I am no longer blogging here at Little Nuances, but I would love for you to join me on my author website www.leewarren.info.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Different Genres

As an author of four nonfiction books on four different topics, and as a freelance writer of hundreds of articles about topics such as sports, politics, singles, and many others, I'm intrigued by John Grisham. Here's an author who could easily crank out legal thrillers for the rest of his life and not have a financial concern ever again. But he doesn't do that.

A few years ago, he wrote A Painted House--a novel about migrant workers on a farm in the 1950's. More recently, he wrote Bleachers--a novel about football. Neither novel did all that well in comparison to his other work, but he didn't seem to mind. He scratched a creative itch and that made him happy. He just released his first nonfiction book called The Innocent Man: Murder and Injustice in a Small Town. Grisham is against the death penalty and he's hoping that this book influences those on the other side of the issue.

While I totally disagree with him regarding the death penalty, I admire his willingness to write outside of his "niche." At writers' conferences, industry experts are continually telling writers to find their niche (or "brand") and stick with it because it is better to be known for one thing and then to build upon it. I suspect that such advice is true. I just know it doesn't work for me. I no more want to make a writing career out of my marital status than I do by writing for any other niche audience I write for.

The funny thing is, industry experts also often tell writers to "write what they know." I follow politics, sports, and pop culture at large--that's what I know. I'm not opposed to a publisher throwing money at me to write for their publication if they think I'd be a good fit for their sports page, feature page, or op-ed page about any given topic, but I doubt that I'll ever stop writing about the various other things that interest in me.

Writing about different topics helps me to crystallize my thought process. Before I write about a topic, I already know what I believe about it, but the actual process of writing about it forces me to differentiate between the small variables in my mind that often run together.

For example, I wrote an opinion article for a magazine many months ago about the steroid scandal in baseball. Going in to the article, I knew I was "against" the use of steroids in baseball (isn't everybody except for the violators?), but I didn't understand the difference between human growth hormone, androstenedione, creatine, and several other terms used in the debate. I didn't write about each of these products in the article, but as I wrote, I was able to use clearer terms because the process forced me to understand the difference (something I'm not sure I could remember now).

I like what Grisham said about the writing process: "I'm not a crusader. I don't stick to just one issue, I tend to write about it, then leave it."

I can relate.

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