Yes, this is filled with whisky

Yes, this is filled with whisky

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Writing in two categories

I am currently mid-edit my first novel, a MG adventure. But I have also been fermenting a historical crime fiction, which I’ll tackle once I start to query my first. I understand from your posts that you’re explicitly NOT seeking MG works, which is why I plan on not wasting your time by querying you. But if I’m fortunate enough to land an agent for this first book, won’t this agent be interested in my writing career as a whole? In which case, I would then need to rely on her to try selling my historical crime, wouldn’t I? Or would she expect me to re-query other agents, who deal in this genre (in which case, my query would be in your inbox as soon as I felt that the novel -and query letter- were up to par!)

However, I thought that normally, an author wouldn’t have two different agents at the same time, would they? I know that some authors publish in different genres under different pen names; is that why? So that Persona A writing in Genre A has one agent, and Persona B writing in Genre B has another?

I realize that this is very much ‘cart before horse’ however, I would hate to be contracted to an agent who could sell only some of the works that I have in the pipeline.

What happens normally in this situation? 

Generally, you'll try to sign with an agent who reps both kinds of books. This is something you will discuss with any agent who makes you an offer.

If you were to query me for the historical crime, and I loved it, and we were discussing rep, and you told me about the middle grade, I'd be INSTANTLY less likely to sign you.

Here's why:

1. I don't rep middle grade. I've got some middle grade on my list from established clients but it's a tough competitive field and I'm not sure I can provide the quality representation in this category that my clients should expect.

2. If you're working in two VERY different areas, I'm not convinced you're reaching your full potential in either category.  I don't think most people can excel in two different categories. Maybe you're the exception, but at the start, I'm skeptical.

3. Middle grade and adult fiction is promoted and sold VERY differently.  Instead of one career, you'd essentially be trying to establish two.  I can't begin to tell you how hard that is.  And the chances for success with divided time and focus are diminished. Please remember that I make money ONLY when you make money, so your success is CRUCIAL for me.  Anything that gets in the way of you making money is a problem.

Right now you're only thinking about what you like to write.  That's great. But when you involve me in the situation, the discussion is about how to build a career.  I know that wasn't your question here, but it is the answer.  Figure out where you want to focus and then query to find the agent best suited to help you achieve your goal with that book.


nightsmusic said...

My two cents FWIW, I'm totally with Janet on this one. I tried writing my ideas which were two different genres and they both sucked. When I concentrated on one, it got so much better. Same story, total focus and I think, unless you're a Very Established Author in which case, you're given some leeway, writing in more than one genre is a disservice to your readers and a less focused road for you.

Also, if you're writing MG and you have any kind of adult story that has eeek! Sex in it, though I know kids are savvy, how would you feel if one showed up to a signing with their mom for your adult book? It's hard enough to have one persona, two that are so different is almost impossible to maintain unless you are as big as Stephen King or a few other names who didn't branch out until after they'd become a household type name.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Isn't this like one man with a couple of sister-wives. Sounds great, actually sounds quite fulfilling, but oh how difficult it could be when one likes rap and the other is into opera.
Or you could all listen to Ariana Grande.

Colin Smith said...

Opie: Are you dabbling in genres, or is there one you feel passionate about, and enjoy writing the most? What do you tend to read? If your reading is all over the map, do you look forward to that next MG book, or are you more into historical crime? (And if you aren't reading a genre you plan to write, then you don't need to be writing it yet.) You have to find your passion. Even established authors (e.g., Mr. King) built a career in one genre, and their works in other genres don't stray too far from home.

Imagine that first novel being the one that people identify with your name. Are you okay with that? Can you talk endlessly about that book, the characters, the plot, etc.? If you were interviewed by local radio, would you be able to discuss that book as if it was the only book you would ever write? This may be a tall order, but I think looking at your situation this might help you decide where to go.

Write what you love. That's what it comes down to. Dabbling in other genres can help you determine what you love. But if you aren't hot for your novel, you can't expect anyone else to be.

jojoroony said...

I think it's interesting that many children's book authors that I loved as a child (not so long ago) did successfully strike a balance between their MG books and their adult books, but only via pseudonym or lots of time in-between publications. E.g. Daniel Handler, who established a pseudonym for A Series of Unfortunate Events both because Lemony Snicket is a character in the books and because he didn't want children googling his name only to find his debut novel, which I believe was about incest.

Of course, you've got Neil Gaiman breaking these rules, but even then he writes with the same tone and sort of... dark whimsy, no matter whether he's writing for children or adults. Also, he's Neil Goddamn Gaiman, so he can do whatever he likes, generally.

Colin Smith said...

