Writing In A New Genre: Excellent Adventure Or Bad Decision?

By Susan K. Hamilton

I’ll read just about anything, but like most people, I have some genres that I gravitate to and some I don’t. So, when I first turned my hand to writing, I wrote what I loved: fantasy and its myriad sub-genres (I landed quite by happy accident in the dark/urban fantasy area).

After writing ‘Shadow King’ and ‘The Devil Inside’, I realized I had another story percolating in my imagination. An idea I tried to ignore at first because it was— gasp! —women’s fiction, and there was nary a dragon, elf, Fae, or other fantasy creature to be found. 

I must be out of my mind, I thought. I had no business writing women’s fiction. I knew nothing about women’s fiction. And all the dire warnings I’d heard in the past came back: readers want consistency… they will leave you if you switch genres… you’ll never be successful if you don’t create a niche…

For a while, I tried ignoring the idea, tried stay in my chosen lane and stick with fantasy. But the story in my head—which eventually became my novel, ‘Stone Heart’, wouldn’t leave me alone. Finally, I realized that the only thing stopping me from writing it was my own self-doubt. And when I realized that, I understood I was also ignoring the advice I’ve often given other writers: “just write!” 

Switching out of your comfort zone can be a nail-biter for any writer, but if you’re thinking of taking the plunge, here’s a few things to think about:

Ask yourself, “Why am I doing this?”

There’s no right or wrong answer to that question, and you’re the only one who CAN answer it. Are you switching because you want to challenge yourself? Because an idea struck you out of the blue? Are you reading a new genre and really digging it? Because anthropomorphic unicorn assassins are the hot new trend right now?

Be honest with yourself when you answer this question. If you’re looking to hop onto the hottest new trend, give that some careful thought. Trends come and go and chasing them takes a lot of effort. If you’re looking, however, to expand your horizons and get reenergized, a genre switch just might be the inspiration you’re looking for.

Go on a scouting expedition

Different genres come with different “rules,” and you need to understand those. I’m not saying you can’t bend or break them, but you’ve got to know what they are first. When I started writing ‘Stone Heart’, I didn’t really know what it was. I just knew it was the story I needed to write. When I was done, I sent it off to an editor who promptly asked me what genre it was supposed to be. 

“I’m not sure” was not the answer she was hoping for.

I’d thought, initially, that it was contemporary romance but after a long heart-to-heart with the editor, and a little research on my part, I realized that it didn’t fit into what a devout romance reader would expect out of a novel. There are certain expectations readers have for the genres they love, and while I am all for a well-written subversion of expectations, I also didn’t want readers to feel like my book was bait and switch.

In ‘Stone Heart’, there is an important romantic relationship—but the story is about the protagonist’s emotional journey, not about the romance itself. That distinction took me out of the romance genre and put me more squarely into women’s fiction. And as I’ve marketed the story, I’ve tried to be very clear about that.

During your scouting expedition, I also recommend you read. Read a whole lot of books in this new genre you’re exploring. Find the top writers and learn from them. Find the newcomers, too. You’ll learn a lot about writing from reading. In full transparency, I didn’t do this. But in retrospect, I think I would have benefitted from it.

Be prepared to roll your sleeves up

Some of the nay-sayers have a point. You will lose some of your audience when you switch. It isn’t because they don’t like your writing, your new genre just might not be their thing. 

But for any readers who don’t follow you to the new genre, you have a whole new pool of potential readers to turn into fans. Finding them will take work. You’ll need to start over building readership—branding, building connections, all of it. Finding readers for your new genre is a whole separate topic, but if you’re looking for a couple interesting mini-case studies, check out this article from the Alliance of Independent Authors.

To pseudonym or not to pseudonym

I’ve never had an interest in using a pseudonym. Whether or not to use one is a personal choice, and as a writer you need do what’s comfortable for you. But another piece of advice I was given early on was that if I did switch genres, I’d have to come up with a pseudonym so that I wouldn’t confuse readers. 


I’m going to put this out there right now: I think that attitude is dismissive and disrespectful to readers and to me as a writer. For readers, it implies they aren’t smart enough to decide if they want to try out my take on a new genre. For me as a writer, it infers—at least to me—that trying something new is something I should be embarrassed by. 

Safe to say, I have a pretty strong opinion about this topic. However, if you are a new writer and you have five books in five different genres, then yes, readers could potentially be a bit confused. But I think if you’ve developed your storytelling voice, one that stands out and your readers love, they’ll give you the benefit of the doubt and give your new genre a chance.

But in general, I think you should try any genre you darn well please because you never know what’s going to light you up. Which brings me to my final thought…

Find your joy and write your story

Remember, personal preferences change—what you watch, what you read, what you eat and yes, what you write. You can always find someone willing to give you advice (me included), so for just a moment, throw all that out the window and consider this: does this new story you’re contemplating excite you? Are you itching to put words on a page? Are ideas and scenes and characters popping into your imagination?

Then go write your story.

Stop worrying that it’s a different genre.

Maybe what you end up with is simply an energizing creative endeavor that only you will ever see. But maybe it will be your breakthrough novel. You won’t know until you try.

Find your joy and run with it.

Susan K. Hamilton is an award-winning, multi-genre author whose books include ‘Stone Heart’, ‘The Devil Inside’, ‘Shadow King’, and ‘Darkstar Rising’. Her short stories have been featured in the ESCAPE, DECEPTION and FAMILY Anthologies from Writing Bloc, and her first Shadow King-based short story was included in the ‘Passageways Anthology’. In ‘Stone Heart,’ released August 20, 2022, Susan explores relationships and regrets as her protagonist grapples with unresolved feelings and a career crisis that could ruin everything she’s created:

Lauren Stone is no stranger to regret. A singer in a successful band, she’s learned a hard lesson over the years: people don’t love her for who she really is. They love what she is… and what she can do for them. The only person who ever truly loved her ended their relationship years ago, and it nearly destroyed her. But Lauren doesn’t have time to pine over lost love. If she doesn’t get her songwriting mojo back—and fast—The Kingmaker’s new album is going to be a colossal failure.

A publicity stunt gone wrong brings her face-to-face with her past and her biggest regret: Danny Padovano, the ex-boyfriend who broke her heart. The spark between them is still there but getting involved with Danny again is one step short of insanity. Lauren knows she’s playing with fire, and the stakes are higher than ever. Soon, everything Lauren has worked so hard to achieve starts to unravel. Can she come to terms with her regrets? Or will they finally destroy her? Buy a copy of ‘Stone Heart’ HERE.