Crossing Genres, and Hemingway

In today’s Journal

* Quotes of the Day
* Correction
* Crossing Genres
* Bradbury Challenge Writers Reporting
* Of Interest
* The Numbers

Quotes of the Day

Thanks to Bob B for the first three quotes below:

“The more [the writer] learns from experience the more truly he can imagine. If he gets so he can imagine truly enough people will think that the things he relates all really happened and that he is just reporting.” Ernest Hemingway in Monologue to the Maestro: A High Seas Letter (Esquire, 1935)

“After you learn to write your whole object is to convey everything, every sensation, sight, feeling, place and emotion to the reader.” Ernest Hemingway in Monologue to the Maestro: A High Seas Letter (Esquire, 1935)

“The best way is always to stop when you are going good and when you know what will happen next. If you do that every day when you are writing a novel you will never be stuck. That is the most valuable thing I can tell you so try to remember it.” Ernest Hemingway in response to “How much should you write in a day?” in Monologue to the Maestro: A High Seas Letter (Esquire, 1935)

“Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.” Winston Churchill (Thanks, Sam T)


Oops. In yesterday’s Journal, I quoted a line from Robjert J. Sadler’s forthcoming novel ALIBI: Latin for Elsewhere.

Somehow, my fingers did that thing where they substitute one word for another and I typed Alibi: LESSON for Elsewhere. Sigh.

Crossing Genres

One of the problems I’ve most often encountered with writers has to do with writing across the literary (vs. the commercial) genres. Many believe they simply can’t.

Whether you write short stories, novellas, novels, plays, screenplays, song lyrics, or poetry, it’s all fiction, and it’s all writing. So just sayin’, don’t be afraid to spread your literary wings a little.

As an aside, in the English language there are only two modes of written communication:

Prose mode, in which the writer pays no attention to the meter (rhythms) inherent in the language, and

Verse mode, in which the writer pays meticulous attention to the rhythms (as set by the meter) inherent in the language and uses them to his or her advantage.

Any literary genre may be written in either mode.

For example, even a novel may be written in Verse mode, although the basic unit of the novel is the sentence, not the line.

And a poem may be written in Prose mode. This is commonly called “free verse”.

The primary difference among the various literary genres is the basic unit inherent in the form. Short stories, novellas, novels, plays, screenplays, essays and so on — regardless of which mode they’re presented in — are based on the sentence.

But the basic unit of Poetry (remember, it’s a genre, not a mode) is the poetic line.

I’ve written the same POV character in short stories, novellas, novels, songs, poems, and (unproduced) plays. I haven’t attempted a screenplay yet, and probably never will (or write another stage play) because I find the format annoying.

Likewise, one of the problems I’ve most often encountered with readers is reading across commercial genres.

As a writer in the Western, Science Fiction, Science Fantasy, Action-Adventure, Mystery and Suspense/Thriller genres, I encounter that one a lot.

Don’t get me wrong. If you really don’t enjoy being scared (or grossed) out of your wits, okay, don’t read Horror. (As a reader, I personally love suspenseful horror, but I avoid the slash-and-gash stuff).

If traditional, bodice-ripping Romance isn’t your cuppa, don’t read Romance. If shoot-’em-up westerns are your thing, don’t read those either.

As a reader, I’m not a fan of traditional Romance stories, yet there’s a romance element in almost everything I write.

But otherwise, if you find a talented author whose works really engage you one genre, I encourage you to read that author’s other works in other genres.

Because it’s all written by the same guy or gal in that writer’s voice or style. Next to the story itself, how the story is presented (the author’s voice or style) is why you find the story so engaging in the first place.

But not only readers can take a lesson from this.

Writers, if you love to convey the stories of your characters, and if sometimes some of those characters veer off into living stories in other genres, I recommend you run with it and see where it goes.

Your very first Romance featuring a POV character who first introduced himself or herself to you as a cold-blooded killer might well be the novel that engages Romance readers and pulls them over to the Thriller or Action-Adventure side of your work.

Or the first Thriller you write that features a descendent of her great-great-great grandfather who was a Texas Ranger in the late 1800s, might be the book that moves your Western readers into the Thriller-Reader category.

You just never know when or where your next sale might happen or where your popularity as a writer might baloon or skyrocket.

So don’t be afraid of writing in different genres, all under the same name, of course, to help with bleed-through.

Instead of being unsure and frightened of writing or of writing in a different genre, be unsure and exhilirated.

