Monday, 30 September 2019

Writing a variety of books

I currently have three middle grade books published, and am publishing a picture book next year. As well as writing for children, I also have a few novels on the go as well as short stories and other pieces of writing that are for an as yet undetermined age group.

Even with the three books I have published, one is a fantasy and the other two are issues books set in the real world.

In short, I'm not an author who fits neatly in the box as a 'children's author' or 'fantasy author' or whatever.

Listening to podcasts, reading articles, and attending workshops left me feeling a bit flat, almost as if I was doing something wrong in my writing career because I don't fit neatly in a box, and that made branding myself a challenge (according to experts).

I have never been good at sticking with just one thing - I get bored. I do all sorts of different crafts, listen to all sorts of different music, even at work if I'm doing the same thing too often, I need to do something else for a while. I have tried to just focus on writing for children, but there are so many great stories for grown ups in my head - I want to write a romance, a murder mystery, historical novel, non-fiction and so on. I can't just write for children. I don't fit in the box.

Last week, I posted the following on Twitter:

#WritingCommunity How many of you write in more than one genre/age group (eg picture book, MG, novel for grown ups)? If you write in just one, what made you decide on that age group or genre?
 I didn't get as many responses as I was hoping, but one from Jackie French stood out:

I write in most genres. I don't eat just one food, or read just one genre, or love one kind of music, so why restrict my writing?
I must say, Jackie French is one of my writing idols and I love the way she thinks about this. It has helped me feel so much better about the path I'm following and what I'm writing. It's a reminder that I don't have to fit myself into a box to make it easier for others to find me or put me in their own boxes. I can write whatever I want and publish a wide variety of books for different people to enjoy.

I may be at the start of my journey to become a full-time author, and I know I have a huge pile of half finished manuscripts just begging for me to finish them. I am feeling so much better about being a multi-genre author.

The lesson I've learned here is that none of us need to box ourselves into just one genre - unless that is where we really want to be.

Melissa Gijsbers currently has three middle grade books published and a picture book on the way in early 2020. She currently lives in Gippsland, Victoria with her two teenage sons and their pet blue-tongue lizard. She travels to Melbourne every fortnight to run a writer's group for teenagers and writes all sorts of different stories.

You can find her at and on Facebook and Twitter.


  1. Melissa, I have written six published novels and two works of non-fiction and am always so glad I can offer both on my book table at most places where I speak. I do understand the dilemma though of building up our readership in one genre, then confusing or disappointing them by switching to another, but I think we just have to work doubly hard to ensure we build up a readership in both genres or however many different ones we choose to explore! For me too, I just felt God was prompting me to write my first non-fiction book 'Soul Friend', after writing six novels, so we have to listen to those inner prompts as well.

  2. Whilst I thoroughly appreciate the reasons why the industry created genre boxes, I personally stand with the genre butterflies (or rebels) among us and applaud your break-out attitude and wisdom, Melissa! Who was it who said, 'Variety is the spice of life'? I love the term, multi-genre author. Perhaps we should adopt the initials, MGA, as a qualification! After all, when MG created their MGA it was heralded as the "first of a new line" that "represented a complete styling break" from MG's earlier sports cars. :) If the genre box is killing creativity and enthusiasm, perhaps it's time to let it RIP (rest in peace) while we get the revolution (or revolutions) going, rev up those creative juices, and let creativity rip!

  3. Thankyou for your inspiration. I am reminded of some of my favourite authors who in like manner skipped and blended across genres. We do well to be encouraged to the diverse tones, textures and mediums of our writing paint box.

  4. My first thought was that we cannot put God in a box so why, when we are writing for His glory, would He put our work into a particular box.

  5. Hi Melissa. Thank you for this. It’s great to find another with genre butterfly tendencies. I too get bored if I only do one thing. I don’t just want to write different kinds of stories, I paint as well. The good news is that in today’s indie world we can do what we like, when we like. The bad news is that the more variety in our work, the harder it is to find readers. You mentioned Jackie French: I love her work too. She writes in multiple genres now but (correct me if I’m wrong) she made a name for herself writing children’s books first, then she wrote a lot of YA. Then she moved to adult a few years ago.
    I’m still thinking through ways a genre butterfly can market themselves. I think it’s possible but it relies more on content marketing than advertising.

  6. Thanks for your blog. I write some biographies but my non fiction is a variety of things. Most of my books don't even fit into a clear genre, except perhaps Women's Fiction or General Fiction. I hover between wanting to write 'literary' and wanting to get on with it and just tell the story. I enjoy variety too!

  7. I'm glad your post turned up in my email inbox today. I am four books in for a romantic suspense series, and suddenly found myself writing a fantasy novel. If everything goes to plan, I'll be finishing the first draft today. As I've come to the end of this new style of writing, I've been bombarded with doubts about how the genre switch will impact on my readers. It is a relief to find that I'm not the only person who is going through this challenge. I pray that you find the right path through all the possibilities, and your writing grows along with you )i(

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  9. I too write for multiple genres. I commend the two traditional publishing houses for publishing my genre nearly 15 years ago during a time when the genre I was writing for was unheard of. Still publishers need to sell books to pay the bills and I was more interested in not stifling my creativity. So Indie now works best for me. I too have varied interest from playing the violin to giving healthy cooking workshops and garden to table cooking and spending hours outdoors at my eco-resort home. So working at my own pace works best for me. Having said that being Indie does not mean we have carte blanche to just put anything out there without proper research and excellence in the standard of writing. I have won awards for my writing and appreciate the time it takes to polish it to perfection. Apart from the difficulty in marketing and promotion, there is also the issue of research and database building. If you write historical romance for eg. you can just dip into your database to churn out the next book esp where language, fashion, etc requires so much thought and care that we can't just skip from contemporary to historical without making sure we have all our facts of that era well researched.