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Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Defining And Knowing Your Genre

What genre do you write? This is a tough question for many writers to answer and yet it is vital to writing a successful genre book. You must know what genre you're writing. If you don't agents and editors will think you haven't done your homework. To be a successful writer one must read. You can't do a marathon if you don't run and you can't write a novel if you don't read. You don't have to strictly read the genre you write but you do need to read a lot of it. That way you'll know what the trends are and who the top authors are. This will come into play later when you're ready to submit.

How do you figure out what your genre is? If there is an element of fantasy, it's fantasy. Such as dragons, faeries, elves, angels, etcetera. Sci-Fi is a completely different genre. Sci-Fi means the novel is based off probability and possibility, technology and advancement in essence. Paranormal falls under fantasy unless we break things down into sub genres which I'm not going to get into now. I'll save that for another post. If there's a mystery to be solved, it's mystery. Pulse pounding action or drama means it's a thriller. If the main theme of the novel is a love story then it's a romance.

You can combine genres but when you do make sure you know what the main genre is. I write young adult, which is a genre in and of itself based around the age of the protagonist. Young adult is my main genre but the secondary one is fantasy. Young adult and middle grade are easy to mix with genres, others are not so easy though. You can have a romantic mystery or a sci-fi thriller, just be sure you know which one is the main genre and keep that your main focus.

For more excellent advice on genre check out this post by Writer's Digest, The Do's and Don'ts of Combining Genres

14 comments:

  1. This is an issue I've struggled with, Heather -- thanks for a great post. As you know, I finally figured out how to position my book after lots of trial and error. Reading in your genre, and keeping current with it -- excellent advice for knowing which shelf in the bookstore your book belongs on.

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  2. Great post! Very interesting and informative, Heather. Thanks! :-)

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  3. You're welcome Linda! I'm so glad you discovered your true genre and are embracing it!

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  4. Thanks Shannon! I'm glad you liked it. :-)

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  5. You know, I do struggle with this area. I mean I've been reading SF and fantasy for a long time and I know what we mean by them, but I just don't think the divisions are that rigid. What's steampunk for example? It reads like SF but its technology couldn't possibly work sometimes, so it's more like fantasy. Or parallel-universe SF. Or something.

    I do take your point about commercial realities and deciding what category your writing is in but it does grate with me. I'm not sure I like to be straightjacketed into one genre.

    Also, YA confuses things for me - is that a genre at all? Surely it's an age-group, it says nothing about the genre of the book only, perhaps, the style ...

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  6. Great point Simon, YA really is a style, not a genre. However, it does have its own section in the store so it is catagorized as a genre. It does muddle things though!

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  7. I've been struggling with this since I first started writing my fantasy novel, eight years ago (I haven't only been writing that for eight years - I took a lot of breaks!). I didn't want it to be a "fantasy" novel (I don't know why, I have this thing against dragons) and I kept trying to come up with different genres for it ("alternate historical fiction" and my personal favorite "mystical literary fiction") but I've given that up now. The book is fantasy. There are people with *wings* after all. It feels good to finally not be at odds with my genre :)

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  8. That's great that you've made peace with your genre! Fantasy is what you make it. That's the beauty of it!

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  9. As long as it's not just me that's muddled I don't mind!

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  10. Not at all Simon. There are so many genres and subgenres that it's impossible not to get muddled!

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  11. Great post as always, Heather!

    And sending good vibes your way! :)

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  12. Thanks DL! I have a jar set aside to catch those vibes in!

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  13. This genre stuff is at once so simple and so complicated! Even within a genre you can find many variations ... but I think the query process is much easier if the writer thinks about these issues while he or she is writing, revising, and reading.

    Great post!

    —Portia

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  14. So true Portia. Excellent point on knowing your genre as you write. It does make things easier for the rest of the process!

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