From Sarah, With Joy

*Poet * Author * Wanderluster*

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The difficulty with my genre is...

This is something I've been thinking about while I have been working on the first draft of my first novel. There is still no title yet, but it is an adult mainstream book. That is the typical genre that I write in. The thing is, I'm becoming a bit nervous that it isn't exciting enough. I am extremely excited by the story and the characters, but there are no car chases or gun fights or lawyers or kidnapping or murderers, and there are no vampires or teenagers in love with paranormal creatures. I guess I'm feeling intimidated by the fact that I am not writing thriller or paranormal romance. Those seem to be the popular genres of the day, and I'm worried that my story is not going to catch peoples attention because it is not within those genres. I know thats a ridiculous worry, though, because I don't really read thrillers or paranormal romance either, so I know that there are amazing books out there outside of those genres, but my question is: how do I know, in this era of thriller and paranormal romance, that my book is exciting enough? That it won't bore the modern reader to absolute death?

I have another question about genres. I want to write in many different types of genres. I'm doing adult mainstream right now, and that is probably going to stay my main genre, but I know I want to try YA and I may want to try my hand at fantasy or western or adventure or romance, other genres like that. Is that possible, in todays publishing world? Will agents, editors and publishers allow writers to do that? Have any of you done this, and how has it turned out for you?

Here's the thing. I'm going to write no matter what, and write what I want to write no matter what. But I still have questions and doubts about whether and how I can be successful doing that. So advice and info would be fantastic. Thanks to all of you for your amazing help and support.

What are the difficulties for you in your genre? Do you find it useful to write in a variety of genres or not, and why?

Sarah Allen


  1. Just write. It doesn't matter what you write as long as you write what you're enjoying. I've got an SF, an urban fantasy, and a ... couple of other genres, in my quiver right now.

    Even if you don't get them all published you'll have them and you'll be able to pitch them once they are done. Meg Cabot, Nora Roberts, and Jayne Anne Krentz (I think that's her 'real' name) are all, at least in part, genre jumpers.

  2. Haha--you sound like me! I have plots, ideas and WIPs for multiple genres including YA and romance ('cause steamy's always good, right?). I'm thinking Casi's right, though. Just write. Genre jumping seems to be more accepted these days and, if you get established in one genre and your publisher doesn't want you to muddle things, there's always a pen name.

    And as for figuring out the genre of your current WIP, just try to find a book similar--don't worry about what's hot now, because it's already passe for books that haven't been published. (scary, right?)

    Just keep swimming!

  3. Just wanted to say hello as I've just discovered your blog and look forward to following it! I am an aspiring writer as well and I wish you well on your journey. :)

  4. My biggest issue right now is labeling two of my books. One is adult and the other is YA but I'm not sure if they qualify as fantasy for sci-fi. They both deal with genetic mutations, which sounds sci-fi because their powers come from the change in dna. But the powers that come from it are a bit close to magic as they aren't realistic ones, which makes them feel more like fantasy because I don't talk much about the cause of dna change or anything. They are more about the characters figuring out how to handle their powers and deal with being different.

    I also write many different genres, so right now I would say don't worry about it. Write whatever you want until a publisher/agent tells you (directly) otherwise.

  5. Just write what you want to write. Writing Magazine has a huge article at the moment on a writer who has changed her genre and nom de plume more often than her underwear and she enjoys what she does immensely. I think you should concentrate on the novel in hand and getting an agent and published etc. Once you've had some success you can perhaps think more freely about changing genres. Many writers have pen names in order to do that, I've noticed that, especially with some prolific American Writers. Stephen King had a pen name for a long time and Robin Hobb , or maybe Robin Hobb is the pen name... okay shutting up now. Looking forward to your posts. Followed x

  6. Wow, thank you all so so much for your awesome advice and support. The gist that I'm getting is to just keep writing, which is great advice, true, and what I plan to do. I sure hope that genre jumping is getting more and more ok. Thanks again guys, you're awesome :)


  7. By the time you finish, you may want to self-pub and go straight to ebook format. The industry is changing by the minute, and no matter who publishes it, you'll do 95% of the promotion anyway. So, yes, write now, decide later.

    BTW, lots of well-known writers don't attract agent attention until book four at the earliest.

  8. You had me nodding my head in agreement with all you have written here Sarah!

    I think you hit the nail on the head when you wrote "I'm going to write no matter what, and write what I want to write no matter what."

