Home, sold to Harlequin’s Superomance line (August, 2013) and has expanded to three more stories set in the same small town. Twice in a Blue Moon Releases July 1, and is available for preorder!

In 2014, Laura realized a lifelong dream of becoming a Texan and is currently working on her accent. She gave up the corporate CFO gig to write full time. She’s a wife, grandmother, and motorcycle chick in the remaining waking hours.

Twitter  Facebook

35 comments to Pros & Cons of Skipping Genres

  • Fascinating post. As a writer, I resent the fact that I’m told my book has to fit in one genre or another. I call my books ‘romantic suspense’ – is that Women’s Fiction? I have plenty of guys who read it and (maybe secretly) enjoy. There’s romance in there, but there’s lots of suspense too – David Baldacchi and Harlan Coban kind of suspense, but their books aren’t called ‘Men’s Fiction.’ Sigh. Thus, I self-publish. I don’t like to be categorized. But I appreciate Laura’s remarks here. Obviously thought-provoking. 🙂

  • Laura, this post goes to the heart of who you are as a writer.I want your WF to picked up by your dream house and get the same acclaim as your romance and I want to read it to find the other side of Laura Drake.

    About genre switching? I kind’a see it like my being left handed. It meant I could do tons of things with both hands because left-handed people can do that. I never worried about it.

    I write both mystery and WF. The mystery might have a touch of romance, my WF does not always. I don’t see them as all that different. I love doing both first and third person because each of them gives me a kind of freedom to explore. I experiment with voice and genre with my blog, doing flash fiction.

    There are more than a dozen writers who do both mystery and romance, women’s fiction and romance and all combinations thereof. Jane Anne Krentz as Amanda Quick, Nora as JD Robb. Some have begun to do it with the same name. Readers find out anyway so why bother with the old trick of two names?

    Whatever you write, enjoy the process and have fun 🙂

    • Different names for different genres is pretty much a thing of the past, Florence. Except, of course when it wouldn’t be appropriate – like erotica and MG. Publishers wanted to ‘own’ your name, so they could own that brand. Thank God that’s over.

      But it’s also helpful if the two audiences don’t mix – as in the two that you mentioned.

      For example, if I decided to write hard-core Sci-fi, I’d have to change my name. It’s hard enough to break into Sci-fi as a woman, much less with a reputation of writing romance!

      • Love your writing voice, Laura, so I can’t wait to read your wf.

        • Thank you, Normandie! And I hope others will follow the voice too. I know I’ve done that with a lot of authors who skipped genres…mostly to my benefit. The one example that didn’t work for me skipped from a genre I liked, to one I don’t care for.

          The voice wouldn’t get me past that.

      • I am trying to picture you doing erotica 🙂

      • Fae Rowen

        Yes, it’s not easy finding someone to take a chance on a debut SF author, let alone “speculative” fiction which blends science fiction with romance or paranormal or other combinations. Can you say Hunger Games and Divergent, New York?

  • I’m going to see how well this works when my next one releases, Laura, and I dive into romantic suspense. Same voice, same me, but a different emphasis. Then it’s back to my wf novels. I’ll let you know…

    • Yes, let me know, Normandie! I think you’ll take everyone with you, except those who don’t care for RS. That’s much better than starting from scratch!

  • I appreciate the links to the differences between WF and romance. That’s exactly what I’ve been looking for. As a reader, I genre hop all the time and if I like a writer such as Jayne Ann Krentz aka Amanda Quick aka Jayne Castle – I’ll read anything they write. But I guess I’m in the minority that way. (Huh? Me? Different? Imagine that! 🙂 ) Thanks for the wisdom, Laura! Looking forward to reading your published WF soon.

    • Thank you, Debbie! I don’t think you’re in the minority with following an author between genres – As evidenced by the lines at signings for those authors!!!!

      Can’t wait to see you in NY in July!

    • Fae Rowen

      Oh, Debbie, I’m with you. I’ll read any- and everything- by Jayne Ann Krentz. I got hooked on her Amanda Quick’s. She made me a regency lover–and a reader of romance. When I finished her backlist of Amanda Quick’s a friend told me who she “really” is and Jayne Castle. And she started at Stephanie James in category.

  • Orly Konig-Lopez

    I’m right there with you on the new challenge reason. It’s why I like writing kidlit in addition to women’s fiction. And the reason behind my recent shorts kick. 🙂

    • I love children’s lit and didn’t know you wrote that, Orly. I wrote an MG myself and it was the most fun I ever had writing a book! (And it’s still unpublished. Sigh.)

