Thoughts On Writing Outside Your Genre

If you’ve been following the blog, you probably noticed that most of my stories are fantasy, sci-fi or some form of speculative fiction. So you can understand my trepidation when I learned that the genre for the Jozi Shorts Anthology is contemporary fiction. Well, colour me challenged.

The last non-genre story that I wrote was Pandjieswinkelgoed that appeared in Vrouekeur magazine two years ago.

Luckily we received an extension on the closing date for stories, as I could not for the life of me think of anything to write. Well, at least not anything that wasn’t genre fiction. I did finally get an idea for the story, and ended up still writing some of it on the day the story was due. Oops.

It’s called “The Goldfish and the Astronaut” as I quite like the title and, yes, it does go with the very-much-not-spec-fic story. The astronaut bit actually popped into my mind when listening to “Difference Maker” by NEEDTOBREATHE.

“Difference Maker” by NEEDTOBREATHE

What I learned from writing outside my genre

All in all, though, writing a story that is outside my usual genre did teach me some things:

  • I can actually write outside my genre when I need to (or want to). Writing about “normal” people may just be possible β€” without ending up giving them superpowers or adding a dragon to the story, or something, I mean.
  • Writing outside your genre takes practice just like writing in your genre does. Boy is that story going to need some editing still!
  • A short story needn’t be a sprawling epic β€” a few moments of a life can feel “epic” as well. Also, you don’t necessarily need a dragon or other creature to make it epic.
  • I still really struggle with happy endings in short stories. Give me longer pieces and I can do it. Given me a few thousand words and, apparently, I cannot.
  • Waiting for the story to magically write itself is not going to work. You need to start typing or writing to get the story flowing. (Where are those story elves who work through the night cobbling a story together when you need them?)
  • Writing outside my genre does stretch some writing muscles you didn’t know you had. So, much like a new yoga position, you need to practice your muscles if you want to write anything worthwhile.
  • Don’t dwell on it. Much like writing an article about tarantulas all of a sudden and having to do oodles of research, you will need to do some research for your story as well, and may have to dig deep to find the humanity.
  • I will get lost in looking at the gallery section if I go on the NASA website.
  • Even when writing non-genre fiction, my search history will somehow turn out weird. Go figure.

This week I’m back to working on The Ruon Chronicles’ outline and hopefully doing a breakdown of book 2 to see where some changes are needed. I still want to finish this by the end of February, so let me get cracking!

By Carin Marais

Bibliophile, writer of speculative fiction, non-fiction, and maybe-fiction, language practitioner, doer of stuff.

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