Writers are inherently drawn to write the stories they like to read. There are significant benefits to knowing a genre well and building a fanbase who come to expect a certain genre from a particular writer. If you want horror, you’ll read Stephen King. If you want hard sci-fi, you’ll read Andy Weir. If you want fantasy, you’ll read Brandon Sanderson. But what if these well-known authors branched out into a new genre? Would you still read this new genre based on their reputation?

Many successful authors will branch out from their core genre. Take Stephen King, for instance. We know most of the books he writes are one-shot horror stories, but the Dark Tower series blends elements of traditional fantasy and western genres with just a dash of horror (since old habits die hard). It’s important to note that people who don’t enjoy reading horror might like to read the Dark Tower series, even if Stephen King is mainly known for horror. If you’re starting out as a writer and haven’t figured out which genre suits you best, jumping around to different genres may give you a chance to find where your audience is.

Know the tropes of the genre.

Different genres will have unique structures and tropes to follow. Genres can always blend together, but if you’re writing a romance and there’s no build-up to a relationship payoff, readers who pick it up expecting a romance will be disappointed. However, it can be difficult to know the difference between tropes and clichés. Knowing the genre well will let you know if something is a crutch (like a cliché) or part of the structure of the genre (like a trope). If you aren’t comfortable in this new genre, be sure to find trusted friends or other authors to beta-read your work to ensure you aren’t making any obvious mistakes.

The more you write in a genre, the better you’ll get to know it. Don’t be discouraged if you aren’t feeling this new genre after writing one or two stories. These things take practice. Still, you will probably pick up a few different tropes that you can pull into your main genre. Some genres are also close enough that they can be easily combined. Mixing and blending genres is one of the best ways to be original in a market that can be over-saturated. Originality can help you stand out, but mixing genres might pull in twice the number of readers for your work.

Start small.

There is nothing requiring a writer of a new genre to craft something original. Writing a fan-fiction of a well-known work in the genre helps reduce the burden of world-building but also can get a writer comfortable with what a story set in that genre should look like. This is where being well read across a variety of genres comes in handy. They don’t all have to be books, either, as movies, TV shows, and video games can provide jumping-off points for trying out a new genre. You don’t have to start from scratch.

It can be tempting to just jump all the way into a new genre. Writing a multi-book series is a commitment and if you botch the first book, it’s not likely readers will return for the rest of them. Even just a single novel can take a long time to write and edit so that it’s ready for readers. Short stories are a great way to test out new ideas, including new genres. Even flash fiction only takes 1,000 words to explore a genre you’re not used to. Looking out for anthology or contest submissions might give you the right inspiration to try out a new genre if it’s part of the requirements. These opportunities rarely ask for anything larger than a short story.

You might find something you like.

I enjoy writing science fiction and fantasy. I’m comfortable in these genres. Still, I’ve written in a few different genres when they pique my interest. Some stories, like the horror flash fiction “The Terrible Presence” or the historical paranormal novella “Kami’s Curse,” were interesting to write because of the different feel of the genre. Other stories, like the steampunk short story “Ironed Man,” were close enough to what I had already written that I enjoyed finding new ways to incorporate the tropes I already knew. When it comes right down to it, though, with each new genre I explore, my writer’s toolbox expands with the knowledge of these genres.

I wrote “Ironed Man” off an anthology prompt and loved the result.

What are other examples of famous authors writing outside their main genre?
What two genres do you think would go well together?
If you’re reading a new genre, do you test it out by reading short stories?

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