      • Orly Konig-Lopez

        I have a couple of picture book drafts and am working on another. And just started a middle grade. They are so different from women’s fiction and are such a great way to challenge my creativity.

  • Holly Robinson

    Laura, this was a fascinating post. I write women’s fiction and am published by a traditional publisher; when I broached the subject of presenting them with a paranormal thriller that I’d written, they said no way. My agent agreed. However, I now have a new agent, and she’s up for me publishing in two genres, even if I have to use a psuedonym. I agree with the “new challenge” sentiment you and Orly express here–if you want to stretch yourself as a writer, you have to keep taking risks. Some will pan out, and others won’t, but that’s part of the fun.

    • Smart move, switching a agents, Holly. I think an agent should be there to support your whole career – wherever you want to take it! I wouldn’t support an agent who wouldn’t support me!

  • sfreydont

    I write different genres with different names; sometimes its’ a pain (Mainly keeping two websites, FB pages, Twitter accts.,etc. But I wouldn’t give it up. Though I sometimes I have to remind myself that there are many reasons for using different names and different genres and not just to keep myself from getting confused. It’s changing somewhat but it has to do with shelf placement, even virtual shelf placement, not disappointing a reader, i.e., when they pick up a book expecting a big juicy historical by their favorite author and open it to find favorite author’s flight into issue driven women’s fiction. As well as targeting interested markets and readers. Sometimes in the throes of ‘Wouldn’t this be easier if . ..” I forget all that.

    • Shelley – what two genres are you writing in? Sounds like two that don’t mix audiences, huh?

      • sfreydont

        I write mystery and women’s fiction. I started in mystery and had to change my name for the WF . Fortunately Noble is my original name. I’ve been writing contemporary amateur sleuth but have a new historical mysteries series starting and I didn’t have to change names of that, for which I am grateful. I think if the genres are similar like romance and romantic women’s fiction for instance, there’s more of a chance for name recognition and crossover reading. I get some but not huge numbers.

      • Shelley – I’d be interested in how you came to the decision to write under the two names. I know several authors who did it your way (Barbara Samuel O’Neal is one), and several who write both under the same name (Carolyn Brown is one that came to mind first).

        Did you feel that you’d be letting down readers?

        Or, if you have two names – couldn’t you still have one website – with the two genres on separate pages?

        I’m fascinated by this…

  • Wonderful post. I hope your new work sells as it should, feeling the freedom to create what your heart desires is fantastic. I’m a painter and aspiring writer. I paint in series then grow bored and change. One client said to me just when I fall in love with a painter they go and change. Branding is a detriment to creative development.

    • Hmmm, Angie – Branding is only a detriment if your ‘art’ is all that’s important to you. If you want to find your audience and keeping it, branding is critical. IMHO.

  • I guess when I’ve gone to conferences or joined different writers org I never thought about not belonging to a group because I didn’t write just one or two categories. I have found out quickly romance is very restricting and it took some time for me to feel comfortable around the romance writers. I took some hard verbal blows when I would challenge a rule. Silly me I thought there were no restrictions on what I wrote. I have a WF, Military Thriller, sweet romance, and one that is about breaking tradition which includes infidelity, killing off two characters causing my H/H couple problems. When one of the program presenters told me I could not kill these two off, my jaw dropped and I told her the computer put down what came out of my mind. She must have thought I was nuts. Now I would not challenge her I would just smile. I am usually a follow the rules and obey the law but I just wrote what I needed to for the story I was telling to make sense.I have a Masters in Aerospace Admin and took all the Creative Writing classes at our local 2 year college and either never heard you could not publish unless all you stories were basically the same, no doing this or that in your ms. Guess that is why I have been so long at submitting, in the back of my mind I knew it would do no good. Hummmmmm now what do I do with all these almost finished WIP? I’m redheaded so you know I’m not by nature going to go along with this so the book sellers can’t arrange their shelf’s Nicely. What a hoot. . .

    • 50 – I too, thought that this was just publisher’s silly rules when I began. And if that was all it was, it would have fallen the way of the Oxford comma. The lasting problem, though, and one that is getting harder with the digital revolution, is how a reader finds a book they like. THAT is the real reason for genres.

      I don’t believe there has yet been a good enough search engine invented for this. Wander the millions of books on Amazon and see if you agree with me. What if you, like me, like WF with equal parts romance? Or, a military sweet romance? Or Sci-fi romance? Try it – you will come away from Amazon hours later, frustrated, and possibly empty-handed.

      Discoverability. That’s the reason for genre, and virtual shelves have even more challenges than real ones, because of their limitless volume.