For the record, I would query Janet even if my next novel was Dino Porn, because she said we could. And if I can get Janet to show interest in a genre she doesn't represent, that must be one hekuva good query! ;)

Colin Smith said...

... oh, and, yes, it would be cool to have Janet for an agent. But I think that goes without saying here. :)

Celia Reaves said...

Colin: Me, too. When I get to that stage, after all the revisions and beta reads and more revisions and workshopping and query revisions and Query Shark and all, no matter what I've written, the first actual query goes to Janet. She is, after all, my Queen, and she gets first refusal on anything I've written. I know she's a large part of why whatever it is has reached whatever level of competence it might have.

E.M. Goldsmith said...

OP, my initial reaction to this is finish your first book. Don’t even worry about the minutia right now of what’s next. The first big obstacle in the publishing world is finishing your book. Now, if you don’t feel strongly enough about the MG book to finish it, then there’s your answer.

If you want to write a historical crime book just so you can query Janet, well then, we all understand. We do. I have filed away a couple of wonderful crime thrillers that end up with Jack Reacher running off with literary agent in the end just so that I might be able to tempt the QOTKU. Of course, getting Lee Child to let me do that is another matter. I feel certain he is working diligently on that very tale right now.

I have written in many genres, especially in my short fiction. However, I knew absolutely that I wanted to write fantasy. I have a tremendous backlog (I think that’s what agent calls the stuff sitting in your drawer), but the genres are variations of fantasy. I have a crime thriller that is a twist on the Billy Goats Gruff (I think they call this Urban Fantasy now days). I have a romantic thriller that involves a succubus and an incubus.

So there are ways to bend genres to your specialty once you figure out what that might be. A MG historical crime thriller would be really cool. These readers are far more sophisticated than lots of people give them credit for. One of the things I like the most about the Peculiar Children series by Ransom Riggs is the historical nature of it, that and the use of the old black and white photographs. Anyhow, find your focus first. Finish your book. Then jump into the query trenches and see where that takes you.

RachelErin said...

The other thing for the OP to consider is genre mashings. If you decide MG is where your heart is, why not write an MG historical crime thriller? Which both myself and my 8-year-old would immediately put on our TBR lists.

Something like The Apprenticeship of Lucas Whittaker, but with a crime element instead of the medical mystery? (That book made me cry, by the way. The author did a brilliant job putting the reader in historically empathetic shoes).

One overhears MSWL for unusual genre mixing, especially MG for boys, who might get into a crime thriller. (with thrill appropriately portrayed for the age, of course)

Of course, you may also need to write a bunch of genres to decide where you want your career to be. Time consuming, but such is the writing life.

But about the MG historical crime thriller, never mind. I'm going to write that. =)

Lisa Bodenheim said...

Opie: Thank you for asking this question. The Queen's response is helpful, making the distinction between what we like to do and what we wish to build into a career.

I wonder if that's why my passion has flagged in writing non-fiction. I don't wish to build that as my career. I've not been able to focus on it since I started writing my story (again) 3 years ago. And work at a professional paying job as well. I've told myself, it should be easy. But, maybe not. I don't want to spend my energy trying to organize a non-fiction book proposal in the finite amount of time I have.

And Opie, I think that's what the Queen, and what Colin too in his first comment, are asking you. Where is your passion? Because that will give energy and enthusiasm to your story. And that's why readers will spend hard-earned money to buy your story. (sorry, that last bit sounded cold but it is reality for writer's who wish/prefer to earn a living as a writer)

nightsmusic said...


Sorry, got really excited for a minute that I might actually get to...

Donnaeve said...

The main question - already asked - what do you think you're going to want to write as a career? MG or historic crime?

But then after I read more, I started being curious about why the OP would tackle a MG book first; was it a test to see if you could see a project through to the end, sort of on a whim, but now you realize it's not really the genre you want to write in? Is it because you spent all this time on it, and now feel sort of feel obligated to not set it aside and begin work in earnest on the genre you might be more passionate about?

We've all written different things in the beginning, that's for sure. My first two books are upmarket fiction/Southern fiction. Then, if you've been reading out here a while, you know I also wrote a hard crime novel. Honestly? I was glad when one of the Southern fiction stories sold b/c that's what I feel I should be writing. ("should" means where I'm most comfortable/passionate) This is the genre I'll be writing in going forward.

This is going to sound like one of those "oh just do this," statements (i.e. easier said than done) but you really should think about what you want long term and like QOTKU advises - focus there - because if MG isn't it, you could be wasting your time - and an agent's. And what I mean by that would be, why query the MG if in the long run, that's not what you plan to write "forever?"

Bethany Elizabeth said...

