Wednesday, December 30, 2009

How to select your genre

Many new writers like to say something like this:

“My story is in a new kind of genre. There is some romance and little historical and some science fiction all mixed together in a coming of age novel.

While you may not say this exactly, I am fairly sure that at some point you have decided you have a whole new genre, but, as King Solomon said in the Bible, there is nothing new under the sun. The same is true with our writing. While our books will have unique elements, we must keep our stories within an explainable category, aka genre.

How do you go about selecting a genre? Some say that you should write in the area you understand best, but that doesn’t always work for every author. While I have a degree in political science and history my stories are contemporary suspense novels. That means that I have more research to do in order to construct my plots, but it is the world I am best able to write in.

Consider what it is that most interests you and the kind of writing you get most excited about. Don’t limit yourself to the kind of writing that fits in with your background or learning. Look at the way the story starts to percolate in your mind. That is your first clue.

Once you’ve selected your genre you have the most important step: research that genre. There are certain conventions in writing that you must provide to your reader. Every genre is a promise. In a romance the promise is he and she will meet at the beginning of the book and be in a happy, committed relationship at the end. If you have her die on the final page you are breaking the promise you gave in writing a romance. In suspense you are promising the reader that there will be an emotional experience where life and limb are challenged. If the bad guy is caught 1/3 of the way through and you proceed to go in to the main characters childhood [without any further threat of the bad guy returning] you have broken the promise to the reader.

Within the formula there is always some room for a SKILLFUL adjustment [notice I said skillful], but you must master the convention before changing it.

In the comments why don’t you share a bit about the genre [or genres] you are writing in and what you like about that genre. You may also want to share your understanding of the conventions of that genre to help others learn about that kind of writing.

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Tiffany Colter is a writer, speaker and writing career coach who works with beginner to published writers. She can be reached through her website at
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Edo said...

Good article that asking the right questions. Will use it for sure.

Thank you

tzongyih said...

How to select my genre?
Great articles, thanks for sharing.

Oleg said...

трудно мне выразить своё мнение

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