The act of genre hopping is a hotly debated topic when brought up on social media. Some are strongly for a writer’s creative freedom, while others feel writers should stick to a single genre. First, I would like to differentiate genre hopping from the simple act of switching genres, as the latter is a singular act while the former is a repeated act. Is genre hopping a good idea? I think it falls in a gray area between good and bad that involves the writer making up their own mind. Like most things in life there are pros and cons; let’s explore those.
The Pros of Genre Hopping
Creativity is the reason why a lot of us get into the act of writing, at least I know it was for me. Yet sticking to one genre can stymie the creative brain when writing about the same subject day after day. Turning to a new genre can help explore ideas and plotlines you might not have considered in the realm of another genre. Having the freedom to write what we want when we want to write it is a big deal for some writers. I know in my own writing life there have been times when the best idea for a story doesn’t fall into the general niche I have come to place myself.
Freshness and creative freedom go hand in hand; however, one could argue that the two are separate factors (plus, I really needed another pro point). Writing the same genre every day can be akin to Ground Hog Day for some writers. Hopping to a different genre to freshen up your point of view, especially if the switch isn’t permanent, can do wonders. You may find yourself revisiting the old genre with a revitalized outlook. A daily routine of the same genre writing can grow old and stale to some and a quick change to something else might be just what the creative brain needs to stay on task.
A New Audience
Hopping to a different genre can reach new readers that might otherwise be unfamiliar with the writer’s work. Some of these new readers might consider reading outside the genre if they like the writer’s voice. I must be honest here regarding my opinion on this pro point. Attempting to reach new readers with the hope they will follow you isn’t something I would consider a good reason for genre hopping. There are few writers I would follow no matter the genre they wrote. Stephen King is an example of one such writer, while J.K. Rowling is an example of one that I haven’t followed. If reaching a new audience is a big deal for you and you don’t care about any carryover reading, consider writing under a pseudonym.
The Cons of Genre Hopping
I believe that in order to write in a genre a writer should first know that genre. This entails reading other writers in that genre as much as possible. After all, if you don’t read inside a genre then how will you know if the story you’re writing hasn’t already been written by another writer. Let me be blunt for a minute. In my opinion, it takes a rather large ego to think you can wrap your brain around the ends and outs of more than one genre at a time.
Alienating Your Old Audience
For this con we will assume that your move to another genre is out in the open rather than under a pseudonym. Readers can have particular tastes when it comes to their reading preferences. For instance, I read almost exclusively horror, though I do alternate between middle grade and adult often. Any deviation from that genre is carefully selected. As I stated earlier, I have made exceptions for some writers and not for others depending on the writer’s voice and the overall story that they wrote outside the genre. I would never abandon a writer for trying something new and different, choosing instead to wait for the next release in the genre that I enjoy. However, I’m not so sure that every reader would agree with me.
Lack of Focus
Hopping from one genre to another multiple times can create a perceived lack of focus in other people’s eyes. A reader or, say, a perspective literary agent might wonder if the writer knows what they want. If you’re not trying to attract a literary agent or are writing purely for the creative outlet, then this con doesn’t apply to you. If you are trying to attract an agent, well, it could serve you well to show some discipline and stick with one genre.
In the end whether you chose to genre hop is a personal decision that every writer has to make for themselves. Don’t base your decision off the musings of some guy of the internet (including this guy), but rather on what fits you. Personally, I prefer to focus on one genre with laser-like precision at a time when it comes to novels. When I genre hop it’s usually in the realm of the short story. If I have hopped around for several short stories, I’ll make sure the last short story is in the same genre as the novel I’m planning to write. That’s what works for me, you could be different. Thanks for reading.
Stephen Michael Roth