Do You Feel Obligated To Write Your Second Book In The Same Style/Genre As The First?

Often when writers release a book that is somewhat successful, they are immediately pigeonholed into writing within the genre of that book. This is the expectation of readers, critics and publishers who are familiar with your work. If you don’t conform to this expectation, people will sit up, take notice and grumble loudly while perusing your book at Borders. For example, after Orson Scott Card wrote Ender’s Game, it would have been entirely unexpected and quite jarring if he would have followed it up with The Notebook. His fan base might have been less than pleased.

There is certainly nothing wrong with writing within one particular genre, but it can feel limiting if you do have a desire to tackle other material. I find that there are not many authors who switch genres successfully, at least very early on in their career. China Miéville is an author who is often credited with producing books that confront completely new genres and subject material with each new piece of work. But Miéville, an English author who makes a very conscious effort to buck tradition and cliche, is a rarity in this case.

Personally, my subsequent writing plans stay somewhat grounded in science fiction, fantasy and thrillers, which are to be honest, not vast departures from each other. I’d love to write literary fiction, but I don’t think I have the chops for it. I’m more likely to write Sense, Sensibility and Seamonsters than just plain old Sense and Sensibility. I really do admire those who have the command of prose needed to write great literary fiction though.

So, I must ask, do you as a writer feel obligated to stay within the genre of your first book? Do you feel obligated to write in the same style, prose, sentence structure, etc, in fear of alienating any fan base you may have amassed? What about switching from genre fiction to literary fiction or vice versa? This may have been addressed in my white whale post, but if you were to switch genres, what genre would you switch to and what would you write about? Are there any chameleon authors out there that you think jump genres particularly well?

0 comments on “Do You Feel Obligated To Write Your Second Book In The Same Style/Genre As The First?

  1. Kayleigh says:

    I think it sucks if an author feels obligated to stay within a genre even though they want to explore others but I think for the most part people gravitate towards certain genres or styles and are likely to stay there regardless of any audience/publisher obligation.

    By the time you're creatively independent and secure enough to write a book I think you have a fair idea what your particular voice is and where it fits. If you write very lyrical prose you may not be able to utilise it in Sci-fi even if that's an area you'd like to explore. Instead you're probably better suited within literary fiction, but I don't see why they couldn't then adapt sci-fi concepts or devices and get the best of both worlds, so to speak.

    That's my completely unsubstantiated view, which is perhaps influenced by the fact I can't think of any authors who've jumped between genres but I can think of plenty who've stayed within their usual genre/style (I'm thinking more literary or straight fiction here) but integrate a little of other genres into their work quite successfully.

  2. Conor says:

    A very thorough and considerate thought on the subject. Well put, Kayleigh. It is difficult to find successful genre jumping authors. The only one I cited, Miéville, I've never actually read any of his stuff. I just hear him pegged as a sort of jack of all trades who jumps genres quite often.

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