Writing: Is It a Case of Choose a Genre?

amazon book categoriesTHE MOST SUCCESSFUL authors, regardless of how they are perceived on their craft, all seem to have specified writing, sticking to a genre at least until they were so well known they felt comfortable releasing books in alternate genres.

Firstly, the chances of me becoming as successful as the well known names of writing are remote. That’s realistic. But it doesn’t mean they cannot be learned from.

Dan Alattore’s post got me thinking about genre and how important it is when people choose their reading material. I’ve never been a one-genre guy, tending to philander, interested in a good story full stop. But with publishing on the horizon at last, the befuddling world of marketing looms large.

Certainly plenty of books are not neatly categorised, and neither does that propel them on a downward spiral into oblivion. Off the top of my head The Life of Pi is classified as a fantasy adventure novel by some, commiting the supposedly heinous crime of genre blending. There’s no shelf designated for it in any book shops I’ve been in.

Literary agents, publishers and marketeers will always have sales in their sights. But then, that is their job. Writing great stories isn’t. So how does that effect you or me? To genre or not to genre, that is the question.

Although having a novel that falls into a clearly defined genre such as crime or horror is beneficial, that doesn’t guarantee sales or uptake in reading: there are millions of books under those categories. The story has to be good if not excellent to get noticed. But you knew that.

On one hand I am advocating writing genre specific, and on the other I am saying it doesn’t matter. Ideas, quotes and writing advice circulate on do this or do that. Initially, you have to do you. I’m not going to suddenly start a sci fi epic set in the deepest space on planet Alderon. Sci fi isn’t my preffered genre, and there are plenty of people more passionate about it than I could ever be.

Ultimately don’t be afraid to write between genres. But it is something to keep in mind when writing your next big project. I realised that my second book in the making doesn’t fit a genre. Small town drama? Anyone seen that above a bookshelf in Waterstones? Barnes and Noble (for you statesiders)? So still at the heavy editing stage I am considering how I can bend the story even just a little bit to – I hate to say this – really – to be.. more marketable.

The essence of the story will remain but adhering to a genre even loosely might help me refine it anyway.

Seriously though. To genre or not to genre. I don’t fu**ing know.

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lion around 2

12 Comments

  1. You could always do an Iain Banks & run with “favourite genre” (in his case sci-fi) under a slightly different name (Iain M Banks). Not that his straight fiction was in any way ordinary!

      1. There is something wonderful about that idea. Kind of like Being Human, but more low key. Deliciously naughty to have a character like that and never refer to the elephant in the room. It’d drive any vampire-fan readers insane.
        🙂

  2. I suppose if you’re talented enough you can cross over several genres, but I think most people have a strong suit, and crossing over often doesn’t ring authentic. As much as I’d like to write fiction, I’m a narrative writer, and I can’t seem to change it. When I was working at getting my memoir about childhood abuse published, I was told publishers aren’t crazy about it, because it doesn’t bring in the bucks. It would have sold better as fiction, and I even rewrote a draft to please one. I hated it. I stuck to my guns and I’m very happy with the book but will never be rich and famous. Write what you know. If you know sci-fi, if you know YA…write it. I’m just starting to play a little bit with poetry–I’ve never had an interest until know–who knows why. I’m horrible at it but…I still memoir in poetry.

  3. I decided to rework my entire novel, which is/was a blend of genres, to target young adults. Right now, YA is popular–and I’ve read a lot of good books in that genre–so I changed the characters ages and threw in quite a bit more angst. The story stayed the same, I just bent it a little for a different audience. Hopefully, the time invested in the rework will be worth the effort.
    We shall see.

      1. The main character is a witch who lives in the Mississippi delta country with her grandfather, who is also a witch. She falls in love with the local bad boy who only sees her as a friend. The bad boy lives in an old plantation house that houses an ancient demon. There are a lot of family dynamics going on that twists throughout the story, mucking everything up, and eventually, poor little witch-girl and the demon have it out.

      2. Thank you. I’m targeting it toward teenage girls. Though boys might find it of interest too since about half the chapters are told from the guy’s POV. There’s a lot more to the story; I only laid out the bare bones.

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