Why Multi-Genre Writing Rocks!

July 6, 2012 | By | 13 Replies More

During the week of June 14-17, I was fortunate enough to win a scholarship to attend the
Wesleyan Writers’ Conference. It is a program that offers the opportunity for people to meet fellow writers and learn from some of the best in the field, and I was ecstatic. But a dear friend, who is privy to my day-to-day madness, asked me, “Do you have any energy left to participate in a conference? Aren’t you editing your second novel?” She made me a cup of ginger tea and added, “Won’t the conference distract you?”

To understand where she is coming from, you’ll need a little background information. In the first quarter of 2012, I finished two books: the first, a nonfiction book called Mouth Full, due for an October, 2012 release; and the second, a full-length collection of poetry entitled No Ocean Here, due for a March, 2013 release. I sent them both to their respective editors. After sending in those two books, I took a few days off and began to re-work my second novel, which is due to my agent by the end of this summer. Aside from the fun of juggling home life, client projects, teaching commitments, a never-ending line of houseguests, and volunteer work, you would think that writing deadlines spread across three genres would make me pull my hair out. Until my friend brought it up, I had never seriously thought about why that hasn’t happened to me.

I left New York City wondering if the fact that I wear multiple writing “hats” is what keeps me sane as a writer. The more I think about multi-genre writing, the more I am intrigued by the many possibilities that it presents.

Benefits of Multi-Genre Writing

Eliminates Writers’ Block: Working with poetry, fiction, and nonfiction means that if you hit a roadblock with one, stepping away does not mean barren days for a writer. You could switch genres and work on a separate project altogether. That would also reduce any guilt arising from procrastination.

At Wesleyan, I signed up for a poetry consultation. As far as my brain was concerned, poetry uses a completely different slice of the right side. Exploring a different genre meant that, upon my return, I was able to look at my novel with a fresh set of eyes so I could iron out the wrinkles. So, while I did take a “break” from fiction and my characters, I didn’t take a break from writing. It was much easier on my freelancer conscience.

Engaging: Working on different projects provides for personal and creative expression. It allows writers to expand their skills in a variety of different mediums. For instance, long lines and a complex, Whitmanesque style of poetry could extend into a narrative in either a fiction or a nonfiction manuscript. Likewise, flash fiction or micro fiction can function as great writing prompts for poets looking for help in generating ideas.

Recycling: Instead of erasing work that you are not satisfied with, multi-genre writing allows these rejected pieces to be used in an entirely different project. Material never goes a waste: it is recycled. When I was editing my first novel, I followed my editor’s suggestion to remove some parts that had rich language in order to avoid sensory overload. I saved the deleted material in a separate folder, and revisit it when working on a new poetry collection. Those nuggets of information, metaphors, imagery, and symbolism I had tucked away under “recycle” come in handy.

Provides Emotional Recovery: Sending a book out into the world can create an emotional imbalance: a mix of post-partum depression and empty nest syndrome. After having lived in the world of your characters for an extended period of time, there is a feeling of grief and loss. Having a project or a deadline in an unrelated genre helps you to heal faster.

When my novel, Perfectly Untraditional, came out in August of 2011, I did a three-week book tour and gave several talks around India. It was exciting! But right after the book promotions were over, I felt empty and lost. Thankfully, though it was exhausting, I had a poetry chapbook called Beyond the Scent of Sorrow, due for an October, 2011 release in New York City. That meant I had to stop sulking and focus my full attention on the new book. Since I was working with poetry instead of fiction, I wasn’t reminded me of my characters or the storyline.

Helps Set Feasible Goals: For those of us who are overly-comfortable with assigning and evaluating goals (okay, obsessed with it), multi-genre writing is brilliant, because it does not allow you to over-commit (for the most part). You know there is only so much time for each project/genre. In some ways, there is not only less pressure, but also far more instant gratification.

Distracts From Failure: On the first day of the Wesleyan conference, award-winning novelist Amy Bloom gave a talk suggesting that writers should “embrace the idea of failure.” Failure makes us improve and do better next time. It struck me that I had not considered failure as an option. Not because I consider myself undefeatable by any stretch of imagination; it’s just that I don’t have much time to obsess about my fears. And even if I do, it is for a very short period of time. Because I work across multiple genres, the fear of failure of one project is subdued and overpowered by the hope (often pressure) of succeeding in another project from a different genre. There are just twenty-four hours in a day, so I can either mope about what didn’t work out, or I can use the energy to create something vulnerable and raw with the rejection.

Read Sweta’s biography at: http://www.swetavikram.com/v2011/biography.html.

