Mixing Genres by Garry Ryan
Trying new foods, new restaurants and new places has always been a bit of a thing for me. It’s a way to discover surprising new flavours, ingredients and spices. The odd time it is a disaster. For the most part it has led to enjoyment of Italian, Lebanese, Vietnamese, Korean, Persian, Chinese, Singaporean, French and Japanese cuisines.
Perhaps that’s why switching cuisines/genres from mystery to historical fiction wasn’t a difficult choice. I read Stephen King’s On Writing. He suggested that once a first draft of a manuscript is finished, start something different then come back to the original piece after a few months. Up until that point, I would finish a manuscript, go right back to the beginning, work on rewrites, send it away then wait for the publisher to respond in six months or a year.
King’s advice changed that approach. After a first draft of the mystery series was finished, I would work on the historical fiction piece. This required switching time, place, characters, conflicts and gender. A different combination of ingredients if you like. There are several advantages to this type of approach:
1) I wasn’t wasting so much time waiting for publishers to get back with rejection/acceptance letters.
2) The two genres required different approaches, which turned out to be complementary.
3) Editing a first draft after working on something different meant that my head was in a different space. A myriad of minor and major manuscript glitches became much more obvious. That meant that they could be corrected before the manuscript was sent to the publisher.
4) Finishing one manuscript often meant being energized about starting another project rather than feeling let down with nothing to do and nothing to occupy the imagination.
5) Two separate series ended up being published.
There is one pitfall that needs to be noted. Different series require different marketing approaches. Historical fiction usually has a different audience than mystery. The mystery series seems to have a wider readership in the States. The historical fiction series has a more Canadian audience.
The other complication is that I’ve begun thinking about another genre and started work on something altogether different. It has its own complex set of requirements, which is appealing.
So switching genres is complicated. It requires some mental gymnastics. It’s also a stimulating experience where the writing is continually being adjusted and honed.
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