Genre-Hopping

Sometimes I feel so unfocused. I write short stories, flash fiction, novels, essays, non-fiction articles and poetry. I blog. I read books and articles on all of these genres. I’ve published short fiction, poetry and articles in local publications. I feel like I want to do it all, but have to question myself: Is it better to concentrate on one area of expertise or is it okay to be like the hummingbirds in my garden that flit from one source of nectar to another?

Then there’s the whole question of genre within the field of fiction. It’s not always easy to neatly fold our work into a neat little package and give it a label. For example, Winter is Past. I’m inclined to call it literary fiction, or maybe commercial/mainstream. It contains elements of tragedy along with a love story that doesn’t follow the recipe for romance. My agent calls it inspirational fiction, but it seems too weighty for publishers who are looking for a work that is light-hearted, uplifting…although the underlying message is one of hope. The same applies to The Sin of His Father.  Again, I lean toward branding it literary fiction. Both novels seem to me to be character-driven but both also have a well-defined plots.

I think when it comes to choosing where to invest our writing time and energy it’s important to ask ourselves a few questions:

  • What is my purpose in life, in writing?
  • Am I looking to entertain, enlighten, teach, or a combination of these?
  • How important/necessary to me is it to make money? Do I rely on  my writing as a base of income?
  • Who is my targeted audience?
  • Do I want to go the traditional route for publishing, or will I self-publish?
  • Where do I want to be in five years? In ten?
  • How much time do I have to devote to my craft?
  • Where does my passion for writing lead me?

I’m asking these questions now, because soon I will be sending novel #2 out into the world. Where do I go from here? The economy being what it is, I could use a boost in cash flow. I’ve written some articles I could try to pedal. I’d love to publish some poetry and I feel the call to plunge into the world of  book-length non-fiction. This is the first time since I retired from nursing and dove into writing that I feel somewhat adrift, with no sense of what to pursue next. So I guess I would do well to sit with those questions and see where the creative Spirit leads me.

Can you help me by sharing your thoughts about this topic? Do any of you face the same issue? Do you have benchmarks that help you decide where to go next? Is it okay to be like my hummingbirds?