Opie, this is a great question, and a tough decision to make. I love writing high fantasy. It's what I read, it's what I've always written, and it's probably what I'll try to get published.

However, I recently started a novel in a completely different genre. It started out as a fun project, then a relaxing project. It was easy, fast writing that kept me up all night. I'm nowhere near serious about it - after all, I haven't read much in this genre and like Colin said, that's a big no-no - but after some research and a LOT of editing, it might be worth the light of day. Maybe. Like I said, I've got some research to do first.

In the meantime, nightmusic, you'll be happy to know that there are already several dino porn novels out on amazon. These include such fascinating titles as Taken by the T-Rex, Psychic Raptors in Lust, and Gay T-Rex law Firm: Executive Boner. I swear that I'm not making this up.

Dena Pawling said...

As a purely practical matter, and I know this isn't a scientific way of going about this but at least it gives a ballpark, I went to and in the search fields I clicked on both MIDDLE GRADE and MYSTERY and it came back with 53 agents. When I clicked on those two plus THRILLER/SUSPENSE [not knowing exactly where your historical would fall], it came back with 33 agents.

That's not enough for me.

If I just click MYSTERY I get 301 agents and just THRILLER/SUSPENSE I get 318 and just MIDDLE GRADE I get 200. Those numbers look better to me.

Do more research, read more books, talk to librarians in both sections of the library, and try to decide where you should focus your efforts and write the most books. What is FUN for you when you're writing it? There's nothing wrong with a deviation into another genre every once in a while, and you can always consider self-pubbing that one.

Or you can change your name to James Patterson. Good luck.

Mister Furkles said...

You mean LGBT erotica and MG Christian historical don't mix? WTF? Now, what am I going to do? Maybe one of those double novels with LGBTE on one side; flip it over and MGCH on the other.

nightsmusic said...

Bethany! Thank you for taking one for the team. You do realize now that is in your search history, it will never really go away...


Colin Smith said...

Julie: Always the exception to the rule, you know you've got Janet on the hook for your Cowgirl novel, no matter who else picks up your other work. And I'm not complaining. As long as your stuff gets published, I don't care if you're repped by the entire Buttonweezer family! ;)

Robert Ceres said...

What RachaelErin said re genre mashup. Writing good MG voice is really hard. Great MG voice, nearly impossible. I think that is one of the reasons the genre is tight. If you can write great MG you should go with it, even if you can't get Janet as your agent. Speaking as a parent, those kids are hungry to read, there is just a huge shortage of titles with really great writing. The ones that get it right have been huge sellers. Just my two cents.

Karen McCoy said...

As usual, the timing on this blog is impeccable. I'm editing a lot of projects in a similar speculative YA genre, but since I'm still trying to grow as a writer and make new words, I'm dabbling in a couple other projects just for fun. This is a great reminder to retain focus.

Her Grace, Heidi, the Duchess of Kneale said...

Sometimes it takes an author a while to figure out what they really, truly want to write.

I experimented with different genres, different ages, and pretty much wrote out all those stories that nagged at me until I got my Muse under control. Now my Muse aids me to write what satisfies my soul--Fantasy Romance novels.

Yes, I loved writing my contemporary thriller. I think it's clever. But it is the only contemporary thriller I will ever write. One book does not make a career.

I wrote a contemporary YA and half-way through, asked myself, "Why am I writing this? I don't love this." Turns out, it was a bad book, possibly one of the worst I'd ever written.

But I have written several fantasies and several romances. I am happiest writing Fantasy Romance. Give me love and magic any day.

(But not paranormal. Too close to contemporary. I write escapist fiction. I want to get as far away from real life as I can.)

Just today I read a guest post on an indie blog about an indie author who only wrote "when inspired", and whatever random idea that was. She was her Muses's b!tch. Her works (which apparently there were plenty) were eight ounces of milk without a glass. Her blog post was about how, after so many singletons, she was able to write a sequel (after how many years of her fans asking for sequels?) and that she didn't think she could write a sequel again.

Did she choose the indie life, or did it choose her? I wonder how well she sells with her scattershot career.

Being a successful career author means having a brand. And that means when readers see a book under your name, they expect a certain thing. Nobody expects to pick up a Stephen King book and find a frothy Regency Romance.

My advice to Opie is write your YA, write your historical crime, then write another book. Maybe two. Ask yourself, what do you want to write the most? What sings loudest to your soul?

It seems too many people write one book and think they must immediately go out and seek representation.

Must you?

It seems too many people try to build a career out of one book.

Is it the right book?

Colin Smith said...

NM: If the FBI care that Bethany's been poking around Dino Porn on Amazon, then they have way too much time on their hands and maybe need to adjust their priorities.

