Sometimes It’s Okay To Cheat…

avj9uz9qhcw-pavan-trikutam“The first and worst of all frauds is to cheat oneself” –Gamaliel Bailey

What? It’s okay to cheat?

I imagine some of you are shocked while others feel vindicated.

Before going further I think it is important to give context to the use of the word, “cheat.”

As writers, we have a style, a genre—a type if you will. We are writers of romance or mystery or literary fiction. We are writers of novels or short stories or poetry. Regardless of our “type,” most of us are loyal, faithful, completely smitten and in love with our choice.

Perhaps as a novelist, one may occasionally flirt with the notion of writing a short story or a poem. Maybe as a poetess, one winks at writing a novel or short story. Yes, as writers many of us have considered a dalliance with another genre or style only to feel guilty for leaving our first, and often true, love. But should we?

Is it sometimes okay to cheat?

I think that the answer lies in another question. How will we, as writers, benefit from “cheating” on our first love?

The discovery of these potential benefits rests in the examination of why we choose our “type.” Some of us chose a particular genre because of familiarity. You know, the whole “I’ve only read mysteries. My friends and family like mysteries. Mystery writing must be for me.” Or sometimes our “type” chooses us; “Someone told me I should write romance. Everyone says I write romantic stories well.”

There are also times, in developing a type, when choice isn’t a factor. These are the moments when writers gravitate towards a genre or style naturally. An idea, a character, a single line finds its way onto a page in the form that feels most organic to the writer’s own nature.

The first two reasons—familiarity or others’ opinion—are completely justifiable reasons to cheat. It may be that you, as a writer, are not with the right type. Instead, you are trying to make it work, but discovering that all the conversations, affirmations and determination to try are leaving you feeling empty and unfilled.

It’s then that you must court another “type” in order to find your true love. Put aside your novel or short story. Halt your formula for another perfect sleuth. And, even if only for a moment, have an affair with steam punk or a tawdry fling with poetry. It may initially feel wrong, but it could end up being what is most right for you.

What about the rest of us? The writers who gravitated towards a particular “type” because it felt right. The novelists who cringe at the thought of being hemmed in by a few simple lines of poetry. Or the writers of short stories who blanch at the prospect of writing more than few thousand words. Should they cheat?


Even when you are happily settled with a particular genre or style, a brief fling with another can improve the relationship with your first love.

  • Learning the nuance of emotion in a romance can help add dimension to your literary fiction characters.
  • Studying the suspenseful dialogue in a mystery can give your fantasy novel a hook.
  • Trying to master the skill of brevity necessary for short story writing can give your novels an appreciated conciseness.

When it comes to writing, sometimes it’s okay to cheat. Especially when that cheating helps develop, improve and enrich your writing. After all, writers’ unwillingness to discover and try other styles and genres of writing only cheats them.

Disclaimer: I only encourage cheating among writers and only with other writing styles and genres!

Thank you for reading. I look forward to your comments.





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About Sherry Parnell