Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Trying on a new hat

I saw Alice In Wonderland last night, and it got me thinking about hats. (Great movie, by the way. Strange, but not unusual for the standard Tim Burton/ Johnny Depp/ Danny Elfman fare).

We've all heard the phrase "wear many hats". And as writers, we have a unique opportunity to do so. What's to stop us from wearing many hats? What's to stop us from being horror writers, and YA writers, and journalistic writers, and taking alternate Saturdays to show our prize-winning roses?

Well, the publishing industry, for one. Tradition/ publishing etiquette/ publishing edict dictate that THOU SHALT WRITE ONLY ONE. But this hasn't stopped some writers; writers like Stephen King and Neil Gaiman cross boundaries all the time. So why can't we?

Well, the answer isn't that we can't. (It's also somewhat that if you're Stephen King or Neil Gaiman, you can just lick some paper and it will be a bestseller). The answer is complicated, and not easy to explain, but I'll try. First of all, a lot of writers are just more comfortable in a certain genre. They *are* horror, or YA, or journalism. It's how they think, feel, grow. It's where the ideas come from. It's the garden in which they grow their thoughts. They simply have no desire to wear a top hat one day and a saucy little chapeau the next. There's nothing wrong with that.

But then there are those who juggle hats like. . . a hat juggler. (Strong on the metaphors today I am not). They play three instruments, ride elephants and unicorns, sew, paint, build and garden (no, I'm not talking about myself-- obviously I don't have any unicorns. Yet). They write sci-fi when they wake up and thrillers before bed. Perhaps if you are already used to wearing many hats, it's not so hard to try on a new one. There's nothing wrong with a new hat.

Then there are those who only ever put on their beret/ hockey mask/ ball cap every day because they feel that's what they should wear. That's what the established authority says they should wear, and they will wear it. There's nothing wrong with this, either.

Me, well, I'm complicated, too. I think I've found a home in commercial fiction, but fantasy creeps in even there. I don't know what else I'd write though. And there is that whole "establishment" thing.

So, where do you fall? Are you comfortable trying new hats, or do you stick to one? If you could try on a new hat, what would it be?


  1. I've written most types, save for romance, though I'm definitely most comfortable w/ darker fare (and trend toward fantasy).

  2. Burton's Alice in Wonderland = not my favorite movie.

    I tinker in all genre's but eventually everything I write turns into fantasy by the time it goes from that-thing-I-was-scribbling-in-my-journal-yesterday-because-I-was-bored stage to actual-project-I-intend-to-finish-some-day stage. Its not intentional but something fantastical always creeps in. Or at the very least a legend of some kind. If I decided to write a treatise on economic struggles I would probably end up talking about leprechauns.

    Thinking of authors I like to read most of them do have a specific genre but several sub genres that they work in. I've also noticed that a lot of times their first couple of books are very typical of said genre when it was published (with their own spark of course but still very typical) but their later works experiment more with crossing genres and format etc. so I don't think you have to worry about getting locked into any specific genre for life if you don't want to be.

  3. I feel differently on different days. I stick with YA since I tend to write characters in that age-range. But I would hate to get trapped in doing the same thing for my whole career.

  4. I'm thinking of wearing a new hat for my next project. I've only written YA thus far, but this idea for a Middle Grade keeps popping into my head. I've tried to rework it into YA, but it's just not happening, so I'm considering trying on that other hat and seeing where it takes me.

  5. I'm itching to try on a new hat - could be I've developed an allergy to writing romance :)

    I have a couple ideas brewing in the mainstream thriller area...

  6. I've written two YA but I know my next one will be adult. They all have fantasy or paranormal elements, so I don't think I'm straying too far from a particular style of hat. But I've always loved hats so I like trying on new ones. :)

  7. I'm a many-hats type. I've read before it takes about five novels to be established in a genre, so I'm trying to hang out in women's fiction (or at least keep it to women's fiction and more high-end YA, which I think could have some cross-over) for the near foreseeable future.

  8. See, I tend to write a blend of science fiction, fantasy, and horror already, so I'm quite happily already in a cross-genre state. However, the line between those three genres is notoriously fluid anyway. Take Clive Barker for example. His book Abarat is fantasy, whereas he writes horror in the form of the Hellraiser stories.

    So I don't know if you can really call me a "many hats" type. Everything I write bleeds those three genres together anyway.