Mind you, what Great Aunt Matilda will think when she accidentally uses Bethany's Amazon account to search for a birthday gift... ;)

Robert Ceres said...

"But that's the worm eating it's way through my brain." Wow, now that is a perfect quote! Thank you Julie.

I too would love to submit to Janet, if just to engage in a conversation on writing, even knowing that having her as an agent is fantasy, a genre I don't write. Sometimes I optimistically, longingly, despairingly check the Chum Bucket update page. So instead I’m planning on someday (when I can afford it,) wandering around a conference, spotting Janet sitting at the bar, wondering over to buy a glass of Bourbon, and thanking her for all that she does.

nightsmusic said...

Colin, yes! Once you've searched Amazon for something, it will always linger in your 'recommendations.' I know this though I won't ever, ever admit to why I do.

Robert Ceres said...

By the way, check out this picture of Janet on Huffington Post:

"Indeed, the Sharks-World website reports that there are only 22 known attacks on humans by lemon sharks, with no fatalities. " Indeed! Who knew sharks were so nice?

JulieWeathers said...

(Sorry guys. I couldn't stand that typo. I deleted and re-posted.)

In a former life I had two different agents because it's nigh impossible to find an agent who reps both suspense and children's books. I'm currently working on a historical about a female Confederate spy and another historical about some old time cowgirls or something. There may be zero market for a Civil War book now, who knows, but that's the worm eating its way through my brain. Even so, I think an agent might stretch enough to be interested in me if the stories were there.

I do think my mind works better when it's in the same universe. Other people may be more talented than I am.

Bethany Elizabeth said...

Luckily for me, Colin and nightmusic, amazon search was not my only option. There's a comedy website called Cracked that found all the books for me!

10 Real Book Covers From Dinosaur-On-Human Sex Novels

No corner of the internet is too weird for comedy websites! Also, only God can judge me! :)

Cheryl said...

You all are way braver than I am. One of the reasons I like hanging around in these comments is because I know I will never write anything Janet represents, so I don't have to worry too much if I make an ass out of myself.

I know the agony of wanting to write in several genres, but I soon came to realize that I'm not cut out for SF. No one seems to want light, humourous work right now and I don't have the skills for the other kind. So I trunked 20+ short stories and a novel in favour of a genre where light and humourous works: romance and romantic fantasy.

The deeply-plotted political fantasy that is languishing in first draft shouldn't see the light of day for a lot more years.

Laura Mary said...

Only got time to skim today, but my advice is to let your ideas brew for a while, and see if they actually fit the genre you think they do.
I'm currently writing YA fantasy, and a few months back had my first real solid idea for Next Novel. I was absolutely sure it was adult fiction (even started wondering about subbing under a different variation of my name for my dual career!) As soon as I started scribbling things down however, the voice that came out was undoubtedly teenage. Now I've got a few pages of scribbled notes, I can clearly see this is dystopian YA. Considering YA is 90% of what I read, this really shouldn't come as any surprise to me!

There are geniuses out there who straddle the genres, but I doubt even they did it with their first two novels!

Colin Smith said...

Bethany: Dino on HUMAN? Isn't that a bit like 50 SHADES with a slab of steak? I've heard of food porn, but... really? OK, we probably need to drop this rabbit trail like a hot potato (not hot in THAT sense--please, people!) before the Shark starts biting...

Cheryl said...

Bethany: And yet they're still missing The Billionaire Dinosaur Forced Me Gay and its sequel.

Link leads to the Smart Bitches, Trashy Books review.

Colin Smith said...

Almost forgot...

Robert's link:

And this one's for Cheryl:

Sherry Howard said...

Thank God Robert finally said something kind about MG! I was starting to cry really big tears, since MG seems to be my jam. Well, maybe. I was a middle grade principal and love middle grade everything and can nail that voice well. Guess I'll have to stay VERY QUIET about those other things I've written that are gathering dust in drawers. I am one of those writers who still writes everything because that's the way my brain works. I've never had ADD, but I think I have LINGUISTIC ADD. That's a real thing; I'm a certified professional.

Colin, I must have been away when the discussion about querying JR anyway occurred. I'm not sure what you mean.

Kae Ridwyn said...

