Stephen King wrote in his book, On Writing, that writing is telepathy. By reading these words, you are in a way reading my mind. There are merits to this, but writing is much more than that. Art moves us, but I argue that writing is more versatile than any other art form. The author can manipulate our emotions from one beat to the next like a telekinetic conductor without a band.
This isn’t just novels, either. It’s blogs, short stories, fanfiction, erotica, copy for businesses, and so much more. You can write about anything you want. That’s the beauty of art. We, people, are not so different, and there is nothing that only you like. Let me break it down for you!
This one’s obvious, right? We like romance novels because love gives us fuzzy feelings. Fantasy takes us away from our grim lives, and Sci-Fi gives us hot takes on the ideas of technology. Stories jump-start our passion and spark our creativity, even if we don’t have a creative outlet. Novels might be the hardest form of writing since they take so much time and planning, but if done right, they provide the most powerful effect for the reader. I won’t spend a lot of time on novels here, because I already have an entire blog post dedicated to them. Check it out here!
These are some of the most versatile pieces of fiction out there. Short stories were most popular in the early 1900s when print became cheaper. Short fiction, which is roughly 3,000 – 15,000 words, is still in high demand and can supplement a novelist's backlog.
So, what can you do with short stories? Anything! Well, nearly anything without trampling on the other topics I’ll discuss soon. They’re great for exploring new ways of writing, worlds, types of stories, points of view, characters, and genres you may not be comfortable with. I don’t want to write a tragic novel (one where the protagonist dies at the end), but the energy cost for murdering my protag in a short story is lower! If you write fantasy, I recommend writing a short piece of strictly romance. Step out of your comfort zone. No time writing and practicing the craft is a waste.
Short fiction also supplements your other work. If you’re working on a fantasy series (sorry, I love fantasy!), consider writing and releasing, for free, short fiction set in your world. It will flesh it out for yourself and may attract reader attention. Some of the most prolific writers can farm out a dozen novels per year, which is insane. Think about how many short stories they could produce. The idea is the more fish you have in your barrel, the bigger dinner you’ll eat.
The love letter to authors. Fanfiction takes a story and adds to it or twists it for a fun new taste. It can be for fiction or non-fiction, though fiction is more common. Fanfiction is less commercial and more community-based. It’s like we have this great pizza made by an expert baker, and we like it so much that we want to recreate it in our own way.
I’m not a fanfiction writer, so I won’t spend much time on it, but here is the greatest part that I see: the community. There are entire sites devoted to it, such as Fichub and much of Wattpad. Twilight is a great example. Commonly, fanfic will ask “what if?” questions, like “what if Edward Cullen and Jacob Black fell in love?” The writer here has a major advantage that a novelist or short story author lacks, which is a shared community. There are tons of Twilight fans, and you can be sure you’re not the first person to think about an Edward/Jacob romance. So, there are loads of readers who will read an otherwise unknown author’s work.
This one’s fun, and if you’re brave, it can be put into other genres of writing, such as fantasy or sci-fi. If you’re really brave, it can be put into horror.
Erotica is literature intended to arouse the audience. Some call it “smut,” but I think that’s a derogatory term. Since sexual arousal is so commonplace, erotica is one of the top sellers of fiction! It doesn’t have to be “dirty,” demeaning, or embarrassing. I've read erotica with great stories that captivated me, and characters that I loved.
If an erotica writer lacks support from friends or family, they can usually find solace in the great community the genre has. Through my own experience, erotica authors are some of the most respectful and thoughtful writers out there. No one knows boundaries like those that play with them.
Erotica can be the main point of a book or a “subplot” of sorts. Usually, commercial fiction has a romance subplot, with a sex scene or emotional climax just before the main climax. How much detail you go into with that scene can step into the bounds of erotica. Also, within the main erotica genre, there are many sub-genres. Whether you’re into paranormal, BDSM, romantic, LGBTQ+, etc., there is a category for anything. Erotica might be fun to write if you find that you have a knack for making people aroused through words or have a strong sexual side.
All writing is versatile, but blogs are perhaps the most. With little restriction on content, format, medium, and so on, blogs can be anything on any site. You can blog about your personal life, travel, cooking, writing, anything! There are also no word minimums or restrictions, though recommendations exist.
You generally don’t want a blog under 200-300 words, and over 3,000 can get a bit excessive depending on the content. One of my favorite bloggers, The Angry GM, has long blogs that typically go over 4k words. The kicker is that he is thorough, entertaining, and personable throughout the entire post. And long blogs have more popularity and appeal than short blogs, so keep that in mind! People want value for their time, and short content can lack depth.
Like the other forms of writing, consistency is key with blogs. Have one or two niches or genres you want to write about, like cooking and archery, and stick with those. Pick something you’re knowledgeable about (unless you blog about things you’re learning, which is also cool!). People won’t want to subscribe or watch your work if they don’t know what to expect.
This is writing about facts, events, people, technology, and anything else that is real. Self-help books are nonfiction, as are the textbooks you resented in college. There are no characters, plots, or overarching themes in nonfiction.
I recommend mixing in nonfiction and fiction into your to-read list because as fiction expands your creativity and emotional empathy, nonfiction expands your mind. You can never be an expert without practicing and applying the skill, but Tim Ferris said that reading three books in a field from different points of view will make you an expert. While this isn’t literally true (you can’t be an engineer after only three books), you will have three times more knowledge in that field than common people.
But what if you want to write a nonfiction book? First, pick a subject you want to teach people about. A common adage in fiction is to “write what you want to read.” Well, I’d argue for nonfiction to write what you want people to know. The majority of nonfiction is self-help books, which teach about all sorts of topics ranging from spirituality, depression, mental health, sex, etc. Just because this writing is based on the real world doesn’t mean you can’t be creative. The subject of nonfiction can vary as widely as fiction.
Write What You Want
I didn’t touch on every type of writing here. There’s still poetry, ghostwriting, copywriting, comic writing, and so much more! However, I know Jack squat about those types, so it would be disingenuous for me to blog about them.
My point is, if you want to be a writer but don’t want to write a novel, there are plenty of avenues for you. Art is subjective, as are the subjects.
As always, keep on going and never give in. Your art matters, even if it doesn’t get recognition right now.