What genre are you writing in?Posted by Sarah J on 6 February 2020 at 13:38
How can you tell what genre you’re writing?
If you’re writing ‘genre fiction’, such as crime, romance or horror, this question might be easier to answer. But what if you straddle a few different categories?
Share your genre below! Do you think it’s important to know what category your book fits into?
Member6 February 2020 at 15:19
Having been told by an agent on slush pile live that I could not describe my novel as a humorous adventure, because I would have to super brilliant to write one, I have just classed a Middle Grade adventure. I suspect that knowing what your writing helps the writer, and also helps pigeonhole you for the agent. But strikes me they will make their own minds up come what may and reclassify it if it is borderline something else. I don’t think we should pigeonhole/change our stories for the sake of agents though. Big question in my mind is if you do not, will you be picked up and published?
Member6 February 2020 at 16:14
I believe mine is (upper) Middle Grade contemporary fiction. It also has humour, but I wouldn’t include that in the genre.
I guess the importance of knowing where your book fits helps to convince agents you know what you’re doing and leads them in a certain direction. However, if that direction turns out to be wrong (you crossover too much into a different genre, you don’t fulfil the expectations of your supposed genre), it’s probably a big put-off. It also helps to know which agents to approach (if they don’t mention your genre in their write-ups it’s probably not worth contacting them).
Above all though, I think for me the concept of the genre helps keep me on track with expectations.
Member6 February 2020 at 21:34
I’m looking for a Literary Agent for my inspirational memoir ‘An Innocent Girl’
Does anyone have any suggestions please?
Member7 February 2020 at 17:56
Sarah I wish I knew. Different people have said different genres. I’m not sure, especially my first book which is largely a love story between two men, but has themes of addiction and loss (and there is murder too, though no detectives). I feel that it’s not your usual romance and it has a slice of mystery but is not an out and out crime novel either. it’s set in contemporary times. Second book is no easier, it’s again at heart a romance but a quest story within a reality TV Show. Help someone!!
Member8 February 2020 at 04:06
Agents I’ve met do find genre important. Most have corrected me in my choice, no matter what box I’ve tried to slot my book into. One said it was literary. Another said – definitely phychological thriller. One tagged it as crime. Another described it as reading group fiction, which seems smudgy enough. It’s still a WIP and all of the above. No single box fits.
I guess we just have to throw our hat in the ring and make the thing compelling enough for them to read it at all. Then they can call it what they like!
Member11 February 2020 at 16:54
Genre is a big one for me, my novel, A Double’s Take, is narrated by the protagonist’s alter ego, shot through with magic realism, occult happenings and supernatural events. I’m doing a final round of self-editing before I send it to y’all at Jericho for a manuscript assessment. I worry, a bit, about my unconventional WIP finding the ideal editor. Speculative fiction is such a vague genre, and I don’t want to make an expensive mistake, my banking actions don’t respond to ‘undo’. Any input welcome. Happy writing, everybody.
Member11 February 2020 at 17:03
I’m working on my debut novel and frankly I had no clue what the genre was. Literary crime was the closest I could think. After reading my first couple of samples, my instructor told me it’s Upmarket Character-Led Crime, which I had never heard of before. I spent some time learning the genre since then and I have to agree with the label.
Member11 February 2020 at 17:12
I must admit that I struggle with the idea of genre. The answer to the question is really another question: “What if?”. I don’t read a particular genre, and the stories I write are vaguely attached, I suppose, to whichever genre holds the answer.
Member11 February 2020 at 17:21
I’m not sure what mine would come under – probably commercial fiction but it is futuristic as it is set around fifty to sixty years from now – not sci-fi as too grounded in life today!
Member11 February 2020 at 17:52
Hi Everyone, this is my first comment on this site, I joined today as far as Genre is concerned if a story crosses from one to another, eg. Romance/Historical/With modern sexual themes/and a bit of industrial technology. Where could I go? General Fiction? Any thoughts would be very welcome.
Member11 February 2020 at 18:20
Seems everyone is just as confused as I am! In any case who decides on genre titles? Never heard of Middle Grade being used before. Do publishers make them up as they go along – possibly through boredom as they work their way through slush piles?!
Member12 February 2020 at 10:51
Middle Grade just helps pinpoint the age range of the audience I think. There’s so much children’s literature out there now that agents/publishers/bookshops probably need this guide to know where to place new novels. In fact I would also find it useful to have this on the back of books because sometimes it’s not 100% clear.
Member11 February 2020 at 23:07
Finding your genre (and sticking to it) is an intimidating thought, but I think you have to know it to be able to decode the rules of the world and characters you’re writing.
