Genre “Rules” and Why TweetDeck Annoys Me

was going to post a bit of Three Little Pigs this morning, but I got sidetracked. Don’t worry, I’ll put it up later, I’m sure. For the moment, though, I wanted to talk about a couple of things that irritated me. This is likely to be a little vitriolic, and may contain some naughty words. I will attempt to restrain myself, but make no promises.

Okay, TweetDeck. It’s a nice enough program, though some of the configuration and design choices are a little baffling. (Why can I not have universal popup/sound notification, f’rex?) Poking at some of the things it does, I can now see how and why I often see the same 30-40 tweets from the same people every day, at all hours of the day, and understand how it’s being done… even though I think it’s abhorrent. (The likelihood is that I just don’t understand the purpose of Twitter, I guess. But it’s still a pet peeve.) But at least I can keep track of Twitter without staying on the page and hitting the “New Tweets” button every twenty seconds, and not feel as though I’m missing anything. Hopefully it will also let me get back to people when they mention me in a somewhat more timely manner. All good.

Then I figured out how to follow a hashtag or set of them. This was a bad idea. I set up my otherwise unused column to follow #writing. I see a lot of the same Tweets that are already in my feed, for certain. And I’ve seen some good and amusing ones from other folks, found a couple more people to follow. That’s all good. But then I’ve found entirely new realms of insanity, and not the insanity that pleases me. It’s the kind that twists my face into some kind of contorted mess as I say “What the f are you thinking?”

Looks kind of like this, really.

The one that led to derailing my original blog plans claimed “A writer who tries multiple genres is one who fails at all of them.” This was followed with other advice, such as discarding a WIP if you found it becoming difficult or if it began shifting focus- not setting it aside, not working on something else for a bit, straight up dropping it in the trash – and that one should only ever work on a single project in a given six-month timeframe. I’m not going to say that’s wrong, necessarily, but the latter two are extremely subjective, if you ask me – and liable to crush your creativity – and that first one… well, I have no words for it.

I found myself contemplating all my favorites. King; branded “horror,” he’s done historical fiction, non-fiction essays, fantasy, “capers,” thrillers, modern fantasy, contemporary/literary fiction and sci-fi. I don’t think it’s hurt him, any. Barker; again, typified as a horror writer, but I see modern fantasy, high fantasy, thrillers and a dollop of sci-fi on his plate. Koontz; again, horror. Until you find his fantasy, romance, contemporary, children’s and thrillers. Frank Herbert; known mostly for sci-fi, he’s also done techno-thrillers. Patterson, known mostly for his crime/cop series, has probably touched every genre one can think of – and a few we hadn’t – and is quite possibly one of the most prolific authors of all time. And all of them have delved into the humor-zone on occasion.

This next bit is probably going to annoy someone. So here’s the Ancient Aliens guy, to make you laugh, first.

Then I thought about folks who “stick to type.” Dan Brown not only stays in the same genre, he’s practically sold you the same book four times over at this point. (I know, I’m probably the only one who doesn’t care for him. But still.) The hordes of YA Paranormal Romance authors hardly ever seem to branch out, and also often stick to a straight formula where the only differences are the character names. There’s a few exceptions, but those folks seem to be able to work other genres, which only serves to reinforce the idea in my head that going multi-genre is good for a writer, not a sure path to damnation. I think Tom Clancy is really the only one I can think of who sticks to his pond but still manages to deliver quality repeatedly.

With my ire properly up, I went hunting. I checked via basic Google Search, Goodreads, her profile links, Facebook and Amazon. I found nothing written by this individual. The only relevant searches kicked me back to their Twitter account. I found no evidence that this person works or has worked in the publishing industry as one of those (unfortunately) nameless and faceless individuals who give their lives to make the work of the public faces (the authors themselves) look presentable, that those faces have been shaved, scrubbed behind the ears and had their teeth brushed and shirt on right-side-out before they left the house. So essentially, so far as I can tell, this person is a nobody… with a whole lot of time and advice to dispense to people who are actually trying to do something.

So you have no association with the subject at hand, but have decided to be the grand poobah, here?

