Writing Excuses 6.23: Pigeon Holes

Jonathan Maberry joins Howard, Dan, and Mary to discuss pigeonholes — specifically, not ending up in one. Jonathan was enthusiastic to address this subject, which he treats as serious career advice. Ray Bradbury said “A writer writes,” and Jonathan advises us all to consider that though we may be on fire about a particular genre, sub-genre, or even one given story, the market may not offer an open door for that project. Don’t let rejection keep you from writing, and don’t be unwilling to branch out and try writing something else.

We offer examples from our own careers, and Jonathan talks about the many, many different things he has written during the course of his career, which includes martial arts texts, magazine articles, and sarcastic greeting cards.

And of course we talk about how we’ve worked to broaden our own horizons, diversifying our income streams, and what specific tricks and techniques have helped us.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: Dead of Night: A Zombie Novel, by Jonathan Maberry, narrated by William Dufris

Writing Prompt: Jonathan writes one page to a writing prompt every day, pushing himself out of his comfort zone. Today his prompt for you is to write the opening scene of a steampunk version of Alice in Wonderland.

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14 thoughts on “Writing Excuses 6.23: Pigeon Holes”

  1. Creative jollies….I love it!

    Thank you Mary. I am adding that to my vocabulary.

    As for the podcast, timely as always. Since my first novel is nearing completion I’ve been debating about whether I should start book 2 in this series or start something completely different. Now it’s clear that I should start something different. When my YA fantasy is complete, I’ll begin work on a Cyberpunk novel.

  2. Excellent podcast, as always. I wonder, how does this apply to writers going the electronic self-publishing route first? We don’t have the pressures of agents and editors saying “I can’t sell this,” but diversifying income streams certainly seems like prudent advice. Artistically, the same argument about constantly challenging yourself probably holds the same. As producer/DJ Armin Van Buuren says, don’t be a prisoner of your own style.

  3. I like to think of myself as a science fiction writer who focuses on a lot biological ideas. About a year ago, I found out about a steampunk anthology and decided to write a story for it. The story was accepted and published, and liked enough I’m working on another steampunk story.

    If I hadn’t lived it, I wouldn’t know if breaking out of my pigeon hole would work for me, but it did. I try more things now, from stories about linguistics to dystopic tales. Breaking out of pigeon holes is a great way to enhance writing.

  4. @MKHutchins I think that we hear we should write the same kind of thing over and over because it would be easier for someone in marketing to publicize. As a biologist, I’m of the belief that diversity isn’t just a spice of life, it’s a was to make anything stronger, including writing.

  5. Kim, if your first book is successful your fans may want your book 2 and not something that they are totally uninterested in. You may wait to decide until after seeing how that goes. I’m just thinking about other authors where I really want their next series novel, and they do other things that aren’t really for me instead of finishing that off.

    But it all depends :)

  6. I don’t doubt this is excellent advice, but I’m still working on that first book, so I’m not too concerned about this just yet. Still, point taken, and it wouldn’t hurt to try other things as I go (maybe a wide variety of short stories, I’m thinking). Certainly I can understand broadening your horizons and challenging yourself, or I wouldn’t be here at all. Thanks once again.

    My prompt for the week:


  7. @saluk If a publisher wants book 1 then I’ll drop the cyberpunk to start work on the second. But in the meantime, I’ll be getting my punk on.

  8. Well, I certainly don’t want to be pigeonholed, or typecast, or anything like that. But I do want to build a brand. And part of building a brand is helping your audience know what they can expect when they pick up one of your books. So I can understand why publishers want authors to focus their writing a bit.

    I’ve heard David Farland / Wolverton talk about this same thing. After he had published sci fi novels, he told his publishers that he had ideas for epic fantasy. They said that it would dilute his brand. His solution was to write for different audiences under different names. Solomonic, I think.

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