How Do You Approach Writing in Unfamiliar Genres or Formats?

How Do You Approach Writing in Unfamiliar Genres or Formats?

Diving into unfamiliar territory can be a challenging yet rewarding experience for any wordsmith. We've compiled nine diverse perspectives on tackling new genres and formats, ranging from the practical to the motivational. From setting clear expectations to finding ways to maintain their unique personality, these seasoned writing professionals share how they navigate uncharted waters.

  • Assess Scope, Set Clear Expectations
  • Prioritize Clarity
  • Deconstruct Genre Elements
  • Embrace the Learning Opportunity
  • Conduct Thorough Research
  • Understand the Format
  • Discern the Client’s Angle and Niche
  • Empower Yourself Through Cyberspace
  • Find Ways to Maintain Your Personality

Assess Scope, Set Clear Expectations

Sometimes, you get projects on topics you are familiar with. At times, though, you get projects you don't know much about—what do you do then? Here's the thing: There are some things you know a little about, and some things you know nothing about. Like, I know a fair bit about IoT, but I am not a tech guru who knows all tech languages. So, if I get a project related to IoT, I will check the scope and see if I can research it to make the piece I write better and informative. Since I already know a little about IoT, I just have to research more on it. If it's too technical—like me writing on Pkl, the new open-source language—I will give it a pass or let the client know. If the client insists, I will set clear expectations and proceed to do the best I can.

Soubhik Chakrabarti
Soubhik ChakrabartiContributing Writer, Icy Tales

Prioritize Clarity

Over the years, I have had the opportunity to write for a wide variety of different industries. Usually, I would be interviewing an expert to write an article that would be posted in their name, or as part of a book that they would ultimately be credited as the author. During the interview, if they gave an example or concept that I didn't understand, I would stop them and say, 'This doesn't make sense to me, and if I don't get it, your readers won't either. Let's elaborate on that.' This helped them understand that non-experts aren't as familiar with the topics and to 'dumb it down' for the rest of us.

Scott Sery
Scott SeryCopywriter, Sery Content Development

Deconstruct Genre Elements

I usually spend more hours on research to understand the conventions, themes, and nuances specific to the genre. I gather good examples and find the ones that I like the most so that I can deconstruct their elements, dissect their narrative structures, and absorb their essence into my own writing. I reflect on what aspects of the genre appeal to me personally. Are there specific themes, storytelling techniques, or stylistic elements that resonate with my creative sensibilities? It makes it a lot easier for me to craft my own unique narrative that not only respects the genre's traditions but also incorporates my individual voice and perspective.

Damar K
Damar KContent Writer, Explainerd

Embrace the Learning Opportunity

Once, I had to write an e-book for a software platform, even though I didn't have much technical experience. At first, it felt overwhelming, but I decided to learn as much as I could. I researched a lot and asked experts for help. Gradually, I started understanding the concepts better and felt more confident explaining them. By the end, I wrote the e-book and gained a better understanding of the software platform. It taught me that with effort and help, I could tackle any writing challenge, even if it's outside my comfort zone.

Suhasini Gopal
Suhasini GopalSocial Media Manager, SPM Global Technologies Pvt Ltd

Conduct Thorough Research

It's all about research. You need to know what your topic is inside out. Look at experts in the field, look at your competition, and look at how both structure their words.

How does it flow? How does it feel? What is it that they're trying to convey? Is there anything that they're missing that would be of value to your reader? Understand how each one of these can be improved.

Write all of it down. Put together a plan. Overcome your imposter syndrome and start writing.

Steve Thompson
Steve ThompsonContent Writer

Understand the Format

I primarily write B2B technology content, and I remember the first time, more than ten years ago, that an editor asked me to write an infographic to complement a feature I had already delivered. I had not written infographic copy before and took it on as a fun challenge.

As with everything you write, understanding your audience is the first task. Here's what else helped:

1. Asking for examples of what the editor thought were good infographics. This way, I knew the word count and tone to hit.

2. Knowing the subject matter inside out. Distilling material for shorter word counts is incredibly difficult, but it helps if you know what you're writing about.

3. Framing it in context: If an infographic is a stand-alone piece, it needs to convey different messaging than if it complements existing designed pieces.

4. Understanding the design component. Infographic copy flows differently than a standard-issue feature, so working with the design team to understand where copy is going to be placed helps you decide what to write and where.

Poornima Apte
Poornima ApteFreelance Technology Writer, Wordcumulus LLC

Discern the Client’s Angle and Niche

Writing in odd or uncommon genres is an underrated superpower of freelance writers. The more flexible you can be, the easier it is to keep a full schedule—and ultimately charge more for your services.

One client that comes to mind is an ERP software provider. I had never used an ERP system and only had theoretical knowledge about what they did and how they worked. This client needed a lot of writing, so I started reading everything I could about ERPs, their various features, use cases, benefits, etc. This helped me have informed conversations with the client so I could learn their unique angle and niche.

I also used Google to gain baseline knowledge, then checked the 'Users Also Ask' section to peel back the layers of a topic. It gives me comprehensive knowledge about a topic quickly so I can write with confidence.

Alli Hill
Alli HillFounder and Director, Fleurish Freelance

Empower Yourself Through Cyberspace

I began my writing career in 2016 at the age of 64. I am not tech-savvy—even writing and formatting in WORD was difficult for me when I started. However, in cyberspace, multiple tutorials, service providers, programs, seminars, etc., exist to assist in getting your work published correctly. For human assistance, try to get help from experienced fellow authors (usually happy to help) or visit sites like Upwork or Fiverr (I prefer Upwork). I still struggle with format since each venue has different requirements, but if a non-techie senior citizen can do this, so can you!

Mark M. Bello
Mark M. BelloAttorney, Author, Podcaster, Social Justice Advocate, Mark M. Bello

Find Ways to Maintain Your Personality

I had to switch gears from writing travel stories to creating travel guides, which was totally new for me. Travel guides are all about giving straight-up advice and tips, not so much the fun tales I usually tell. The trick was keeping my usual fun vibe while making sure the guides were clear and helpful.

I ended up doing a ton of research, looking at other guides, and learning how to pack a lot of information into something easy to read. It was all about sorting out what details were super important and figuring out how to keep my personality in there too.

This whole thing taught me a lot about being flexible with my writing. Learning to mix it up between different styles didn't just make me a better writer; it also opened up new ways for me to get creative. It showed me the value of always being open to learning and trying new things, even when it feels a bit out of my comfort zone.

Swena Kalra
Swena KalraChief Marketing Officer, Scott & Yanling Media Inc.

Copyright © 2024 Featured. All rights reserved.