Now, everyone is free to dispense advice. That’s not a problem. But typically, one is expected to offer words of wisdom on subjects that they have some relationship with. One doesn’t want to hear what’s wrong with their car from an author;  it’s doubtful you’d want to write your history thesis by citing 12 year old children. There’s exceptions to every rule, of course (the 12 year old might be a savant in 3rd century Chinese culture, the author might have done in-depth study in car repair for a character profile) but as a rule, you’re going to talk to a mechanic or an accredited history scholar. Of course, on the internet, with it’s constant flood of information and carrying no burden of proof (or creating it’s own “proof,” as folks Retweet, Like, Share or play a constant game of “Telephone” with everything they hear), it’s an entirely different ballgame. And when that ballgame becomes people not only offering advice or ideas – regardless of how legitimate or asinine they may be – but straight up telling people “Don’t ever do this” and people listen(judging from the number of retweets and favorites on the ones I mentioned, some folks certainly are)… it becomes slightly terrifying to me.

Then there’s my thoughts on “going multi-genre.” To me, it helps keep you fresh; forces you to look at things in a different way, spread out a little bit and see what else is out there. The mind and the creative processes thereof are a muscle like any other, and that muscle needs to be worked. At first, wading into only a single word pool does the job admirably; like someone who’s never worked out picking up a five-pound weight in each hand and going for a walk, it’s a start… and may end up being all a person needs to get to where they want to be. But sooner or later, one caps out, reaches a plateau where doing the same thing is not going to provide any noticeable improvement. Then, to keep the metaphor going, you need to start jogging, increase those weights, or try something different. That plateau may be higher to reach for exercise of the mind, but it’s still there… and besides, cross-training is good for you, regardless of where you’re at.

So what’s your take, folks? Think the way “information” spreads over the internet is a little disturbing, or am I merely being paranoid? Should writers find a niche and stick to it, never to venture out into the wider world, or is it worth flexing their creative muscle a bit? Does TweetDeck need to improve it’s options and where they’re hiding them? Drop your thoughts in the magic box below!

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4 responses to “Genre “Rules” and Why TweetDeck Annoys Me

  1. TweetDeck … ooo, er, I’d never heard of it till now. I don’t bother with Twitter either because I could never get the hang of it. I only signed up when David Walliams did his swim the length of the River Thames a couple of years ago, so I could keep up with his progress … after that, I didn’t know what to do with it.

    As for writers taking on more than one genre – I think a great writer is great whatever they write. I think Mr. King could probably turn his hand to writing children’s bedtime stories if he wanted to – even if they do risk getting nightmares. :O) For myself, I haven’t made a conscious decision to stick with one particular genre. If I get the idea for a good story, I don’t care whether it’s a western, romance or horror, etc.

    • I’m something of a social recluse, who suffers from diarrhea of the word processor and loathes the current method of “speakping” (2 instead of to or two, u instead of you, etc), so I suspect half my difficulties stem from the 140 character limit. The other half likely come from my standard assumptions that what I have to say isn’t nearly as important or interesting as other people, thus I just stare at it and watch it scroll with a lack of non-comprehension. Maybe one of these days I’ll hire some specialist to “Tech me how to Tweet” or something. XD

      As regards genres, I agree; if you’re good, you’re good, and it’s going to show no matter what you do; I suspect conscious decisions to write in a given genre are actually relatively few and far between. Folks get an idea that calls to them, and they do it. Someone’s mind may have a preference or predilection for a given type of idea, but that doesn’t mean something else might creep in, or even that their “genre” will remain “pure.” Add in that, with the exception of broad stroke naming (Western or Historical) that sets a very basic groundwork, most genres are subjective things that different opinions may shift significantly, and it becomes a mess. Other than giving bookstores a handy identifier tag, and feeding the need of most western cultures to label, subdivide and categorize everything, they seem somewhat useless and divisive for no apparent reason. But that could just be this particular crazy person’s opinion.

  2. Author advice: ‘Those who can write, those who can’t sit at a computer all day blogging and tweeting author advice.’ Even when you pont out to them how silly their advice* is they don’t get it. I think the term is clickbait; they’ll reproduce any old codswallop if they think it’ll attract followers and likes and other like-minded desperados..

    The multi-genre quote is a classic. You should name names so that we can go and find this twitterer and contradict them mercilessly.

    Chris

    *one bit of advice I noticed recently: ‘never use a semi-colon in dialogue because people don’t use semi-colons in their normal speech.’ They don’t use question marks either, so let’s throw them in the bin too.

    • *laughs* I love it. Better remove periods, and replace them all with commas, since when heard or read in dialogue they both represent the same pause. And exclamation points or accent marks… who needs ’em! XD

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