This question is somewhat linked with Should you read your own genre?, but I believe it is distinct or at least approached in a different way.

I am a sucker for sci-fi/fantasy and read nearly exclusively within these genres. I would love to write in these genres, but do not seem to be able to.

By now I am an “expert”. I have read thousands of them, so writing within the genre should be easy and second nature, yet I can’t.

Every creative idea I have seems to go toward realism, autobiographical, spiritual, poetry, techninal and academic writing.

I really would love to write what I read.

I guess this block could be because I know plots and stories so well that I can smell the stench of an overused idea, or even a seldom-used concept. It seems like my mind goes blank because I know it all. Or I might be afraid to be measured against giants I admire, I do not know.

I am not sure of the solution, or how to overcome this block, do you have any suggestions?

  • 1
    I thought this is an ambiguous writing...but after reading carefully.. That's Somewhat interesting block!!
    – user11113
    Commented Nov 7, 2014 at 5:04
  • I can say I have a similar worry. In this case I usually make very short piece. writings, cartoons, music recordings, composition..catch them when you come across flashing inspiration. You can easily be a logical or creative writer in a short piece.
    – user11113
    Commented Nov 7, 2014 at 5:10
  • 1
    Out of curiosity, have you made any effort to read more in the general area that your writing gravitates to?
    – Standback
    Commented Nov 7, 2014 at 6:39

6 Answers 6


Some of the most interesting and groundbreaking genre writing was written by authors who have come from literary fiction or another genre.

For example, Tolkien was not a Fantasy reader or writer before he wrote the Hobbit and the LotR.

The problem with fans writing what they love is that it too often turns into a bad rip off of the original.

Just write whatever flows from you naturally and don't try to force you to write what you think you should write.

Now, this does not neccessarily mean that you cannot write what you love. Let me explain with an example.

I love to read High Fantasy and Space Opera. Yet when I write, I can't bring myself to care about all the interstellar politics or complex battle coreography that is part of both genres. What I want to write about is how persons and their relationships develop - a topic for realistic fiction.

So what do I write? I write realistic character and relationship studies before a Fantasy or SF backdrop. My teeneagers with teenage problems live in a Fantasy world, and deal with first love or developing their identity in the middle of courtly intrigue and magic elves. My adults dealing with the problems of rekindling love in a relationship after the kids have grown up live on a space station and work at terraforming a planet.

What I do is write everything into the genres I love that I miss when I read them. And in my writing I rely on the familiarity of my readers with the genres, so I need only hint at the stuff I find boring and let my readers fill in the details.

I haven't yet sold any book, so I cannot vouch for the commercial success of my approach, but maybe it will give you an idea how you can bring together what you love to read and what you love to write. Maybe, like Tolkien did for Fantasy, you can bring something to realistic fiction from SF that you find missing there. Or vice versa.


I have a bit of a writing exercise to suggest. I used it myself when tying to "find my voice", and probably absorbed the idea from someone else.

First, pick a simple setting that is fairly open-ended and adaptable to many styles and genres. Then (without any specific characters, plot, or ending in mind) begin to write a scene in that setting in each style that interests you. When you lose interest or get stuck, simply start fresh with the same setting but a new style.

I chose the setting of discovering an abandoned ship. This lent itself well to dozens of genres, atmospheres and narration types.

There are a few things this does. By removing the the burden of a preset goal, you're free to follow any whim that strikes you. Also, by focusing on style over structure you identify and meditate the elements of a style that you respond to personally. While reading, you probably get so engrossed in the structure and momentum of the story that the style just kind of 'happens' around you.

You may discover that you have creative interests and talents in areas that you didn't realize. Or perhaps (like me) you'll try writing about 3 styles before getting obsessed about what it is you really like in a particular style, and suddenly get inspiration for a new project.

In any case this exercise will help you to identify genres and writing styles that fit your interests and talents.


My first response is to say, "so what?" If you like to read science fiction, but you are really good at writing cookbooks, then ... write cookbooks. I can easily imagine someone who is very good at, say, auto mechanics, and very bad at gardening, who reads gardening books trying to learn how to do it right, but who writes auto repair books because that's what he knows how to do. Or someone could love to read murder mysteries because he can never figure out who did it and he loves the surprise at the end when the villain is revealed, and for that very reason he can't write a murder mystery, because he just can't figure out how to present clues in a way that the reader could reasonably hope to figure out.

If the issue is that you really want to write science fiction but just can't, that's a different story. Why can't you? What's stopping you? Can you be more specific?


You mentioned that your could be caused by "knowing it all" and are hesitant to try your hand at something overused because it has the potential to be cliche. But as Kurt Vonnegut once said, "Write with the door closed." In other words, tune out your doubts- especially during the first draft, when the most important thing is to get it down on paper (or on screen). Also, don't think about measuring up or competing with others. It's much more productive to measure up and compete against yourself.

I would also recommend reading Anne Lammott's Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life. I can give you a 95% guarantee that you will be itching to write your opus afterwards.

To answer your question, I think it's important for writers to experiment with other genres even, perhaps especially, if it makes them uncomfortable. This is so you can get a cross-pollination that may yield something worthwhile. What if you love reading dark fantasy but tried your hand at westerns? Can you mix them together? That's where Stephen King's Dark Tower series comes in.

Love high fantasy and adventure, but enjoy brushing up on your Renaissance history? Now, you've got Game of Thrones.

Horror and Victorian lit? Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.

What if you mixed biography techniques with Arthurian legend? Can you get an autobiography of Merlin? What would that even look like?

The possibilities are endless when horizons are expanded.


Reading outside of the genre that you wish to write in is important in cultivating a broader perspective. Artists of all mediums (music and painting, especially) study and consume creative works outside of their preferred genre or area of expertise. The works they consume, though not part of their genre, each have a small bit that the consumer takes with them. They then draw upon these influences, bringing them back to their own genre to create an original work that is (ideally) free of cliche or at least a bit fresher than the rehashed stuff.

By reading the genres you exclusively want to write in, you’re robbing yourself of these easy influences. Narrowing down your possible influences puts you at greater risk of creating derivative work. You may find that a trope in one genre could be twisted into something very interesting in science fiction or fantasy or that an atypical narrative style used in fantasy’s polar opposite genres inspire you to write something in the genres you desire.

My suggestions for getting past your block are to: 1) read outside your comfort zone and 2) experiment. For instance, you can try translating new stories you read into a different genre or you can imitate an interesting technique and apply it to your genre.

Good luck!


A couple of suggestions to help you write in a genre you know really well:

  1. Turn off your internal critic/editor when you're writing. Don't allow yourself to think about what you're writing when writing the first draft; just write. Then afterwards you can come back and look at it and decide what's good and bad. You can only edit something that's been written.
  2. Start collecting ideas you have. I usually email myself throughout the day and then add them to a board that I have. On that board I come back to my ideas and play with them, asking what I can do with classic ideas to make them new and fresh and my own. Part of that is just combining things with other things they haven't been combined with before.

Originality is overrated: that is, originality as an idea of something absolute to strive for. Each genre has tropes and tropes work for a reason. If you look at the most "original" works they were still built off of ideas that were almost all actually used before. They just weren't used in the same way.

So just take your unoriginal ideas and play with them until they are original.

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