Using your strengths while changing skills

In the new world of Indie publishing, many authors are writing across genres. We have the freedom to write the stories we have to tell, rather than fit a marketing concept we have built with the publishing house.

painting of a couple in medieval dress kissing at the bottom of a castle staircase

That all sounds utopian. Self published authors get to write what they want and the readers will come. Of course it’s not that easy. An author has a voice, a style that readers can see no matter what the story is. To simplify, some of us are story driven and some are emotion driven. It’s not about character versus plot, it’s about what drives the reader through the book.

Some genres demand specific styles. And if a writer wants to jump genres they need to jump styles.

I’m currently writing a romance series. Now, I know a few things about my writing style. My books are driven by story. The challenge is that romances are driven by emotion.

How to play to your strengths

Find your writing strengths and don’t throw them out because you want to change genres. Make a list of what you do well. You’ll use this to help you through the battle to change, and sometimes it will be a battle. Remember this is about you the writer not your reader.

For me the list looks like this;

  1. I write fast
  2. I plot a good story
  3. I have good pacing
  4. I create quirky secondary characters

Now look at the new genre. What does this demand of the author?

For romance it looks like this;

  1. Emotionally driven
  2. needs a good story
  3. romance is the main plot

Now I know my strengths and what I need to produce. I’m still confident I can get there – and I love a challenge.

Filling the gap

When you have your two lists, I recommend taking a look at your process. This is how I  make the transition easier on me. I’m a plotter, not the 80 page outline kind, but I need to plot out the story. I do a fast first draft, then I review it for big holes. Then I keep revising and polishing until I think it’s ready for an edit. This is the core of my process. When you have yours, make notes on how you’ll add the new requirements into your process.

  1. character profiles – make sure there are strong reasons the characters can’t just admit their feelings
  2. plot outline – focus on the romance plot first and then add the story plot
  3. first draft – work as usual, just add feelings to the action even if it’s clumsy. You need the story on the page to fix it.
  4. first revision – add/fix/ increase the emotional reactions.
  5. subsequent revisions – as usual, improve and polish the story

I’m on step 3 right now and struggling to build the emotional layers, but I’m getting there. The important point is I don’t have to get paralyzed because I’m struggling with trying to change my style. I know it will come in layers and I can get the story out of my head and onto the page and fix it there.

I think it’s important for writers to challenge themselves. I believe it makes us better writers. I hope these ideas help you take a step through your comfort barrier and into an exciting new world of story.