Just as the world's greatest athletes cross-train, the most successful writers cross-craft. Maya Angelou writes poetry, novels, inspirational speeches, and even lyrics. David Mamet writes stage plays, screenplays, and essays. Stephen King writes novels, novellas, short stories, movie scripts, and teleplays. Cross-crafting, the ability to write in more than one genre, keeps authors like these in constant demand because they are able to reach a wider audience and can more easily apply themselves to multiple markets.
|Stop and smell the flowers because taking time to reflect can build creativity.|
Each genre hones a specific writing skill. Poetry trains a writer in rhythm, meter, tempo, and clarity of word choice. Essays utilize a writer's ability to formulate and relate a personal event and the author's credo into universal understanding. Short stories concisely blend character, setting, conflict, and outcome into a succinct beginning, middle, and end. Novels create full-bodied characters, teases, cliffhangers, and sub-plots that keep a reader's long-term interest. The stage plays teach the art of marrying dialogue's content and form. Screenplays require the author to visualize every aspect of a scene from the close shot facial expression to the wide shot landscape.
Just as an athlete gains strength by cross-training, the best writers fortify their writing muscles by studying and practicing multiple genres. The more writing techniques developed through cross-crafting, the more intricate any writing piece will be. A short story with a poet's use of rhythm and a playwright's manipulation of dialogue makes a good plot great. The playwright who can visualize the big picture like the way a screenwriter does while still conveying his personal credo and premise as an essayist connects with more audience members. Most importantly, however, writers who cross-craft will get more work published, not only because their portfolio of available material is larger than the specialized writer's portfolio, but also because they can market their work to multiple venues.
Let's say a novelist has a passionate interest in gardening. When she's not at the computer typing the latest chapter of her book, she's in her flower garden tending the plants she's grown since seedlings or she's reading Home and Garden magazine to learn of the latest trends for suburban landscaping. She lives an enjoyable life, writing and gardening but never achieving the acclaim she desires as an author because she only focuses on writing her one novel.
Now let's imagine that this same novelist understands the advantages of cross-crafting and multi-marketing. She is writing a mystery novel where the heroine's knowledge of plants solves the case. During the research for this novel, our writer learns some fascinating facts about the toxicity of certain household plants. She takes this new found information and writes a nonfiction article about these dangers and markets this article to gardening magazines, women's magazines, and parenting magazines. She continues to write her novel.
Another day, while she takes a break from writing to work in her garden, she is struck by the beauty of a hummingbird's visit. She writes a poem about this moment, using her knowledge of flowers to choose the best words with the most flair to captivate the moment. She submits that poem to various creative writing journals and magazines as well as to horticultural publications.
On another day, our novelist is not quite so inspired to write at all, but she has committed herself to writing every day. So she leaves the computer and takes pad and pencil out to the garden. The colors of her garden contrast sharply with the gloom of the clouds above. Suddenly, she sees her garden in a whole new light and, in turn, views her writing project in a whole new way. She jots down notes for a personal essay on the benefits of taking time to literally sit and smell the roses. She submits this personal essay to various publications.
Should our novelist feel guilty about taking writing time away from her novel to work on these other pieces? Absolutely not. Cross-crafting is essential in the development of every writer. The technical knowledge and practice our novelist has received by working on a variety of genres will be invaluable to her novel writing. At the same time, she can use those other writings to multi-market her novel.
Multi-marketing means using one piece of writing to promote another one. For example, let's say that our novelist's nonfiction article gets printed. She will multi-market her poem, essay, and novel by mentioning those projects in her bio. Likewise, if the poem is accepted for publication, she will mention her article, essay, and novel. By using the bio blurb to market her upcoming piece – rather than to mention her past successes – our novelist speaks directly to her target audience to promote her future works. The garden lover reading her essay, article, poem, or novel will likely seek out the author's other pieces.
The cross-crafting author who multi-markets her or his work never gets writers block. This writer is always learning a new genre, using one topic in several different genres, or studying a new topic. She or he builds a knowledge, portfolio, and reputation that consistently keep her or him in demand. And just like Maya Angelou, David Mamet, and Stephen King, our novelist will soon become a household name.
Judy L. Adourian is the owner of Writeyes, the Executive Editor for NEWN magazine, and the Rhode Island Regional Representative for the International Women's Writing Guild. She is currently developing an innovative workshop based on her philosophy of cross-crafting and multi-marketing. She can be reached through her website at http://www.writeyes.com.