Saturday, September 18, 2010

Genre Hunting

Okay, so writing my first novel was awesome. It was a rush. After three months of wonderful key-pounding, I cradled the manuscript pages like a proud new mama.

Little did I know it was just like when I brought my firstborn home from the hospital. Now the real work began. My manuscript wasn’t finished. There were many, many revisions to be made – buffing and polishing to be done.

Then came the summary and query letter. I needed to know what genre my story was.

That’s easy. It’s fiction, right? How many genres could there be? As I looked into it, the horror crept in. (Yes, that’s a genre, but not mine.)

According to Wikipedia, genre may be determined by: literary technique, tone, content, or even length. Cultural movements (think Twilight) create new genres. Did you know there’s even a Robinsonian genre for Robinson Crusoe-style books? Neither did I.


There are impressive and intimidating lists of genres and subgenres. Here are a few good sites:

You should also know and follow the guidelines for your genre, such as word count. Here’s a site that’s a great help:,-Subgenres,-and-Guidelines-For-Getting-Your-Book-Published&id=2545501

Once you think you’ve got your genre and subgenre pinned down, here comes the fun part. Go find and read books in your genre. Read lots of them. That’s how I figured out that my book was NOT what I thought it was. I got to do more research and read some more great books. Then I figured it out.

Now, here we are, four books later. I actually like revising, polishing and genre hunting. I have to be honest and say that writing the query still stinks, but it’s getting easier.

So go forth, visit some great sites, read some fun books, and happy genre hunting!


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  2. Patricia Cornwell doesn't read any crime books, but she defined the genre (forensic crime). Unless your readership is already established, getting published will be extra tough. Unless you are about to create your own new genre, I'd advise writing in the one that you are already familiar with. In other words, write what you read.

  3. Great links, and great advice about getting the Genre right! Thanks for sharing.

  4. Ah, the happy, genre-free days when I just wrote what I liked to read, whatever it was.

    But now I'd like to sell what I write.

    Those genres. After a while, they get into your brain, and you start writing FOR a genre.

  5. John, thanks for the great advice. My problem popped up when I wrote what I usually read, but with a twist. That changed the genre and now the story fit equally well into two different genres. I couldn't pin it down until I read more.

    Shallee, thanks!

    Rebecca, alas, you are right. But it helps being more focused as you write, doesn't it?

  6. Yeah, that first one seems so easy, doesn't it? And I never realized there were so many sub-genres, either.

  7. For a moment there, I thought picaresque was a genre devoted to Jean Luc Picard. Which would be awesome.

    I thought I knew the genre for the YA novel I'm writing right now (as if I can't just say "YA", which I suppose I could, but not really). I thought it was YA paranormal. And it is. But then I read two novels with similar themes, and one was categorized as science fiction, while the other was paranormal. In truth, mine could be either! Ack! I'm going to have to give that some thought (obvs) before I query.

    Excellent post! :)

  8. Alex, yes, the first one does seem easy, especially not knowing what's coming next. A good thing, too. But by then, it's too late. You get addicted. (That's why I named my blog what I did.)

    Susan, boy, I could so see a 'picard'esque (for Jean Luc Picard) genre coming, ha ha! Yes, I wish separating the genres was easier. Sometimes it's a really fine line that divides which one fits best.

  9. Hey, how about this? Write something that embraces several genres, then market it as whatever is selling best this season!

  10. oooooooh genre hunting is not fun so far... thanks for the links


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