It's 12.01am on my first official day of holidays and I thought that I'd just quickly check this blog before heading to bed. Ha.
I'm screaming (on the inside, otherwise I'd wake up Hubby and the kids) right now because this was me!!!!! (Yes, way over on the exclamation marks, sorry... but being OP... maybe I can be forgiven?)
You know how they say 'put your finished book-baby away for a few months, then when you come back to it, you'll be able to see the errors you couldn't see when you first birthed it?' Well, that's me with this email. Swimming around in these waters over the past few months has taught me so incredibly much; the advice I have absorbed here, both from our incredible QOTKU and from all you inspirational Reiders, has meant that I now look back on this email, shaking my head. I'm not the same writer I was back then - which was only weeks ago. I've grown so much in my knowledge and understanding of not only the industry but also myself, and my writing. And that's due to this reef, and the people here. I can't thank you all enough.
Thank you also for your comments and advice on this particular question. Focus is definitely something that I needed, and have been working on. As such a newbie writer, I'm thinking that this first one may end up one of those 'under the bed, never see the light of day' ones, written just for fun - well, for my middle daughter, really - and for the practice of finishing.
I'm also still deciding what my area of 'passion' is, considering where I'm at in my ability to write. The historical crime fiction was what first had me intrigued with the idea of writing; it's something along the lines of the Brother Cadfael but set in 350AD Rome, and I started it over a decade ago, before I had children. The MG adventures are recent, written with my children in mind. I'm a Christian, and both these are 'clean' (okay, so there's murder in the historical one, but it's more 'detective' than 'gore', no sex at all), and both would suit the Christian market. The historical crime novel also a biggie. The research alone is something that, at the moment with three kids under 12, I can't contemplate. It'll continue percolating happily while I work on the MG, I think.
Thank you again, everyone, for your companionship on this journey, for your invaluable advice, and the unbelievable support I find here on a daily basis. But most of all, I am humbled and so truly grateful for Her Sharkliness, our QOTKU. Words fail to express the depth of my gratitude. Thank you for your advice, for your time, for your constant encouragement of us. Thank you for this blog, and for providing us a reef to live on and learn at. Thank you. I truly appreciate it.

Bethany Elizabeth said...

Ack! Typos. Reposting.
There are other articles that reference the other books on Cracked, just in case ya'll were wondering. Also, apparently writing niche erotica that you self-publish on Amazon can make you a decent amount of money, provided you're more prolific than King and you choose the correct niche (and apparently dino-on-human is a correct niche).

Maybe that's the answer to this whole dilemma. You CAN write in two genres, just as long as one is self-published under a pseudonym and you never ever EVER tell anyone about your secret second life. But, dang, Janet's right again - there just aren't enough hours in the day to really focus on both genres.

Cheryl, I'm probably going to spend most of my workday reading that website. I love snarky and humorous reviews of romance novels. :)

Colin Smith said...

Sherry: I hate putting words in QOTKU's mouth (especially with all those bright pointy teeth), but here's the gist, as I understand it, of what she has said:

Janet has her areas of expertise that she definitely wants to see (e.g., crime, westerns, memoir, and thriller, though I don't think she's carte blanche on thriller--see her clients). With others, she will recommend you query agents with specific expertise in those genres, but she wouldn't object to being queried. Sure, you're more likely to get a rejection, but, a) you are never wasting her time sending her a query--especially if you're regular here and, hence, more likely to send a half-decent query; b) she has been known to pick up projects outside her reef because the query was so darned good and the idea so darned compelling she couldn't say no. For such, she will often collaborate with another agent who knows the genre when it comes to submission.

Janet, please correct me if I'm wrong. (Like I have to give permission!)

Bethany Elizabeth said...

Sherry, it's under the Rules for Writers - Be Imperfect

And Kae, I know exactly what you mean. I've learned so much here. Sometimes a few weeks can make a huge difference!

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Kae, for years I wrote what I thought "might" sell better than what I "loved" to write because I believed my writer's passion-projects would languish. I don't do that anymore.
If you're going to commit to the huge amount of time writing projects require you might as well love what rattles around in you brain.

BJ Muntain said...

Kae, I had a whole long comment typed out about maybe setting the MG aside for awhile and try writing something else... but it seems you've beat me to it.

Having written, in the middle of editing, a novel is HUGE. Congratulations!

Unfortunately, a first novel is not always our best work. But then, I haven't seen your novel, so perhaps you were able to craft the perfect novel first thing. I've heard it happens. Not often, though.

Perhaps you need to write a few MG before you decide if that's the genre for you. Or perhaps you need to write the historical crime - and then you might decide MG is a better fit, or the hist crime, or something else.

You know, one way to sample a number of genres and categories is to write short stories. You'll be able to see if you enjoy writing a genre or a certain type of voice (as MG needs) without spending years of your life on each genre or category.

My first novels were fantasy and paranormal (though I wrote it before 'paranormal' was a separate subgenre). I may someday go back and revisit some of those novels (yes, some - but not the first one. Oh no. Not that FIRST one!) but for now, I'll concentrate on my science fiction.

