Yeah, well, big mistake.
I ended up not being true to myself when I wrote my next book and - well, long story short, it wasn't my best book. So...lesson learned. I won't ever do that again.
P.S. And no - just in case you're wondering...I'm not talking about my only horror book (for now) Death Loves Me Not. It's not that, honest to God. :)
DON'T GO WIDE BUT GO DEEP.
I was watching another local business show on TV when I heard the guest expert, who was being interviewed about his ability to multitask and manage multiple businesses, give that advice to viewers. He says that if you want to succeed and manage multiple businesses, then you need to GO DEEP.
In hindsight, I realize how that same quote can apply to writing. Does this mean you shouldn't write different genres? NOT AT ALL. Actually, the guest expert on the show was the owner of a diverse variety of businesses (he was in the restaurant industry, automotive, manufacturing, etc...oh, and he was enrolled in a post-grad class, too). What he meant about going deep rather than going wide was finding your core skills and then finding businesses you were passionate about and could utilize your core skills.
I think it's the same with writing. You can write in different genres, and your books will appeal to your readers for as long as you can maintain your unique style of writing in all those genres. Part of your writing style also has to do with the way you craft your plot, and sometimes this could make readers and reviewers remark how predictable your books are.
But here's the thing - in genres like romance, there is almost always a HAPPY EVER AFTER. Actually, I'd go as far as to say an HEA is expected. If your romance doesn't have a happy-ever-after or even a happy-for-now ending, then I think your book is better suited for chick lit, general fiction and literary fiction. If you don't agree with me, that's fine. But that's how I see it. That's how I personally define romance.
Now, the way you reach an HEA in romance, that's where the differences lie. For some authors - and please include me in this category - their characters' relationships start with insta-love. With others, it's a long and hard road. And then there's the friends-to-love trope.
A lot of authors - and again, you can include me in this group - have a favorite kind of trope and they stick to it throughout their careers not because they're too lazy to think of anything else. They stick to it because they just love those tropes that much.
If you're like me and you have a favorite kind of trope and even a favorite way of developing such tropes, then you may be worried about being accused of writing formulaic and cliched plots. Some may have already accused you of such. If so, DON'T MIND THEM. Write what you love. Write what you want to write. Books are like bridges that allow soul mates (readers: authors) to meet and the people who don't like your books aren't bad (even if they can be very rude as they diss about your book). It only means that they're not your soul mates.
The readers who are your soul mates, the readers who do fall in love with your books over and over - you'll be surprised at how much they love the same elements that those other readers profess to hate.
Because you see, readers aren't and won't ever be faithful to you because your writing is versatile or because you keep changing styles. It's the exact opposite.
To give you an example, here's what I expect from my favorite authors as one of their most fangirly devoted readers.
- When I read a Stephen King book, I expect good old-fashioned horror, a moral lesson in the end (which is why the movie version of The Mist frustrated me sooooo much), and a lot of profanity (more so compared to when you'd be reading something by, say, Dean Koontz).
- When I read Christine Feehan's books, I expect a strong heroine and an even stronger alpha hero as well as lots of action and steamy scenes. No heartbreaking climax but it's still a wild and enjoyable adventurous ride nonetheless.
- When I read Judith McNaught, I expect one of the MCs to do something really unforgivable (usually it's the hero) and I definitely expect a heartbreaking climax near the very end.
- When I read a Marion Chesney Regency romance, I know there won't be any graphic lovemaking but the word "breast" may be mentioned. I know that comedy would unfold. I know that romance would take a long time to develop, and I know that even though the hero and heroine would fall in love about the same time, a misunderstanding would prevent them from realizing each other's feelings until the very end.
The thing is, I can predict the major plot points of my favorite authors' books, but you know what? I don't mind. I actually like the fact that I know what to expect because those major plot points are the very same reasons why I love reading their books.
So next time someone tells you you're being formulaic, cheer up - it just means you're going deep. And to end this on a positive note, here's a favorite quote of mine from the writer behind popular Korean TV dramas like Boys Over Flowers, Secret Garden and my most recent favorite The Heirs (which, yes, I marathon-watched and finished in 24 hours).
I admit that all types of cliches are included in the drama (The Heirs). But all my previous works used plenty of cliches and were embraced by audiences. The key is making characters that are different, so the audience forgets the cliched setting. That’s what I’m good at, and that is what I find fun. I want people to think, “I’ve seen something like this before, but still this is strangely fun.”