I just joined in yesterday and this is my first ever post so I’m not hundred-percent sure if I’m doing everything right here. But I’m going to do it anyway (and it might be a pretty long one).
Last month I received my full manuscript assessment report from Jericho Writers. It was truly helpful and gave me a lot of great advice. However, there was one issue that I discussed through a number of mails with my kind and patient editor: she kept insisting that my novel was a commercial romance even though I had declared that it was literary fiction. The part where the problem started was that she criticised all my psychological, sociological and sometimes even philosophical subjects as unnecessary to the plot. Another criticism of hers was that not many things are happening throughout the novel. When I also insisted that the subjects she says unnecessary are what the story is really about for me, and explained what I was trying to achieve by them, she said I’m trying to do too many things and she suggests me to focus on driving the real plot forward instead because I’m a natural romance writer.
My novel is about a young man who leaves everything behind and travels to Manchester to find a girl he saw and fell in love with on a train there. The only thing he knows about her is that she has a pink suitcase.
I know this sounds romantic, and there are indeed parts of it which are, but my main aim with this is to explore the psychological state of this individual, how he came to attempt such an absurd thing. The story is about the change that the character goes through by not caring what others would think for once, and with this freedom, managing to find his place in the world.
So in the end, the editor convinced me that I was writing a romance; the novel couldn’t be literary due to the lighthearted and romantic elements in the story. I decided to make the story more compact, add more plot points. But I still left the “finding your place in the world” concept of the story too. Now that I’m starting to search for suitable agents, I’m again confused about the genre. The agents who are looking for commercial romance are mostly interested in a tragic love story that makes them cry (also, most of them want a woman as a main character. Some actually calls it women’s fiction which sound quite funny to me.). My story is nothing like that. The main romance element – trying to find the girl with the pink suitcase – carries the story forward and does not even resolve until the very end. But the story is also too lighthearted and romantic to be literary fiction.
I’m not saying I regret my decision to go through with a full manuscript assessment. It was more than helpful and my reader/editor’s suggestions were profound. But now I’m confused about the genre and the flexibility of genres in general. And I feel limited every time I read about specific genres. Maybe I’m worrying for no reason at all and I’ve actually written a classic romance where sociological elements can be acceptable. Maybe it’s a kind of modern literary fiction. Or maybe there’s a genre that this kind of multiple elements can fall into. Maybe the novel is just plain bad. I don’t know.
What do you think about this? Have you been through a similar confusion? Any advice or comments are welcome.