DLM said...

Today is the anniversary of the "Give me liberty, or give me death" speech, and I want so badly for this to be relevant to the conversation somehow. I should perhaps look to Deuteronomy instead, as Julie did yesterday (three times). :)

When I spot a plot bunny hopping in a direction other than historical fiction, I manage the urge to follow by using short fiction instead. I then find the shorts often don't finish themselves. The bunnies run off, and I turn back to the larger work at hand.

Even if the bunny doesn't hop off: hey, finished short work in a genre that tugged at me.

While short work may not built the platform for the "larger" genre you work with on novels, it is one outlet, and not highly likely to *hurt* a career set on a different track (*exceptions may exist for dino porn).

Just a thought. And one probably better stated already. I will freely confess, my reading comprehension with today's comments is at minimum. My skull is lined with pollen right now, and my brain itches.

Colin Smith said...

Diane: I dunno... maybe there's a connection between "Give me liberty or give me death" and FIFTY SHADES OF REX... :)

E.M. Goldsmith said...

For Diane

"Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!" - Patrick Henry March 23, 1775

This could be used beautifully in Dino Porn Hist-Fic MG Crime Thriller I am sure. So it's relevant.

Colin Smith said...

"Is this blog so dear, or my sanity so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of Dino Porn? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me another double vodka!" - Janet Reid, March 23, 2016


DLM said...

Y'all ain't right.

E.M. Goldsmith said...

And there's next week's subheader
"Ya'll ain't right" - DLM

And Colin, you owe me a cup of coffee. Your last bit sent coffee all over my work station. Dear Lord, help us.

Colin Smith said...

EM: I agree. About Diane's comment. As for the coffee, well, you should know better than to read the comments with full cheeks. ;)

E.M. Goldsmith said...

Colin: good point.

Wouldn't Janet want a double Scotch over vodka? Or is Dino Porn better with clear liquids. Do you think she likes Johnny Walker Red? One wonders.

Kate Larkindale said...

You have to write what you love. I keep trying to write adult books, but every time I start thinking about the characters and where they came from, how they got to this point, I end up writing their backstory as a YA novel.

So I guess I'm a YA author. I love writing that time of life where personalities and ideas and identities are still being forged and discovered. And after many years of trying to break away from that, I'm now happily embracing that I am a YA author.

Lucie Witt said...

OP, I am guessing there are a lot of writers out there who can relate. Most of us like to read in more than one category, so I think many of us start out wanting to write in more than one category.

One of the most surprising things for me when I started writing novels [redacted] years ago was that my favorite categories to read were not necessarily the ones I write the best. I had to write a lot of different books to find my sweet spot.

The authors I can think of who write in multiple categories most successfully tend to write across categories but in the same genre. Chuck Wendig writes adult and YA, and all his novels are generally SFF-ish/horror. Victoria Schwab writes MG, YA and adult, and her novels are all fantasy. Richelle Mead has successful YA and adult series, all romance. Mindy McGinnis is one of the few authors I can think of who writes dystopian, historical, and contemporary YA.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

“Give me liberty or give me death.” Awe come on.
That may have been fine for Patrick Henry but how about the really serious stuff like give me liberty or give me a hot fudge Sunday. Liberty can wait while I down 5000 calories topped off by a once healthy cherry, which looks and tastes like plastic because it’s been soaking in red dye #5 since the Reagan administration.
Give me liberty or give me a winning lottery ticket. I could buy Connecticut and with the change, finance an election which would insure us a leader promising liberty for all. Now, if I could only find an honest politician in CT. (We’ve had a few do time.) Think Bernie would sell me VT.
Give me liberty or give me a gallon of Sherwin Williams, a brush and a day in Reider’s retirement home. See y’all on the shuffleboard court with Mr. Henry.

Janice L. Grinyer said...

"Anything that gets in the way of you making money is a problem. Right now you're only thinking about what you like to write. That's great. But when you involve me in the situation, the discussion is about how to build a career."

Exactly the right words every writer who wants to be traditionally published needs to read and hear, Janet. This isn't just about ego, this is about producing great work that benefits writer, reader and the industry, both literary and monetary. A Career.

As a writer it certainly is imposing when you look at your work and realize it needs help. I'm at that stage right now; either I make this great by hard work & time, or decide it's something that I just can't do. I know I certainly don't want to waste my time or others if this is just about making me feel good about myself.

So "Focus". What a wonderful word when it's finally achieved. Thank you for answering Opie's question, and reminding all of us to focus, QOTKU!

Bethany Elizabeth said...