Again, THAT you write is what matters. What you write, not so much. A good story is a good story. And it’s all only entertainment.

Bradbury Challenge Writers Reporting

Anyone can jump in (or jump back in) and join or rejoin the challenge at any time. There’s no cost.

During the past week, in addition to whatever other fiction they’re writing, the following writers reported their progress:

Short Fiction

George Kordonis “MatchMaker Inc.” 5433 Urban Fantasy
Alexander Nakul “Under the Lighthouse” 1319 Historical Fantasy
Alexander Nakul “Elf Passion” 12421 Erotic Fantasy,
Christopher Ridge “The Baby 3200 Horror
K.C. Riggs “Invisi-bled” 1412 words General

Longer Fiction

Alexander Nakul *The Meerkat Watch* 4418 Urban fantasy (10479 total to date)

Talk with you again soon.

Of Interest

Hemingway-Monologue-to-the-Maestro Clicking the link will download a PDF document. This is a must-read for anyone serious about the craft of writing. (Thanks to Bob B for sending this.)

The Numbers

The Journal……………………………… 1030

Writing of

Day 1…… XXXX words. To date…… XXXXX

Fiction for November…………………… 52368
Fiction for 2023…………………………. 371012
Fiction since August 1………………… 38710
Nonfiction for November……………… 18960
Nonfiction for the year……………… 246850
Annual consumable words………… 614355

2023 Novels to Date……………………… 8
2023 Novellas to Date…………………… 0
2023 Short Stories to Date……………… 7
Novels (since Oct 19, 2014)…………… 79
Novellas (since Nov 1, 2015)…………… 9
Short stories (since Apr 15, 2014)…… 235
Short story collections…………………… 31

Disclaimer: I am a prolific professional fiction writer. On this blog I teach Writing Into the Dark and adherence to Heinlein’s Rules. Unreasoning fear and the myths of writing will slow your progress as a writer or stop you cold. I will never teach the myths on this blog.

4 thoughts on “Crossing Genres, and Hemingway”

  1. I would personally add, that mostly definition of form is upon author’s will. As I know, first modern poetry cycle where “white” verses and prose verses were mixed were “Illuminations” by Arthur Rimbaud (of course, author didn’t review the first publication, being occupied with adventures in Africa, so nobody can be sure, how much of poems from it are just lost, like “Spiritual Hunting”).
    There’re pretty a lot of verse novels even in 19th century (Don Juan by Byron, Eugene Onegin by Alexander Pushkin, Pan Tadeusz by Adam Mickiewicz) and there’re also novels whose authors called poems (Dead Souls by Nikolai Gogol, Moscow-Petushki by Venedict Erofeev or even Thus Spoke Zarathustra by Friedrich Nietzsche).

    And even definition of prose is too wide to be judged and measured. Max Brand and Henry Miller were born almost in same year, but their stories, genres, way of life, even dressing style were so different that it’s impossible to compare them, not even try to say who of them is greater then other one.

    • The only definitions I offered are for the MODES of written communication, and those only in English. There are only two modes — Prose and Verse — as I pointed out. Also, the basic unit of the poem (a literary genre) is the poetic line. Yet people who don’t know any better (over here at least) write a block of language based on the sentence and then call it a “prose poem.” The only true prose poem in English is what is commonly called “free verse.” It is written in unmetered language (hence presented in “prose mode”) but broken into lines (hence, it is a poem). Even many university instructors, it seems, do not understand the basic modes of communication in the English language. Of course, over here at least people are allowed and even encouraged to call things what they are not. And that’s fine. But the fact remains, people may call a duck an eagle if they want, but even if they do so, a duck is still a duck.

      • That’s fun, because sounds like it’s really tradition-specific. Because Russian (mostly inspired by French) tradition allows “free verse” without braking it into lines.
        And even lines is allowed to be broken to “sub-lines” by indentation. Vladimir Mayakovsky introduced it in his long poem “About That” (1923) and it was widely used in printed poetry to imitate “broken rhythm” of common speech:

        As I know, it isn’t used in English tradition.

        • Yes, we use “sub lines” as well to mimic speech, but usually to maintain the rhythm of meter in the overall line when the two sub-lines are joined. I have used the technique many times, especially in blank verse, which is written in unrhymed iambic pentameter. The specific example that comes to mind is my blank verse poem, “Little Red Cap,” the story of Little Red Riding Hood retold in verse. I published that story in both Prose mode in a short story and in Verse mode in a long poem. Where a paragraph break appeared in the short story, it also appeared in the poem.

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