      • I didn’t mean to imply that the publishers limiting a writer to one or two genres. Publishers are business and are there to make as much profit as possible with as little investment as possible. They also have to limit someway the numbers of writers that can be used. This is one of the problems with a product. There are just so many customers and if overproduce your profit falls. I realize this but limiting an author to what they can produce is not the answer. Competition is tremendous already but if we limit ourselves to writing only to a small compartment and do not allow ourselves to create as our minds lead us to we are no longer artist but production line workers. If our choice has to be limited so we do not confuse the reader then how do we explain Libraries? As a reader and I am an avid one, before I could afford to buy books I spent my time selecting books off the shelf and read the blurp on back of the book. Now I sit at home and browse Amazon. The same applies. Normally I am after a book I’ve seen on the internet or someone has told me about and know what I want when I pull up Amazon. \
        I don’t mean to argue about this and thought long and hard before I sent the comment. but for all the new writers to still be told to limit themselves to me is like killing their creative sprite and I know what that feels like. An if we never stop limiting our choices it will never stop.
        I didn’t start the discussion to lead to such long talks but I will limit my comments to business as usual. I love this group and the interchange between all writers and do not want to cross lines that would separate me from the group. If it would be better please remove the last comment I made and consider this one just between you and I .

        • ProfeJMarie (Janet Rundquist)

          No need to remove your comments! Neither one of you are being argumentative – I like seeing that there is real discussion going on here.

        • Oh 50 – This is exactly what we want to foster here at WITS! A valuable discussion – which is what we’re having – thanks for starting it!

          I do agree with you – especially the point: ‘if we limit ourselves to writing only to a small compartment and do not allow ourselves to create as our minds lead us to we are no longer artist but production line workers’

          It’s such a delicate tightrope to walk – between creative freedom, and marketability. Some authors are blessed to love the middle of one genre – or even two. Others of us who don’t naturally write within the genre boundaries have a bit of an uphill battle to become discovered. But when we are, I think our readers are more dedicated to us, because there are fewer authors who write what they like.

          But this has ever been a problem, or there wouldn’t be the ‘starving artist’ character, right? The mechanisms have changed with the technology, but the artist’s decisions/challenges are the same.

          I think it will always be so, don’t you?

  • Yes I agree and what a loss to all of us. So much talent wasted and so many tales not told. Maybe there should never have been a cut back on our wonderful library system. It was a pain to be quiet and have the librarian looking over our shoulder but it allowed us an entire world and all we had to do was reach out and capture it. I loved the big book stores that didn’t survive the great war for books. I love to spend time browsing Amazon with the world only a click away.BUT (you knew this was coming didn’t you) let’s not put baskets over the light a writer shines.
    I am a romantic aren’t I? I will keep writing anything and everything my mind and heart tell me to. If I’m never published so be it, I will pass all this paper on to my kids who are also avid readers one the deeper and more complicated the better and the other loves western romance in a little town and a good looking cowboy to love.
    Hear Hear to the writers may we always fight for a good story. Jo

  • 50 – for your daughter who loves Western Romance…I’m part of a Facebook Group, Western Romance Cafe. Have her look us up! Thanks for the great discussion!~

  • I’ll tell her but she does not get a signal at her house.She is here often helping me take her Dad to doctors appointments. She uses my computer when she is here.
    Thanks for listening and considering what I say as relative. Hope all reading our conversion will watch and help come up with a solution beneficial to the writers.
    Enjoyed the discussion.

  • Fae Rowen

    I joined RWA and my local chapter because I knew I needed to learn how to write relationships and emotion for the “big” science fiction novel in my head. 4.3 science fiction romances later, I’m thinking that I’m just about ready to tackle the “hard” science fiction. But trying to sell that won’t be any easier.

  • Laura-I am thrilled that you personally mentioned me in your post and even happier to see so many others found your answer to my question so intriguing. You are clearly a woman up for a challenge and enjoy learning and pushing yourself to new heights. That’s something I’ve admired about you since I’ve started following your posts and “talking” to you on Facebook. I like that you shared you were asked to R&R too. Because now that you are so successfully published in one genre, it doesn’t mean it’s smooth sailing the whole trip to the next genre. I too love your romance voice and will be curious to see if it changes at all with genre. Some author’s voices do seem to change a bit with genre. Either way, I know it will be wonderful and all your fans, me included will be excited WHEN your WF gets published. Thanks again for such an in-depth, and carefully thought out answer to my question. Now I’m off to read Orly’s post about this!