Friday, May 17, 2013

What's Your Genre?

Something one of y'all posted in the comment section on the last post got me thinking. There's a lot of talk among writers about genre and brand and voice and how what you write is unique.

If you think through this too much looking at a published author and their books, it can make your brain hurt. If you think through it from the point of view of someone who's not published yet, it can scramble your brain.

I know this is something that has long driven me crazy. I get the "brand" thing. As a writer, you want people to know what to expect from your books. I'm good with that.

It gets a little trickier for me when it comes to genre. You know why? Because MOST of the authors I've ever met have dabbled in different genres. And before we're published, it's super confusing to figure out which is "your" genre.

(Brief note: There's a difference between your genre and your VOICE. Camy Tang is an excellent example of that. She's written chick lit and romantic suspense, but the snarky, funny heroine with an attitude makes the stories be written with the same voice.)

Okay, back to my point. How do you figure out which one is your genre?

1. What do you LOVE to write?
2. What's easiest for you to write? (Doesn't necessarily mean this is the one you should choose, but it's good to consider.)
3. What do your friends or critique partners think is your strongest genre?
4. Which do you have the most story ideas for in the future?

And my personal favorite, which is the one I decided to go with when I was agonizing over my split-writing-personalities a few years ago....

5. Which one have you been contracted in first?

See, it's only after the contract that you have to pick a genre. I'm relatively new to the publishing side of things. Actually, really new. But I've been writing and going to conferences for awhile, and while I'm sure some people would disagree, I think this is the best thing to do. If you love women's fiction and mysteries, go for it! Write both of them! But if you sell first in women's fiction, stick to that for a while at least. You want to build up a following of readers and it's hard to convince people you can do that across genres.

Some people might say that it's bad to genre hop even before you're published, because it can scare off editors and agents. I don't think this is always the case as long as you're confortable with what ties your genres together. Maybe you write chick-lit and romantic suspense, but your characters are always strong women and your stories are always set in coastal towns. Maybe your style is similar. Maybe you have a similar theme (ha! There is again! Yay for theme!) that tends to come out in your books, like the fact that God is in control, and you show that in each of the genres you love to write in. I think if you're comfortable with what you write, it will show, and your love of several genres won't scare people off. As long as you're willing to commit once you're contracted.

So what I'm saying is--you don't have to pick right away! Yay! Isn't that freeing to know that you can write a happy scene where people are falling in love and then click over to your other manuscript and have a serial killer on the loose? =) So don't stress. It's okay to have a couple genres. But if you really want to pick, want to be able to identify yourself by what you write, or get to work on a website or a blog that really pertains to the one you write, think about those first four questions. I think that's one of the best ways to get your answer.


A Recovering Writer of Chick-Lit Who's Now Sticking With Romantic Suspense....


  1. My genre is definitely historical-fiction. I have never written anything else! Even my novellas and short stories are historical-fiction. I do enjoy getting to be a historian and author at the same time! :)

    1. That's awesome that you have always known exactly where your strengths are!

  2. Oh goodness. I love several genres. Teen lit, romance, historical, whatever the Chronicals of Narnia falls under... Lol. And I can write nonfiction pretty well. I love writing them all. :)
    As for voice, I still haven't mastered that. I've noticed that my writing takes on one of two tones depending on the genre. ;)

    1. That gives you a lot of options, though, which is always good! Sounds like one of the things you really like is a strong story world, since all of the genres you mentioned are ones where a good, strong setting really helps!

      And yay for nonfiction! Some people do such an awesome job with that--sadly I'm not one of them. =)