Switching Genres

Hello and welcome back to the blog! It’s been a few weeks since my last post. I’m sorry for my absence. I’ve been focusing on the second draft of the Stranger—which still needs a new title. Breaking Character: The Craven House is still being queried to literary agents. There’s no news to report on that front. Whoever said no news is good news never queried literary agents. But let’s not talk about that. Instead we’ll turn our attention to a topical blog post. On the docket today, switching genres. Let’s get started.

If you’ve read the blog before, chances are you remember me talking about writing for adults. If you know me or if you have read the blog before you might be wondering what makes a writer switch genres or age groups. If you are new to the blog think of this as a trip inside a writer’s mind on how we approach a difficult decision. My wife is probably cringing now, for she knows my mind is a horrifying place.

I’ve been writing since I was a teenager, which was more than a few years ago. In that span I’ve written many different genres, including horror, science fiction, literary, inspirational, western, hardboiled, and many stories which were a blend of these and other genres. Those are only my areas of focus when writing for adults. I’ve also written horror, science fiction, inspirational, and literary for middle grade (ages 8-12) as well. I have written short stories, novellas, and novels for both adults and middle grade.

If I’m honest some of these genres got more focus than others. Horror has always been my first love. It gets more attention than the rest. I’ve had quite a bit of success with literary fiction and have written a number of these stories. Three of my six publications have been literary works. I take a lot of pride in that, because literary fiction is all about the character without all the shiny things that genre fiction brings to the table. The other three stories have been horror, if you were wondering.

A little over a year ago I decided to put my full attention into middle grade fiction. This isn’t the first time I have made a switch of sorts. In my early twenties I spent a year writing westerns. Why would I do such a thing and why did I switch? For me the west is romanticized in the pages of fiction. Tense showdowns between gunfighters and strong characters exerting their will. I stopped writing westerns for a few simple reasons. I’m from the city and know next to nothing about guns and horses, which are a large part of the genre. Sure, I could research it and did. The market for such books was small and I worried about finding my place within it. The biggest reason probably won’t shock you. My first love, horror, was calling my name.

The decision to switch from writing westerns to adult horror was an easy one to make. The decision I made a little over a year ago wasn’t so easy. It was a decision that took me several years to arrive at. Years of writing adult horror and mostly failing had to happen to provoke that change.

I don’t want to give you the impression that I started writing middle grade horror out of the blue one day. The middle grade genre is something I have always been drawn to. The first novel I wrote was a middle grade horror story when I was nineteen. It was about a class field trip to a historical Cowtown that turned out to be haunted (did you notice the western angle creep into the plot?). In fact, five of the six finished novels I have written over the years have been middle grade horror novels. The lone adult horror novel even had a kid as a central character. The point is I have always had a foot in the middle grade genre. It just took me a while to realize it’s where I belonged.

So, what led to this realization? My publication history was the first factor. At the time I made the switch I had been published five times over a fifteen-year period. All those publications were adult short stories. That’s not a ton of success when you consider I rarely took a break from writing. Yet it’s the failed stories that have stuck with me and were part of my reasoning. Some of the best stories I have written for adults went unpublished, while stories I considered mediocre were published. You can’t predict the publishing world.

My most recent adult short story was published around the time I made the decision to focus on middle grade fiction. It’s a story about a grown man and his childhood imaginary friend that never went away. Oh, that imaginary friend happens to be a full-grown gorilla. The online magazine in which this story was published posts a comment from the editor as to why this story was chosen. The editor praised the story and its use of simple language. What? There had been no forethought of using simple language in the story. It was simply me writing a story. My writing style, pointed out by that editor, became factor number two.

I remember how much fun I had reading as a kid. Stories by R.L. Stine and his Goosebumps were a big reason why. As an adult I’ve read in the middle grade horror genre and enjoyed myself. The stories don’t take themselves as serious as adult fiction does. It’s as if the writers know reading is supposed to be fun. The sheer fun of it became factor number three.

I also like the idea of inspiring people to read books because the stories are fun. If I can convince a few kids to pick up a book that otherwise wouldn’t have, well, that’s worth it to me. I used to obsess over books when I was a kid. I wouldn’t put them down until I was finished. My oldest daughter is the same way. I want to have that effect on people. That’s factor number four.

As you can see the reasons began to pile up. While I might miss the obvious at times, even I couldn’t avoid seeing it. I’m a middle grade writer. It’s what I was born to be, I see that now. Every day I aim to make sure the world sees it too.

Until next time, remember to follow your dreams, even if they terrify you.

Stephen Roth

Published by stephenmroth

Stephen Roth is a horror writer focused on making his dreams a reality.

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