Last week I decided to enter into one of those Writer’s Digest short story contests-only the due date is today! It was a Popular Fiction contest so Crime, Horror, Romance, SciFi and Thriller were the options for genres. That is where my problem was- I did not write, or even read in any of those genres. (Yes, I know I am aware I am writing with a group of mostly Romance writers. But they’re cool and they don’t mind me.) I’m a fantasy girl. (Yes, yes, I really am a fantasy girl). All joking aside, I just started writing a few months back and in the fantasy genre, which reads very different from horror-the genre I chose to write in for the contest. Furthermore, again I have literally never read anything in the horror genre. Up until a few years ago I basically only read in the classics.
What did I get myself into? I wish I had been a little more prepared to write in this genre. I wrote my story, which was based off of a real life experience of my own. Then two days ago I sent it out to my critique partners. With two of them being big horror fans, I was expecting some interesting feedback. But wow! I had no idea I would end up needing to do some of the major things I still need to do with my story after the horror folks’ feedback. I got most of it back yesterday morning and, needless to say, I decided to put off entering my story into the contest. (I’d much rather enter a good quality story rather than rush and send in some sub par work. Not my style.) I want to share my learning experience with other writers, so here are some tips:
Time- This is a challenge for you, something you have never done. Give yourself plenty of time to write, send it out for edits and fix your story. If you have never read in the genre you’re attempting to write in, you will absolutely make mistakes. As I said, I got my edits back and realized there were fundamental changes that needed to be made and there was no way I could effectively address them all in less than 24 hours, especially with all of the other things I had going on.
Research- If you have plenty of time, I would recommend researching the genre you intend to write in. The best part about this tip is that you get to do what? READ! Read stuff in your chosen genre-short stories, novellas, novels even. Read about articles about tips and tricks specifically related to your genre. What should you and should you not be doing? That’s what you need to figure out.
Genre Readers- I cannot stress this enough. You need to have at least one of two genre readers/writers to critique your story, regardless of whether or not you’re writing in a genre that you are accustomed to, more so if you aren’t. Those individuals will be able to give you the best feedback because they no how the genre reads and what readers in that genre like to see. Your own style, of course, shouldn’t be completely obliterated, but it’s genre writing-you need to do some tailoring for it.