This blog was featured on 02/08/2020
Take (Un)Calculated Risks: Read Other Genres

Hi, folks!

We talk a lot about how to write specifically for a certain genre, how to fit in that genre, and so on. But what about branching out?

How about diving into uncharted (by you) waters?

That's what we'll see here and how it can help you either expand your writing knowledge and skills, or even find you a better genre for your writing.


Let's go!


The Fear/Apprehension

I get it: you're way too comfy in your cozy comfort zone to try anything else. Let's take myself as an example: I've been reading language books, how-to's, documentaries, fantasy, thrillers, crime, LGBTQ+, teen, YA, middle grade, historical, dystopian, and a little bit of romance here and there when the idea sounds really different to my ears. And this up until last year. I knew what I wanted. No dilly-dallying. I had no time to waste and I wanted to get the most out of it. It's too pleasant and I didn't see the point in reading other genres.

Truth is: I was afraid. Probably just like you. Afraid of what? Hang on!

Here goes:

  • Wasting precious time
  • Not loving my reading (what is that even!?)
  • Being scared
  • Being uncomfortable
  • Liking it (imagine adding another genre to the big to-be-read list...!)
  • Not understanding and feeling like a fool
  • Entering some kind of "secret club" to which I know nothing and would have to work to better know it
  • Being angry at what I'm reading (from confusion)

I'm one who loves trying new things, activities and I always jump right into it (mostly as the first one to, as well). But reading? Nah, that was my secret altar... Untouchable. But more importantly: unchangeable.

So how come I've now expanded my horizons?

My Dabbling in Other Genres

Sci-Fi: One year ago, I was browsing the YA shelves of my public library and the purple spine and title Empress of a Thousand Skies caught my interest. Right away I knew it was sci-fi from the title and I don't read that genre. Nevertheless, I still picked it up to satisfy my growing curiosity. The cover was just SO gorgeous! With an Asian young lady staring at the beyond over planets and stars on a purple and blue background. I thought it was so pretty that I wanted to read the summary. So I did. In short, it's about a betrayed young empress who fights to regain her right to rule and avenge her family. I mean: that's just what I love! So I battled the desire to read the whole story until I checked it out of the library and took it home.

It ended up being a great book and while reading sci-fi felt awkward at first, I enjoyed the discovery of all those aliens and new technology and planets. In short, I liked this sci-fi world! This book started my yearly habit of reading two to three sci-fi stories to diversify my readings. If that's not fantastic, I'll be stunned! (You can read my 4-starred review of Empress of a Thousands Skies by Rhoda Belleza here.)

Horror: I've always been attracted to the horror and the disgusting what with my loving to watch horror movies (and being so scared afterwards I couldn't sleep for weeks...) However, reading horror was another matter. Why? Again, I was so scared of being effectively scared. Reading it is worse than watching horror on screen because I feel as I AM there, I am the protagonist! So, I spent years simply skimming the books in the horror aisle (both at library and bookstores), gently touching their spines with envy.

This, too, started about a year ago. As a budding author, I was highly recommended Stephen King's On Writing and when it was finally available at my library, I read it. But then, it got me even MORE curious... At the same time, It the Movie was in theatres and I. friggin'. missed. it (or It!) And like I told you, I'm a fan of horror movies so this interested me a great deal, but since I always prefer to read the books when there's one (in this case by Stephen King no less!), I was stuck between actually reading the damn book or just watching the movie once it hit DVDs. So I watched the movie. Then, scared AND interested, I started reading horror short stories by various authors, including Stephen King. I skirted around It, preferring to try other, less terrifying stories... but it was always on my mind, pushing me. I found it at my local library and in a burst of courage I picked it up and took it home. I was hooked! I now have it on Kobo as well as The Bazaar of Bad Dreams by Stephen King and I'm slowly working my way up the horror genre.

Now, why is this important? First, I'm satisfied (even though I'm a tad scared) because FINALLY I'm reading horror. It doesn't seem out of my limit now. Also, horror stories started to pour out of me! It's as though they had been WAITING for me to jump into the genre, creeping up on me. I knew I wanted to write darker things, but never got around to it. Well, this is what it did to me: it freed a part of me somehow.

Memoirs (Travel): Frankly, memoirs and biographies (including autobiographies) held zero interest for me. Reading about people's ordinary, daily lives often riddled with illnesses, false hopes and mean words? Nah, thanks. That was until I stumbled upon Every Day in Tuscany: Seasons of an Italian by Frances Mayes, her travel memoir about her life in Tuscany (half of the year or so). As a huge Italy lover and Italian speaker, I fell in love. There is no other way to put this. Her writing is delicate and always uses the best precise word and is quite rich in terms of vocabulary. Furthermore, her memoir really follows an interesting narrative with confidences and anecdotes (both funny and sometimes awful) . I love how the Italian language, art, architecture, people, and food all hold a major place in her book.

