Friday, April 15, 2011

What American Idol Taught Me About Writing.

Posted by: Janni Nell
My name is Janni Nell and I watch American Idol.

Okay let's be honest, I love American Idol. Especially with this season's nicer judges. Steven Tyler's love of music is a joy to see - his expression when listening to a great singer is just gorgeous.

So what does American Idol have to do with writing?

If you've watched AI (yes, I realize that also stands for artificial intelligence), you've probably heard the judges telling contestants things like: "I don't get you. I don't know who you are." Those judges are talking about branding. About sticking to one genre. In music terms, if you bring out a country album, don't make your next album rock. People will get confused. Those, who liked your country album and came back for more, will be disappointed.

It's the same with writing. I began writing fun mysteries, but the wicked muse is always tempting me. "Why not write a fantasy? How about tackling suspense?" Some days I have to block my ears and hum. Not easy to do when you're sitting at the computer trying to type. Of course, I could write a different genre under another name. Maybe one day I will. But for now I'll ignore the muse and stick with the mysteries.

How do you feel when writers switch genres? Is it disappointing? Confusing? More to the point, do you watch American Idol? Who's going to win?


  1. I'm a genre jumper, but everything I write falls under speculative fiction. Not only do I think I'd suck at contemporary, it just doesn't call to me. So for now I have the paranormal and the steampunk. I haven't given up one for the other, but I have had readers of my paranormal stuff say they hadn't looked at steampunk before picking up mine. *shrug* I think unless you are changing your voice, you can get away with genre jumping within a limited scope without a problem.

    Some of my favorite musical artists are those that straddle genres: rock with a bit of a country feel specifically (or vice versa). So I think it depends on if you've decided to brand yourself as a certain type of author or if your brand is broader than that.

  2. Good point about changing/not changing your voice. It's great that your paranormal readers (or should that be readers of your paranormal) will also read your steampunk.

  3. I HOPE Casey wins, but I think either Lauren or Scotty might take it this year.

    As for genre hopping, I KNOW you're right. But I can't hum loud enough, so I hop all the time, lol. I did go as far as to keep one pen name for erotic romance (Chloe Cole) and then the other for...well, everything else. Mainly because I didn't want to give anyone a heart attack (or disappoint anyone who thought they were getting the bow chicka wow wow). But as Christine Bell I write paranormal, steampunk, contemporary etc.
    It does make branding harder. I think the key is to hone in on the one thing all of your work has, regardless of sub-genre. I like to think mine all have a thread of humor in them, so I plan on making my tagline "Because romance should be fun." Like Seleste said, I think my voice is pretty consistent, so beyond that, I hope my readers will be able to easily discern that one is or isn't paranormal etc. and they can choose whether to buy it or not.

  4. I genre jump, as a reader and a writer. I would hope my voice would be my brand. We did discuss the pros and cons of pseudonyms for the leap, but there are authors who write different genres successfully. Julie Garwood, Christina Dodd, Nora Roberts. Now, Nora does use a different name, but who doesn't know it's her? I want my brand to be about building compelling characters and a good plot. I don't want it to be a specific genre. Do I have what that takes? I don't know. I'm still working on it. :0)

  5. Christine: I reckon you're right about Scotty or Lauren. I'd love to see James take it - real rags to riches story there.

    Barbara: Compelling characters and a good plot sounds like a pretty good brand to me.

  6. I read across genres so it doesn't bother me much when authors jump. It does bother me when they switch from angsty dark to lighthearted comedy. But if the voice is relatively consistent, I'm flexible.


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