Genre Jumping

I’ve been getting out of my literary rut recently – by trying Sci-Fi.

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I am attempting to enter each of the Monthly Writers’ News competitions. The September brief was for a science fiction story so, although I’m not exactly sure what constitutes sci-fi, I had a go. Creating a whole new futuristic world seemed too much like hard work, so I set the story in the present day with ordinary characters but included a new piece of technology which did a little more than it said in the instruction book. The result caused my main character a problem and so the story developed. This may or may not be classed as science fiction – but at least I had a go!

By coincidence, I also received a science fiction book to review from Waterstone’s this month – Great North Road by Peter F. Hamilton. It was billed as a futuristic crime story and I love crime so that was why I entered my name in the prize draw for a chance to review the book. But I got more than I bargained for – it is a HUGE tome, 1087 pages long. It involves a murder, clones, space travel and hi-tech police procedures but at the end of the day it’s still the characters that drive the story. I liked Detective Sidney Hurst, who is the main policeman and there’s another intriguing personality in Angela Tramelo. She only ages 1 year for every 10 years of her age and was locked away 20 years earlier for a similar crime. But she has always protested her innocence and swears that the original killing was an alien attack…

This venture into Sci-Fi was accidental and it hasn’t converted me to the genre but it has taught me a few things:

  • It’s refreshing to try something different
  • The elements that make up a good story are the same, whatever the genre. The setting/time-period/pre-occupations of the characters may differ but if you make the reader care about the protagonists then it is a good tale
  • Moving out of one’s comfort zone (in real life as well as writing) may not be appealing but once you’ve done it, it creates a feeling of confidence in your own abilities.

Finally, if you are a Waterstone’s loyalty card holder and want the chance to review books, click here to see what’s on offer.

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  1. #1 by Tracy Fells on September 20, 2012 - 3:52 pm

    Oh good luck Sally – will keep everything crossed on this one. I was planning to enter the Sep competition <1000 words, but left it to the last min (as usual) and then had trouble with the online system. I could log in but couldn't enter the competition – so just gave up.
    Have you been entering online or snail mail?

    • #2 by Sally Jenkins on September 20, 2012 - 6:28 pm

      Tracy, I’ve been entering online (didn’t want to buy stamps!). I did have trouble with the first one that I entered in this way so I posted a query on the WN Talkback forum. This forum is monitored by WN and they picked it up immediately and sorted it. So if you have trouble again it might be worth doing that.

      • #3 by Tracy Fells on September 21, 2012 - 1:44 pm

        Thanks for the tip Sally. I will definitely try again online and will try this if I get the same problem.

  2. #4 by Margaret Bemrose on October 8, 2012 - 3:54 pm

    Hi Sally, it is interesting to read that you have recently been genre hopping. I am writing a fantasy novel at the moment, 85,000 words so far but as we all so often do, I have hit a brick wall. So decided, just to keep my writing momentum going I would try my hand at children’s story writing. I have finally finished a short story, 24,100 word length and really don’t quite know what to do with it now. I wondered if you might have any advice or ideas as to where to turn to. Marg.

    • #5 by Sally Jenkins on October 8, 2012 - 7:33 pm

      Margaret – 24,000 words sounds as though it’s verging on novella length rather than a short story, especially if it’s for children since their books can be shorter (depending on the age range that you’re aiming at). Why don’t you try searching out some children’s book publishers (either on the internet or use the Writers’ & Artists Yearbook – they may have a reference copy in your library) and see if they stipulate word length and/or deal with the age range you’ve written for? I don’t know much about children’s publishing but that’s where I’d start. Does anyone else have any ideas?

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