Follow Sweta on Twitter: @ssvik

Visit Sweta’s Facebook page, or her website at http://www.swetavikram.com.

Check out Sweta’s blog, Pandora’s Box.

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Category: Being a Writer, Contemporary Women Writers, Friendships between Women Writers, Indian Women Writers, Multicultural Writers, Multinational Women Writers, On Writing, Women Writers, Women Writers Across Cultures, Women Writing Fiction, Women Writing Non-Fiction, Women Writing Poetry

Comments (13)

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  1. Hi! I’m stopping in from #wwwblogs. There’s so much advice out there for writers to pick a genre and stick to it no matter what. It’s nice to see a piece that supports us folks who like to write different genres. There really is a method to our madness!

  2. Hi there!

    I’m popping by from #MondayBlogs. What a great post! Even though I am currently only published in non-fiction, I write in other genres, too. I love how you mention the aspect of “Emotional Recovery” because I can relate to that so strongly!

    My non-writing pals often don’t understand the anxiety I get when I don’t have a project to pour my passions into. So, like you, an easy remedy is to keep a varied diet of writing projects at all times.

    Happy Monday & happy writing to you! 🙂

    • Thank you for sharing your comments and for reading the piece, Tui! So lovely to hear from you. Wish you the best with all of your writing. Also, I like how you say “varied diet of writing projects.” Best way to describe it 🙂

  3. I write multiple genres and there are definitely pros and cons to this. Having a day job puts a HUGE damper on the amount of time I wish I could invest in both of my brands. So when I feel like I’m putting too much time into one genre, therefore, lacking in the other, I tend to beat myself up.
    But with that being said, if I am having writer’s block with my children’s books, I can take a break and focus on my novels. And vice versa. I absolutely love being able to venture out into the world and speak creatively about both brands and I wouldn’t trade it for the world. But I just wish there was more time or two of me to conquer all of the tasks I have before me.

  4. Kaylynn says:


    This article brought clarity to me. I’ve been focused on finishing one thing and when I sit to work on it all I do is stare at the screen. My irons are too in several different fires and for some reason I had my mind made up that I needed to complete one and move on to the other. But you reminded me of a time when I was working on 3 separate novels at one time. Depending on the day I’d open which ever file suited my mood. When done there things opened up for me to complete the other projects floating around in my head. When I was focusing on just completing the one thing that didn’t seem to work, I kicked myself for not doing anything. But I can completely understand how purging my mind of the other things will make way for more. Thank you.

    • Thank you for reading the article and sharing your story, Kaylynn. Sometimes, as writers, we need to trick our brain. And the easiest way to do so is by distracting it with multiple projects, so it doesn’t get stubborn. Also, that helps take the pressure off.

      Wish you the best with all of your projects! Wow, three novels is brilliant!

  5. Dear Monica,

    I apologize for my tardy response. A fiction book and nonfiction book deadline completely consumed me. Sorry.

    Glad to hear that the article resonated with you. Ultimately, every writer has their own process. And each genre evokes a different response in us. But I do feel that writing across multiple genres keeps the creative juices flowing.

    Best of luck to you with all of your projects. Can’t wait to hear about them!

  6. Dear Sweta — Great article! And I completely relate. Many of my non-fiction projects have provided interesting (and already researched!) jumping off points for fiction.

  7. What a lovely perspective. As someone who was writing fiction and then got married and began writing more nonfiction, I’ve struggled with my writing space. Should I just focus on one or the other? So I just kept ambling along, building a professional reputation under both of my names, Monica Carter for my fiction and Monica Carter Tagore for everything else. It’s felt a little bit like a headache to work on two different brands, though. I’ve been struggling with the idea of bringing everything — fiction and nonfiction — together under one name.

    Your piece helped to clarify some things for me, mainly the fact that I can write in several different spaces and it can be OK. Now, if I can decide to put all that work in one place.

    • Dear Monica,

      I apologize for my tardy response. A fiction book and nonfiction book deadline completely consumed me. Sorry.

      Glad to hear that the article resonated with you. Ultimately, every writer has their own process. And each genre evokes a different response in us. But I do feel that writing across multiple genres keeps the creative juices flowing.

      Best of luck to you with all of your projects. Can’t wait to hear about them!

  8. Reagan Reynolds says:

    Thank you so much for writing this article! I have been struggling, juggling multiple genres, and have felt remorseful when pushing aside my current fiction work to grab for article information. Being attached to my characters, it is helpful to read that it is not abandonment of my characters that I am experiencing, but rather a nourishment for my creative mind. I am hopeful all the extra work will benefit my characters and the world they live in!

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