I told you: I fell hard for this one. Curious, I went to check out the second volume (I started by the third one... So I'm reading the series backwards, haha) right away to see if it was only a onetime thing, but no. I still love it!

Now, I checked out Paris in Love by Eloisa James because I've been dreaming of going to Paris since I was four or five years old. Of course I have to read this book! Plus, French is my native language so seeing French words and expressions sprinkled here and there is an absolute blast. With this, I assured myself that I really love travel memoirs and not just those from Frances Mayes or about Italy. No, I really discovered this genre in its own right this very year!

I'm both amazed and taken aback! (I still can't stand autobiographies or biographies of stars and celebrities, though, unless it's historical.)

Why You Should Try It Too

I highly suggest you to read outside your comfort zone. If you don't want to try all the genres you usually avoid at the same time, then just pick one or two to start your adventure with. Go with one that has a cover that grabs your eye, read the blurb and if it sounds like something you might vaguely be interested into, take this one! If it doesn't work the first time, look for another.

But why?

As I mentioned earlier, not only did it make me take a risk and discover new genres I never thought I would enjoy, but it also gave me new writing genres. And those two aspects are exactly what it's about!

After all, reading more widely opens the mind a little more and allows other information, ideas and concepts to enter your mind. And it's beautiful. Take memoirs for instance. I thought I'd hate those! In fact, it turns out I LOVE travel memoirs. I noticed a renewal of interest in reading in general, but also an increased enjoyment and excitation at reading about other people's adventures in countries I hope to visit one day (or maybe just read about them). THAT's a big point. It makes me feel the adventures. Something I only had in fiction before, but now it's in the same world I'm living in! Wonderful! Now I'm a voracious reader of travel memoirs and I've noticed a more intense, more focused writing of mine. So memoirs brought general appreciation AND energy into my reading and writing.

Now, a similar story happens with sci-fi and horror. I now read about 3-4 sci-fi novels a year hoping to find one that leaves its print on me. So far I have found Zodiac by Romina Russell and Empress of a Thousand Skies by Rhoda Belleza. I'll soon aim for the classics by H. G. Wells and other big sci-fi names I can find at the library. It's diversifying my reading and point of view a hell lot! Speaking of hell, I'm trying (the try aspect is very important here) to read more horror. I'm reading Pet Sematary and other books by Stephen King along with A Madness So Discreet by Mindy McGinnis and such. While I might not read more than three horror books (if I get to that number) a year, it's still interesting, thrilling, and diversifying.

You're saying: Okay, but what's the "new writing genres" thing about?

Well, since I discovered an interest in these genres, I noticed a few sci-fi story ideas bubbling up in me. Little bits and pieces, here and there, until there were not only one character fully formed, but two! It didn't take me long to have a basic plot for a series. Then, other snippets for other sci-fi stories came to me... In other words: science fiction has now become a genre I can write in, even though I still feel relatively awkward in it. Isn't that great?! See, I did not just discover a new genre for reading, but it also opened my mind enough that I could incorporate it into my writing, too!

What about horror and travel memoirs? Right on that, my friend! I've always loved horror movies, but never got around to reading horror books until last year. So, bearing that in mind, it wasn't hard for my interest in this genre to bloom. And so it did. Now I have about three horror short stories in progress on my laptop. There will be more to come in the future as well! See? It made me go back to horror, a genre (in movies) I had neglected for the last years; it soon caught my attention again and lit my interest on fire (think Carrie here; I love Carrie, the story, though she's a poor victim). As for the travel memoirs, they fuel my need to write non-fiction further; so I started writing a memoir about how I became a polyglot and the important events I think played a key part in making me choose to learn languages as a fun activity, then as a passion that's driving my whole life, and now as a job. Since I love travel memoirs especially, and I don't travel a lot due to many complications in my life at the moment, my languages were the next best topic to write about. Also, it's pushing me forward in creating my own language learning courses and ebooks.

In Conclusion

Not only do I strongly suggest (and when teachers say that, what I am, its underlying meaning is "do it!") reading in other genres to discover stories and interests you never thought you'd like, but also encourage you to be inspired by them. Who knows? Perhaps you'll end up having a few new, different ideas of your own.

I really hope you try this!

Please do tell me, how is it working for you?

What genres are you willing to try out?

See you next article, lovelies!

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