I don’t know about you, but there are certain areas of writing that I don’t really write in all that often. For instance, I’ve dabbled in poetry, but it’s not a common practice for me to sit down and break out iambic pentameter or haiku. I don’t write outside of my genres much either. And I know I’m not the only one right??
It can be hard to break out of our usual genres…we write them because we love them! I adore fantasy, memoir, and a little sci-fi, but you’d be hard pressed to find me write steampunk, horror, or historical fiction.
But here’s the thing: sometimes writing outside of your genre or “usual” area of writing can actually be amazingly beneficial. Not only does it stretch your scene building and setting skills, but it forces you to write emotions and reactions in different and new situations that you might not be familiar with.
If you usually write literary fiction, it can be a great exercise to try writing horror or young adult. You’ll learn about your own proficiency as a writer, your ability to transfer your skills, and it can help you see holes in your learning that you could improve upon to become a better writer.
While many writers stick to their circle, I’m writing today to encourage you to break out! These are my reasons you should break out of your genre and try something new!
Tones Your “Show” Skills
Every writer at some point in their writing journey has heard the phrase “show, don’t tell”. Whether that pertains to setting, character emotion or thought, action, descriptions of significance, whatever, cultivating “show” skills can be a hard practice. Especially in non-fiction where it’s easy to rely on a reader’s own interpretations, it’s even more important to hone your “show” skills to better portray the story or theme you want to convey.
By using your “show” skills in different genres, you’re describing things you may not have scene in person (like a spaceship or a Roman guard), or you’re putting words to a photo in your head of a place, item, or expression that you otherwise might not have described in so much detail (like your favorite teddy bear or your dream library). Describing the sunset in a world with two suns in a sci-fi story could help you better describe your childhood home in a memoir simply by stretching those writer muscles.
Taps Into New Emotions and Experiences
Writing non-fiction often taps into things you’ve felt before, but not so much into things other’s feel. As well, writing about an experience you haven’t been through yourself, or something a friend has been through or a character goes through helps you become more aware of how you write your own experiences. Writing fiction, especially in third person POV, forces you to get out of your own head and expand your understanding of other characters, other people, and how they could react to certain situations.
You could even practice by writing a situation from your own life as a fictionalized story in third person POV to really test those muscles and become more proficient at conveying emotion that is not your own.
You See the Holes in Your Skill Set
When you switch genres you start to see what areas of your writing can use improvement. Whether it’s keeping the tempo up in a fast paced sci-fi novel, slowly giving out important information in a mystery, or achieving accuracy in historical fiction, training those skills, a bit like an athlete cross-trains, can improve your writing in ways you wouldn’t suspect, simply because writing in steampunk or thriller or mystery or historical fiction or literary fiction forces your brain to piece together a story in a whole new way. You can find your strengths and weakness and knowing those will make you a better writer.
I love switching genres when I get around to actually doing it. It helps me become a better writer, helps my writing be more clear and concise, and teaches me how to convey emotion, setting, and action in new and different ways.
What genre do you normally write in and what genre would you like to try?