Types of Writing

Why is it that everyone assumes if you’re good at one type of writing, you can write anything?

I was whining to my mother this morning that I really loathe writing grant budget justifications (ugh, the Evil Day Job).  She replied that it should be easy for me with my gift of writing.  Um, no.  Writing a 35k-100k story with an actual plot, interesting characters, and snappy dialogue is (relatively) easy.  And is, at least, fun.  Explaining to government bureaucrats why we’re requesting x amount of money for our grant is not.  That falls into the realm of…well, I was going to say the scientific journal style writing I’ve tried to get away from since I left graduate school, but it’s not even that.  It’s just straight up non-fiction, BORING stuff.  And I HATE IT.  I don’t mind editing it, and spend a considerable portion of my EDJ doing so, but I really really hate writing it.

It seems to me that it’s mostly non-writers who think that if you can write one type of thing well, you can do anything well.  I don’t think most writers make that assumption.  We all have our strengths.  I wouldn’t expect a male author of a hard-boiled detective novel to turn out a perfect romance novel (although, who knows…people surprise me every day).  Likewise, I wouldn’t expect the female author of inspirational romance to turn out a fabulous, edgy sci fi thriller.  It’s not to say that it can’t be done, but usually when authors cross into different genres there’s some connection.  There’s lots of crossover between paranormal romance, urban fantasy, and YA right now, for example.  Or you might have someone who’s done thrillers turn their hand to romantic suspense.  You still have crossover between some primary element of those genres.

Someone who kicks ass at scientific journal writing and grant writing does not necessarily have the skills to write good fiction.  There’s a lot more craft involved in fiction that these more practical forms don’t entail.  Yes, they have their own requirments.  An element of persuasion.  An ability to communicate in the language of the intended audience (which is generally specialized and uses a lot of what my granddaddy called 50 cent words).  There’s no room for humor or entertainment in scientific writing (my thesis panel criticized the hell out of me for trying and made me change it all–the bastards).  And that’s part of why I hate it.

Sigh.  I guess I’ll go suck it up and get it done.  My alternative is to do my taxes, which is equally depressing as a task.

3 thoughts on “Types of Writing

  1. If it makes you feel any better – it’s the same in the computer industry. People think that since hubby is a tech and I design web sites that we both know *everything* about all aspects of computers/working with them. In reality, computer people are just as niche oriented as the next profession, and it’s incredibly annoying every time someone asks me how to do “something” in MS excel or how to upload music onto their “thingamabob”. Um…I have no idea.

    Good luck with the work writing…

  2. Technical Writing was one of the hardest classes I’ve ever taken and I really struggled in it. However, I do think we have an advantage in some aspects. We understand basic grammar and word choice. I’m sure even a grant has a basic ‘beginning, middle, end” type of structure, that while not as entertaining as PLOT, you at least grasp and can form coherent thoughts/arguments.

    Totally agree with Jamie, too. I’m a computer programmer for the EDJ. That doesn’t mean I can FIX computers or help with network issues or figure out how to get your webcam to work. I can’t even help with Windows or Word issues, unless I’ve had to do them myself on my own personal laptop.

    My MIL called me at work once with a printer problem, and I said, “I don’t know! When I have a printer problem, I call our tech support!” She said, “Can I talk to them, then?”


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