    To me, this is the most important. I've noticed the huge amounts of YA, paranormal romance, and other genre authors out there myself and as another 'undefinable genre' author hopeful I too have been feeling a little disconcerted: is the market out there anymore?

    Basically i think in these cases, because of the absence of a set formula to follow, character development and pacing is key. I don't like reading books with crazy plotlines and unnecessary explosions either, but if you can create complex characters that people love and care about (or even hate and loathe, as long as they generate *some* passionate response in the reader) and keep the tension and interest building, this 'lack of action' you are worried about will not even be noticed. My favourite stories are always driven by strong characters first and foremost. :)

    There's room out there for anything as long as it is written well, i feel.

    Love the blog, i'll be back!


  9. I think as long as you're passionate about your writing, it will shine through - no matter what genre. If you try to write about the subject du jour, you'll end up missing the boat because everyone will soon be on to something else. Today's zombies are yesterday's vampires. :)

    J.K. Rowling has said that she was rejected by so many agents and publishers because they'd all told her that fantasy was old news, especially for the young adult market. But she kept at it anyway because it meant so much to her.

  10. Thanks again for the advice and encouragement. There's enough room for everything we want to do on the shelves, right?


  11. My difficulty isn't so much the genre (I'm pretty much humor/memoir/non-fiction and love those genres, though I like reading all kinds =)'s the whole "building a platform" thing that I find difficult...especially as a stand up comedian/writer I tend to be a loner...and am not necessarily gifted at drawing crowds, online or off!!! =0) Keep writing!!!

  12. I love that you are so passionate about what you're writing. That's a great step toward being a published author.

    I've tried several genres and even queried different genres but it didn't take me long to learn what genre worked best for me, and the fact that once you're published (at least with a traditional publisher) under one genre, it's the genre that will be yours for awhile. Publishers, even agents, will want to know that you have more than one book in you (of the genre you're presenting them with), and that means being able to write more than one book in that particular genre.

    But, before all that, it doesn't hurt to experiment. For now, enjoy what you're writing, and discover what genre you love the most and what suits you the most. And if you're still not sure after another book or two, try some beta readers or critique partners. They'll be able to help you see where your voice is the strongest. All the best!

  13. Hi fellow Utahn. I say write and enjoy. Whatever makes your heart sing will make your readers hearts' sing. =D

    ps: Thanks for stopping by my blog.

  14. Sarah - Also saying hello, and thank you for stopping by yesterday and leaving your very kind comment.
    Let's see, a novel w/out car chases, guns, vampires & teen angst? That is a novel idea, and the absence of the same in story is quite refreshing. Some of the very best stories are the ones without the tricks.
    Write for yourself, what you enjoy, what's in your heart. I think we lose ourselves and story loses its honesty when we start writing for the "market."
    Good luck with the novel, keep at girl! ;)

  15. I don't think I can add much to all these wonderful comments. It sounds like you are still at the stage where you should play. Don't worry about what's right or wrong. Of course, you should know that there is no right or wrong, lol.

    Genre is a tough topic for me. I write horror, suspence, and thriller. But placing my stories into these little stacks is difficult. My horror isn't scary enough, but my suspence have a large red line of paranormal activity, lol.

    The point is don't worry about it now. Just write.

    Is this your first writing attempt, or do you have short stories done? I read somewhere (don't quote me) that you are not a writer until you have written 100,000 words (that number might be wrong, but it sounds right). These do not have to be published words just written I guess after working through that much writing you should have a know how and feel for how to stream the words together and produce your own style.

    Best of luck.

  16. Thanks guys! I'm impressed with all the great feedback.

    Cher, I've got about 10 short stories and about a dozen poems. I've been writing since 7th grade, it would be interesting to see if I've made it to 100,000 words. I've heard that quote somewhere too. It's good advice, in that it just means that writers write.

    Thanks again everyone :)


  17. Although the genres you mentioned are popular these days, I know many people who aren't interested in them at all or who read them as well as mainstream fiction, so I think you're good and don't really have to worry. My writing doesn't really fit into a category, it's got a bit of everything but I guess if I had to put it into one category it would be romance. I just love to write and since you do too, I think that if you're passionate about it, readers (and agents, editors, publishers, etc) will see that and appreciate it. :-)


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