Haha. Just kidding. They haven’t ruined my life, but they sure have complicated my writing career. Remember a really really long time ago—like the beginning of this year—when I posted about how I was just the slightest bit weary of writing about teenagers? They make for some really good stories, but they are exhausting. The angst. The drama. The melodrama. Good grief. I found myself turning into one: “Honey, what’s going on?” Aidan asked. “Get off my back! IDK!” I replied. IDK, people.
It was time for a break, and really that had to do with the fact that my closet was filled with more Love Culture clothing than normal, 34-year-old mature woman clothing. Thankfully Bailey from LoveLines spoke up and offered to give me what I thought would be a well-deserved break from high school. The only problem with that was that my fans weren’t ready for me to switch gears. They weren’t ready for Bailey. Bailey didn’t fit with Brooke or Cadence. Bailey was an adult. What the hell was I doing writing about adults?
It never once occurred to me that people stick with specific genres, not authors. I don’t know why this never occurred to me since I’m one such reader who chooses books over authors. I’m going for what interests me. I’m not picking up every single thing Diana Gabaldon writes. Haven’t touched her Lord John Grey series. Probably never will because his character and story don’t interest me. The other thing I failed to consider was that I’d already rooted myself in this weird, indefinable YA/NA crossover genre about teens and their not-quite-adult lives. Readers liked that I wrote these stories. They liked my teenagers because I gave them the best of both worlds: I let them remember adolescence (maybe fantasize a better version of those years), and I still threw in adult themes/situations.
I have a point to all this. And here it comes. I just read an insightful article on author branding, and it included advice on everything from what picture you want to use to represent your author self to how social media is vital to being noticed (I get it already. Jeez). Probably the hardest bit of advice for me to swallow was choosing a genre and sticking to it. See? Here’s the point. When I read that piece of advice, my writer self bristled—chest out and feathers ruffled like a little banter rooster. “No!” I crowed. “No no no! I will NOT be pigeon-holed! I will NOT be made to write in one genre for the rest of my writing career! I will NOT write in a prison of my own design!!!!!!!!! Or one others want to make for me!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”
(See? Total drama because I write about teens too much.)
And then once I calmed down and thought about it rationally, I realized that choosing a genre and sticking to it was actually beneficial for me. It doesn’t pigeon-hole. I can still write whatever the hell I want to, just under a different name. Don’t you ever see those “T.L. Comma writing as Comma Sutra” bylines on books? That chick just went from clean YA to trashy erotica in the space of a single book. AND she took her audience with her. She’s damn good. She did it right. She let her audience know, “Hey, it’s still me, but I’m going a different direction with this book. I don’t wanna confuse you, so whenever you see me as ‘Comma Sutra’ now, you know it’s one of my sex books.” *sigh* If only I’d done that: “S. Walden writing as Summer Love” and my life would be completely different.
So authors, don’t be like me. Learn from my LoveLines mishap. Figure out your genre, stick to it, and write under a different name when you’re itching to tell a story that veers from your chosen path. Remember that you will have the diehard fans who will read anything you put out there—including tampon instructions, Amanda—but most readers expect a certain type of book from you. It’s your duty and privilege to give it to them. Much like voting. Voting is not a right, FYI; it’s a privilege, but that’s an entirely different subject.
Once you choose your genre, embrace it. Embrace it hard. Have lots and lots of sex with it because this is it, baby. This is your area of expertise. You own it. You love it. You expect it to take you places. And if you’re committed to it, you’ll solidify your place in the writing world—that teeny tiny space in the upper left-hand corner that’s alllllll yours. How do I know this to be true? Well, haven’t you heard? S. Walden writes the “controversial teen stuff.” ;)