I'm with E.M. about the subheader. :)

My workplace has a stellar cafeteria (I'll bring this back to the point, I promise!). Subsidized food, full-time culinary team, delicious foods from every culture, and fresh homemade gelato three days a week. When I first got here, I asked one of the culinary team how anyone could work here without gaining 50 pounds. She smiled benignly and said, "Just remember, it'll all be here tomorrow. You're not losing out by eating healthy."

I feel like that applies here. I absolutely believe that if your passion is pulled in two directions - both toward MG adventure and historical fiction - you absolutely can write and pursue and publish in both genres. I'm a dreamer, I know.

You may not be able to build a career from both genres, though, and that might mean sitting on one of your dreams for a decade or two. That's okay. Your passion will still be there tomorrow. You're not losing out by focusing on one dream at a time.

Panda in Chief said...

I know it's been mentioned before, but anyone who writes in any of the kidlit genres would do well to join SCBWI. (Society of Childrens Book Writers and Illustrators.) I've learned tons from them, and they have extensive agent and editors listings for their members, in all the kidlit permutations.
Since all of what I am doing is author/illustrator stuff, kidlit is where I live, at least for now. Whether I will ever be inspired to do adult graphic novels is still to be discovered. There are a number of agents who rep both middle grade and picture books, so that's what I'll be looking for when I'm ready with my MG GN.

Meanwhile, I would love to read some dino porn, while eating a fried kale sandwich.

I'm down for the count today, having managed to pick up some travel crud from my travels last weekend. Thanks for cheering me up, you guys.

Craig said...

It would be nice if writers could write what they want. We are all almost human and therefore things change. Some things that might change are based in the confidence we have as writers. I don't think I could make a MG or YA voice work if my life depended on it. That doesn't mean that it might not happen down the road. Then I might want to.

I guess that on top of a query, a synopsis, killer first paragraph or chapter, and six kinds of pitches you need to sit down and come up with a plan. What do you want books two through six to be. When you get the call make sure you mention that plan.

I yearned to make time to write scifi for years. Then I started on it and decided I could build a better story if I started with a few straight ahead thrillers. I wrote a timeline so that I can build my characters until they take that big step off planet.

Maybe that is why the query for where I want to start eludes me.

Janice L. Grinyer said...

Kae~ I just took the time to read other's comments, and came across yours - you revealed yourself and were so honest with your vulnerabilities; I just had to respond!

If I put myself in your shoes, I can see where the dilemma is. You have a gift - you are writer because you see the stories everywhere. Not everyone does that :)

Now you just need to master it (like all of us!). And I know you know that takes time, hard work, editing and more time. Janet's advice actually is good for all things- focus on what makes you think and feel "complete" when doing so. I know you know what Im talking about :D

And actually, when your kiddos are older, they are going to have many, many opportunities to try new things - some of which will take time, dedication, and more time. A hard lesson is for them to try ALL at the same time - the old saying "Jack of all trades, Master of none" comes to mind. But heres the kicker - how wonderful that your kids will see their parent leading the way in how its done - the best kind of parenting.

Hugs to (((you!))) #pooryouimahugger #writingandparentingnodifference

Kae Bell said...

Ditto on the short story writing advice from BJM above. It's great practice, at whatever needs work, but in much less time. It's like the microwave oven for writing when you don't have time to cook a real dinner.

For me, it is not so much picking the genre, but more that I have a hard time writing the darker side of man's consciousness. Short stories allow me to practice this.

Kae Ridwyn said...

So I've just woken up after finally making it to bed at 1, and am chortling with those 'Give Me Liberty' comments! A born and bred Aussie, we get a daily run-down of all your election dramas... it certainly seems an 'interesting' point in time over there right now!
And thank you to all those with personalised comments; you are treasures, each and every one of you, and I appreciate your words of wisdom more than you realise. Thanks for your advice, your suggestions, and for your encouragement. Youze guyz are the best!

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Regarding my 11:16 am comment. I should have added that I am damn lucky I am able to make $ writing what I love. And though I am comfortable within my realm of word search it does not mean I do not continue to reach.
The key is FOCUS.
Narrowing in is hard but it builds a foundation (career) you can wrap your arms around.
Best of luck.
Here's another piece of advice.
Spend life with your kiddos and write around the edges of your life. It's hard but oh so satisfying.

Dave Rudden said...

Hey y'all. I know I haven't posted in a while, but I ran into a sort of technical issue. I have spent my down time trying to write Dino porn but found it to be an extinct genre, not to mention that all the actors looked like they were just a pile of bones. I am going to try my hand a fish porn next. I am thinking of naming my star Sharky McFluffer.

On a the topic at hand, if the OP wants to write in two different genres would it be advised that they write under a different name for each?

