Before trying my hand at this “Best Selling Author” business, I plugged away for years – and for pennies. My main source of writing income for all these years has been ghostwriting. It pays the bills nicely if you can get a steady gig, which I did. However, as with every form of employment, it has its hassles. As I mentioned in the ‘pennies’ part, the pay isn’t that awesome. However, that’s not what we’re going to talk about today. Our focus for this article is going to be writing outside your genre. What do you do when your client wants something you aren’t the least bit interested in writing?
Some writers shy away from this type of work. If it’s outside your comfort zone, you’re going to spend longer on this project than one that would flow easily. However, it’s still important to give these assignments a shot. You don’t want to box yourself into a corner, turning down work, and possibly losing clients. If you have enough confidence in your writing capability, you can make up the rest in research. And that’s our first step.
You have to do your homework on any assignment. Ghostwriting jobs in unfamiliar territory become major research papers. This is before the first word is written on the ‘actual’ book. That’s normal, and expected. If you weren’t an expert before, you’ll certainly be one now! Many times – for those of us who are lucky – the client already has a clear idea of what they want. They’ll have their own research material that you can pull from.
Google is your friend. You can research all you want, but things will still pop up mid-sentence. Don’t just fudge the data, scientific basis, or statistic. Whatever it is that you’re not sure of, check it. You can’t risk your client’s integrity by putting their name on something that isn’t legit. I’ve found many times that while researching a particular issue during my writing process, I’ll find other answers and avenues that I can use for later in the book. It’s great to go back to that well often, with fresh eyes.
Most authors have blogs these days. Find out who the master of your genre is and read up on their blog. They will disclose secrets to the trade, or great links to resources you might not have thought of. If you’re bold enough, ask them directly. Can’t hurt to try.
ASK THE AUDIENCE
After exhausting your normal research avenues, go straight to the audience. Forums and book clubs are great tools for getting to know what your audience wants in their particular genre. Believe me; they’ll be happy to tell you! Heck, you’ll get plenty of feedback just by reading through some of their threads. All the minute details have been hashed out repeatedly between those who are passionate about a particular genre.
I recently had an assignment to do a YA series that was way out of my genre. I muddled my way through the same steps that I just spelled out for you. Then it hit me! I have a YA audience in my own house! This was one of the rare occasions when I was glad to have 3 teenagers living under my roof. I asked them each separately what they thought of the concept and outline that I’d started. Then, as the books progressed, I had them read my drafts. They gave great insight into what they want out of their fiction books. I was able to tailor my writing to what they and their friends would want to read.
Now, we can’t all be lucky enough to have a focus group at our beck and call, but we can manufacture one. If you’re writing about finance, go directly to accountants and money marketers. If it’s romance, ask little old ladies with stacks of paperbacks in their closet. My point is, write for those who will read it, and you’ll have your own panel of experts eventually.
I saved this for last because it’s actually the hardest part. Yes, all that research and brainstorming you did in the beginning will be cake compared to this. Chances are you’re not going to be one of the rare writers who get a spark of genius when writing in a completely foreign field. More than likely you’ll hate it! Yes, hate. You’ll stare for an hour at a page with 1 sentence on it. You’ll check your phone repeatedly for some excuse to get out of your chair. Every step of the process will feel like an eternity.
And you’ll still have to type. Lock yourself in a room somewhere and just do it. Get it over with. Don’t quit. All those clichés that I don’t want to keep typing right now, do apply. The first time you write outside your genre will be horribly difficult. But then you’ll know you can do it. You’ll have the confidence and experience to purposely do it again. Yes, you will choose to do it again, too. It’s money! But don’t worry. The 2nd – 5th times will be progressively easier. After that, you’ll find that you’re a temporary master of any field you want to be!
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