Posted by: selenafulton | May 5, 2012

FITTING A SQUARE PEG INTO A ROUND HOLE – HOW TO PICK YOUR GENRE

Okay, so one day you decide you want to write a book, now where to start?

You get all your writerly tools together. If you’re a plotter, you gather visuals for your story, write extensive lists of who your characters are, their hair color, etc. You write an outline of how the story will go. Before you type Chapter One, you know more about your characters than you knew about your first date.

If you’re a pantser, you open up a blank document with an idea, phrase or the face of a character in mind. I don’t know about anyone else, I love discovering my story as I go. I also hate being locked in to a plot because then I have to force my characters back into it if they rebel.

And they do.

Both writing styles have one thing in common, you need to decide how to present your story. What type of reader do you intend to reach? How do you decide your genre?

WRITE WHAT YOU READ

Sounds simple, right? But how many of you are actually doing it? If you don’t read them, so why in the world are you trying to write them?

I read a craft book, Roberts Rules of Writing by Robert Masello and one question stuck in my head.
“What is on your nightstand?” The basic premise is that we read before we sleep. I personally don’t read in bed. The lighting in my bedroom is bad, and it’s hard to sit up in a waterbed.

So I went through my library. I grew up reading murder mysteries, a little Stephen King or Dean Kuntz. My favorite books are time-travels and romantic comedies, throw in a contemporary fairytale and my list is complete. My favorite movies are pretty much the same.

He also said, “If you wouldn’t read it, you won’t be able to write it.”

My novella coming out in June is a time travel. Why do I love time travel? I love the idea of a modern person being faced with not only a complete culture change, but suddenly without all the conveniences they are accustomed to. Maybe even having to prove to everyone else they’re not crazy. And even more fun for me, is how would a person from another century react to someone from the future?

This concept has been on my mind even as a child. I used to wonder what the pioneers would think if they saw cars and airplanes zooming by as they made their way across the plains at a snail’s pace with a horse and wagon. In my mind, I laid the past and the present together and wondered about their reaction. I loved the idea of different dimensions.

WRITE WHAT YOU KNOW

Are you a history buff? Sci-fi fan? What’s your day job?

For me, I have no interest level in historicals, cowboys, or space aliens. While I do enjoy watching Star Trek enough to name my daughter Deanna, creating space beings and building worlds with their own unique language and customs? Not happening. I love horses, have seen the Rocky Mountains and the Oregon Trail, but do I read about cowboys? Rarely. And the polite society of the ton? Nope. Can’t relate. But that’s me. Know yourself, know your material. Because if you don’t, the readers will throw your book against the wall and never pick you up again.

WRITE FOR THE MARKET? YES AND NO

If you are an unpublished author, I wouldn’t suggest writing to a specific market unless that’s your passion. If you read that editors and agents are looking for Vampires, don’t write a story based on that market, unless that’s your genre. Even if you type 100 wpm (which I don’t) it takes TIME to write a book, even longer to edit and polish it. Oh, and by the time you finish your fabulous vampire story, editors and agents are sick of vampires.

What’s a writer to do?

Write what you love. As an unpublished author, you have the freedom to write the story of your heart. You’ll write it with passion because it is from your heart, but also keep in mind, your subject might have a narrow market. It may never see the light of day, it may never get off your hard drive, but it will teach you about the genre that works for you, or what doesn’t. You will learn how to polish while thoroughly enjoying your characters.

Read books on craft, learn the rules, then learn how to create your own voice. In the end, readers remember the voice. How it made them laugh, cry, or tremble under the sheets when the lights went out. They will think about your characters weeks/months after they finish your book.

And they’ll look for your next book…

 

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Responses

  1. I love this post. Such good advice. And freeing. Write what you love while you’re learning. Then keep on writing what you love. Tweak it a bit to fit the market, but be true to yourself. Thanks for your thoughts.

    • June,

      It helps you find what you really enjoy wriing. And if you’re not enjoying this, why do it?

  2. I understand this thinking, however I read several genres. I am most interested in relationships, which are covered in romance and also women’s fiction. As a girl, I remember reading Mary Higgin’s Clark’s “Where Are the Children?” in a readers condensed version and have never forgotten it. It’s hard for me to pick a favorite, although I have never liked any of the genres you like. lol Historicals and cowboys don’t generally interest me, although I’ve read some really good ones that I’ve kept.
    So, what does someone do who likes romances, women’s fiction, and mystery? 🙂 I’m currently writing romance.

    • Cathy,

      I read multiple genres too. But if you look at your work, you will see which genre is dominate. You can still have a mystery with romantic elements.

  3. Good good thinking, particularly this week when I found myself suddenly presented with two new Nora Roberts (contemporary, of course) and a new Mary Balogh, my favorite Regency-ish historical. Read the NR, The Witness, first and was captivated by it as I have not been by her last five or six, and then Mary Balogh’s The Proposal, which was good but not the best, and am now reading NR’s The Last Boyfriend, which is okay, but so far I can put it down fairly easily. Balogh’s world is still the world in which I feel most comfortable, and even after the 2 contemporaries, it’s still good to turn to my own WIP. I guess I enjoy the making a different world, just as you do with the time travel! Contemporary is great to visit, but I’m still at home slipping and sliding through the 18th and early 19th century!

    • Beppie, I do love time travels, but they can be difficult to tie up all the lose ends, and make the implausible seem believable. I think it’s like with anything, if you try to force it, it’s just not going to work or be as effective.

  4. Excellent advice, Selena. Especially writing what you love and are engaged by.. If you don’t like what you’re writing, you pretty much can guarantee the readers won’t like it, either. And I love the premise of your novella. 🙂

  5. I agree that you must write what you love–not just ‘like’ to read. I like to read a variety, but when I write, as Beppie said, I choose the genre/era I have a real feel for. Yes, there can be more than one. Perhaps a lot has to do with the story idea a writer has. Some work for one area, some another. Good, thought-provoking post :O


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