JulieWeathers said...


"Y'all ain't right." Stop channeling Firefly! I don't have time to watch it.


I understand your pain, believe me. I finished The Archer's Tale by Bernard Cornwell today. It's pretty good, but it was gut-wrenching at the end and I almost didn't finish it because I knew what was coming. John the Blind of Bohemia died with twelve of his knights at Crecy. He had been blind a decade, but refused to sit out the fight, so his knights tied their bridles together so they would not get separated from him. The battle was going badly. The French army was breaking, but he insisted on going to where the fighting was heaviest. His knights, Lords in their own right, refused to leave him. They were hacked to bits with no quarter.

I've wanted to write a story about John for years. The problem is, there are hundreds of fascinating stories I'd love to write. We have to focus otherwise we would run around like a blind dog in a meat house.

I wish you well whatever you wish to do. You may have to write a few books to figure out what really resonates with your writing soul.

DLM said...

Julie, I've only actually seen Firefly once through, but that phrase is common as can be where I come from. I've been telling Mr. X he ain't right for 14 years (and I'm not done yet).

At this point in my day, I'll take a bit of snoozing for liberty - or (strictly temporary) death.

Thank you for the nominations. And sincere, I-love-y'all-man Very Special Episode thank you to those who have prayed for my mom.

Megan V said...

I have to admit the first time I read this post it made my hackles rise.

My train of thought went something like this:

Hey! What do you mean people can't excel in different categories? I write in more than one category! I'm good at it. Aren't I?

Who cares? Even if I am the exception, then as soon as I tell Super Agent that I write in more than one category she won't sign me. Maybe I should burn my manuscripts. But which ones? How do I choose? Which manuscripts am I more passionate about?

I love them all! They are all my preciouses. I am the exception! I have to be.

But the QOTKU says that writing in more than one category prevent someone from reaching their full potential. So the QOTKU must think I'm a failure. I'm a total failure. I suck. All of my manuscripts suck. I should burn them all.

*sniffle* I'll never be a writer. *pours a whiskey sour* Never. *sips*

Wait a minute...I'm doing that horrible woodland creature thing! I'm turning a post into rejection! Silly woodland creature. The QOTKU is not saying you stink (at least not out loud). She hasn't bitten you. She hasn't even exiled you to Carkoon. Reread the post.

That's when I realized that the first time I read this post, I did so with a narrow interpretation. This interpretation caused a whirlwind of self-doubt that is in no way what the QOTKU intended. And I realized the QOTKU made a strong point. There's a difference between writing whatever you want and building a writing career.

You should always write what you love, but everything you write isn't going to be all shiny and marketable. If you want to be an expert in your craft, depth might just be more important than breadth. said...

Welp. Maybe I can disagree without being disagreeable. I can't second-guess how Janet perceives this issue or how she thinks it's best to handle it as an agent. That's her call and I respect her experience. But I pretty strongly disagree with one aspect of this post.

I don't think it's true that writers can't excel in more than one category. I simply know too many writers who have done/are doing so. But maybe I happen to know a lot of exceptional writers. Probably that's true.

Kae, I do agree that as a new-ish and less experienced writer, you'd be making things harder on yourself than they need to be by trying to start off your career that way. There are so many things to learn when you're starting out, not just about writing and finding your voice and balancing life but also about all the various options and pitfalls involved with the business of publishing. Trying to figure out how to do all that in more than one genre/category/whatever-we're-calling-it-this-week, all at the same time, is going to be really difficult. And potentially discouraging. No one wants that.

So get your feet under you first. Gain some (more) confidence. Enjoy some success. But don't ever be afraid to take chances and do different things if inspiration strikes. I honestly think that advising a writer to write only one thing, ever, is dangerous advice. For writers who are prolific and have varied interests and a wide-ranging curiosity, it's the kind of thing that can be harmful and stifle creativity. I don't know, maybe that is a very small group of exceptional writers. Maybe not. But maybe you're one of them. Don't limit yourself preemptively by believing what anyone else tells you you're not capable of doing.

AJ Blythe said...

I don't think there is anything more to be said. Reiders rock!

JulieWeathers said...


I meant it sounds like something you would hear on Firefly, which isn't a bad thing.

Her Grace, Heidi, the Duchess of Kneale said...

Don't forget Jurassic Jane Eyre.

Whilst I would have loved to have been published decades ago, I am grateful I have had the opportunity to develop not only my voice and preferred genres, but have had the opportunity to establish good working habits. I'm gonna make an agent really happy for a very long time, someday.

Now, to convince several key people that I can write a great novel that makes people shove money into my fists for the privilege of reading it. "Take my money NOW!!" they'll cry.