I can think of no better discussion of genre than that which Shawn Coyne provides in his Story Grid method. The Genre 5-leaf clover is a genius tool (but more so the content of the discussion behind it).
I never thought about the concept before that there is effectively two genres you’re dealing with: the external (ie, what “kind” of book it is – Thriller, Western, Society, Love Story, Crime etc…), and the internal (ie, the journey that the characters are on – Worldview/Maturation? Morality/Redemption? Status/Tragedy?)
Cannot recommend highly enough that you read the website and read the book and listen to the podcasts. It’s changed my world.
Member12 February 2020 at 10:59
Yes, I found this concept useful too, though I haven’t delved into it as much as you.
I also like 20 Master Plots (and how to build them) by Ronald B Tobias which is kind of genre too.
Member28 February 2020 at 22:18
We live in a world where everything has to have a label of some kind. What sort of music we listen to, what type of book you are writing or reading. We compartmentalise to keep things neat and in order. We all do it, even subconsciously. But as creative people it can be restrictive. Do I want my work to be given a specific label that may put off others who might otherwise enjoy the work or would I rather say it has elements of this and that within the context of the storyline and try to expand the potential readership? Surely the name of the game is sales and if agents and publishers want to increase their chances of bagging that book that will sell by the bucketload, then maximising the potential readership net to reel in the public to buy the book, you want it to attract or appeal to as many as possible. So if a book has an element of genre crossing then it has the potential to get a wide variety of interested readers. Ooh look this book has murders in it (thriller), and is set in the early 70s (recent history) and there’s a ghost in it who haunts the lead character (horror or perhaps fantasy). Anyone who likes any of those elements may be intrigued by what the story has to offer, or to put it another way – Unique Sales Pitch – what agents are always saying they are looking for that makes a book stand out.
Member28 February 2020 at 23:18
The flip side of this argument, Andrew, is that there are many people who carry prejudices against labelled genres. They say they don’t like thrillers, so if there’s even a hint, they’ll reject it out of hand. These people are surprisingly common, and all claim they would never do such a thing…
Member28 February 2020 at 23:33
You’re both right.
I think Romance suffers from this big time, tied up with “it’s just for women” and a teensy bit of snobbery. Not gonna lie but I don’t go a bundle on romance and used to think it was just perfiffle fluffy fluffton mcfluff. I then read a couple just out of curiosity. There’s proper plotting, proper character arcs, and some writers (like Tessa Dare) are very witty and have made me laugh out loud. Of course, some of it is formulaic and dull, but every genre suffers from that. You’re never too old to try new things.
Unknown MemberDeleted User29 February 2020 at 08:17
Personally I think genre is absolutely critical. A reader has every single book ever published to choose from, so they need something to point them in the right direction. Books also have an awful lot of ‘other’ entertainment to compete with, so giving the reader every chance of enjoying the experience might keep them off their phones or away from the tv a little longer, and encourage them to go out and buy another one! As for identifying genre, definitely easier in some cases than others! I used to strive for literary fiction (my tone if not my talent is Richard Ford, John Banville, Sebastian Faulks etc). It’s definitely not commercial fiction (unfortunately!). Is there a half way house? Is that what middle grade fiction is? The content of my latest effort crosses into crime. So who knows?!
Member29 February 2020 at 12:40
And there, Alan, you have identified the problem with genre classifications.
Some, like “literary” or “commercial” relate to the writing and structure styles, to weight.
Others, like “middle grade” or “women’s,” categorise the intended audience by age, gender, or other demographic characteristics.
Yet others, like “military,” “contemporary” or “science fiction” denote the presentational setting wrapper used to tell the story.
And that’s before we hit the likes of “thriller” or “romance” that deal with the subject of the dominant arc.
Every story will have a classification on each of those axes; sometimes more than one. So, to say it is only one or the other is disingenuous. Every story is many.
Yet people apply subjective axis-hopping prioritisation orders (as best I can tell, based on prejudice against certain aspects – anything with those aspects gets categorised into the buckets they don’t like) to hide the inherent diversity, so they can dumb things down to a single label.
Member29 February 2020 at 14:35
I think this is why genre has splintered so much – readers and writers want to know the exact kind of read they’re letting themselves in for. They don’t want to just know if it’s ‘fantasy’, they want to know if it’s High fantasy, Urban fantasy, Steam punk, paranormal, Grimdark and that’s before you start blending genres – supernatural romance for instance. This makes marketing easier too, at least for online markets. If you walk into an actual bookshop you’ll still only find about five big headings over the fiction shelves.
Bit tricky for those of us who might want to write in more than one genre