Guest Blogger: K.B. Wagers (our own wandereringray!)
My bookshelves look like a library threw up on them. You can find anything from a history of Rome, to Shakespeare's plays, Russian literature (sometimes in the original Russian), erotica, urban fantasy, science fiction ... you get the idea.
My insanely varied tastes have had a major impact on my writing style. To date I have finished three science fictions novels, a dark erotica novel, one fantasy, and one urban-fantasy. Waiting in the wings of my brain are a young adult novel and several other crazy ideas.
What I do isn't very common (and we'll have to wait to see if it works *grins*). A lot of people will tell you to find a genre you're good at and stick with it. I don't disagree with this advice and part of the reason is a lot of new writers are still feeling their way around the mechanics of writing. You're trying out different voices, etc. to see what works for you. This is a good thing and you shouldn't ever be afraid to try a new genre, or a new anything for that matter.
Unless you can find really strong voices though, I suggest sticking with what works. Switching genres can be difficult if you don't have unique enough voices to shine through.
There are a number of pitfalls/clichés to avoid as well as ways to come up with some truly unique ideas in different genres.
· strapping young hero
· quest for magical object
· band of friends, each with one specific talent
It's important to note here that sometimes these things do work, it's just that they've been done – over and over - and that makes it harder to come up with a fresh perspective on things. If you don't have a strong voice, you're not going to catch anyone's attention.
Find characters with depth and switch things up a little. Pair that strapping young hero with an earnest but bumbling princess, or swap it out entirely and make the princess the one who has to deal with an enthusiastic but hopeless older brother. Have the group find the magical object only to discover it's not so magical after all. It's the little things that can make your voice shine through even the most overdone of clichés.
Science Fiction Clichés
· rebel fighters vs. power in universe
· zany crew of misfits jetting around galaxy
· alien invasion
As an amusing note I've written all three of these things at one time or another. The alien invasion was the first book I ever wrote and it will never see the light of day. *grins* My erotic novel is about a rebel leader who's fighting to restore her country to its former glory. And my current WIP has a zany crew of misfits.
How is that helpful at all then? *laughs* I know, I'm crazy that way sometimes. Here's the deal – the first book is crap because it's tired, formulaic and has very little going for it. There's a possible kernel of an idea buried in the muck, but it's going to be a long time before I have the energy to go dig it out.
The other two? Well, obviously this is my opinion, but I think they have enough of a character component to override the initial "obvious cliché" reaction of the base story. In fact, the voices are what carry the stories away from the potential flop.
Writing in multiple genres is tricky. I handle it by trying not to work in them at the exact same time – at the moment I have the luxury to do that. I'll complete a book, give myself a few days to de-stress and then a few more to get into the mind-set for the other genre.
Another trick to pulling this off is to make sure your main characters are nothing like each other. Sometimes we have habits as authors to throw bits of ourselves in there or things we'd really like to see in ourselves. The hazard is you can end up with five different female leads from separate series and yet they are all martial arts masters.
Your readers will notice, so make an effort to give your characters life. I have three main female leads at the moment, and only one knows a martial art. The other two are fighters also, but more brawlers than anything. And of those two, one is inclined to rush head-long into situations without thinking of the consequences, while the other will sit back and plot out all the angles before she moves.
They are all separate entities though, with unique personalities and distinct behaviors. You wouldn’t read one book after the other and think "oh that's just like X but in space" and toss the book aside.
So pay attention to this! *grins* We harp on voice a lot, and I know it gets tedious at times, but it really is your single biggest ally. You can write a book that's completely out of the "hot zone" of publishing at the moment, but if your voice rocks? You'll get snapped up in a heartbeat.
K.B. Wagers hears voices in her head. Thankfully not the kind that tell her to do horrible things, unless it involves getting up at 2am to scribble down a very important scene that can't wait until sunrise. The good news is the voices are responsible for five completed novels - three of which are out on submission. When she's not writing she's getting into fights or jumping off buildings. Come read more about her insane life and the stories that follow at www.kalishonor.net