Seeking an Answer to the Genre Question

Genre fiction satisfies my need for escape and entertainment. Of course, I generally read in three or four genres, but it might surprise you to learn I don’t write in the same genres I read.

Or at least, I didn’t.

Remember, I’m on a quest this year to rest and refill my creative well. While I’m doing that, I’m actively seeking my next story. What will I write? What story idea will fully revive my imagination and stop draining the well when I write?

In last week’s post, I talked about the definition of genre and why having expectations in each genre is important. You can read the full post here.

The point of the post was to inform you about genre, but also to introduce you to my problem with it. As a reader, I love genre because it helps me make informed selections when I’m seeking a book to read. As a writer, genre boundaries are like the evil stepsisters—forcing me into the basement when I want to go to the ball.

Genre Reading

If you’ve followed me for long, you’ve seen multiple book reviews on this blog. Maybe you already know that young adult fantasy is my favorite genre to read. Although, I’m learning that fantasy as a whole (as long as it is clean) is my happy place as a reader.

Other genres I read:

  • Romance – sweet, clean, Christian and a specific steamy author
  • Women’s fiction – most of my recent five-star read on Goodreads are from this category
  • Fantasy- I’ve been reading plenty of urban fantasy, but I really prefer dystopian (and most of those are more science fiction than fantasy)
  • Young adult – mostly dystopian or fantasy, but sometimes romance or chick lit
  • Mystery – a few cozy authors hold my interest, but I’m more likely to read romantic suspense

If I’m having a rough time, and I just want to smile, I’ll pick up something light, like Chick Lit or romantic comedy. After all, I don’t want to think about problems – not even someone else’s.

If I need to be inspired, I’ll pick up a Christian romance or maybe women’s fiction by a Christian author. I read plenty of mainstream women’s fiction, too, but most of these authors delve into heavy situations, and that can be a downer if I’m not seeking it.

When I want to feel something and learn something and be fully immersed, I generally pick up a women’s fiction book. I recently finished Fly Away by Kristin Hannah.

When I’m looking for entertainment, I go straight to fantasy. Yes, I will likely feel something and learn something from the good writers. The latest series by my newest favorite fantasy author, Lindsey Buroker, is also guaranteed to make me laugh.

I know I’ll be able to escape my normal world and dive into one that is so different and amazing, it’s like a vacation.

Genre Writing

All of that tells you that I know what to expect from reading certain genres. As an author, the cautionary tale is, “Write according to those expectations.”

If I choose to push the boundaries—which I do, and I started talking a bit about this last week—then readers are going to push back. They’ll leave negative reviews or take away stars.

I can’t really blame them. I do the same thing, Although, I’m likely to give a lower rating for “predictability” or “formulaic” rather than blast an author for not giving me the rote story genre dictates.

I’m pretty sure I blasted one romance because the couple did not end up together in the end. I said, “It’s not a romance if they don’t end up together. Reclassify it as contemporary fiction or something.” Because…that’s a deal breaker for me.

So why isn’t it a deal breaker for me when I’m writing?

Because I don’t want to write what everyone else writes or the story readers expect. I want to mix some genres and give readers something fresh and new.

That’s the sort of stuff I enjoy reading.

And, truthfully, I thought that’s what I was doing when I wrote the speculative fantasy novel for Month9Books. It’s a bit paranormal and allegorical and set in a dystopian society. Since it has aliens and demons, it doesn’t fit neatly into a fantasy category.

And that was the biggest reason the publisher gave me for not contracting the novel.

You are a speculative young adult fiction publisher. Why are you telling me my manuscript is not speculative?

Plenty of authors would go ahead and independently publish their manuscript. And plenty of them would be successful. You can read how I feel about that here.

My Question

What all this talk about genres and pushing the boundaries of expectations is leading up to is a question I have about the future of my writing.

Here it is:

What genre should I write?

I’ve said millions of times that I never intended to write romance. I don’t really LOVE reading romance. But there is a huge audience for romances and I can write them.

I’ve also mentioned my love of young adult fantasy. I’ve knocked on that door for a couple of years. More recently, I’ve subbed to every small publisher there is and gotten zero interest.

I know part of this is because the stories I sent buck the traditional expectations. Such as:

Young adult novels with both a male and female protagonist should include a romantic element

Demons as characters in Christian speculative fiction aren’t accepted by readers of that genre

So, I either change my stories or forget about getting them published through traditional means.

If you’ve read my books, tell me which genre I’ve written is your favorite and why. If you’re always looking for good books in a specific genre without success, tell me the genre.

What are your favorite tropes in fiction? Do you prefer reading books that meet the genre expectations? Or would you rather be surprised by elements that are outside the genre’s usual?

2 thoughts on “Seeking an Answer to the Genre Question”

  1. I think you have to be a very specific (and possibly very practiced) author to see what the market needs and produce it on demand. Most of us write what inspires us, what fills our veins with fizz, what in a sense we have to write. Trying to write “what will be popular” is an exercise in frustration, because there’s no guaranteed way to know what people are going to like, what will sell.

    I guess it’s a bit like looking for that special someone. Polling to find out what people would like you to be isn’t going to help in the long run; nor is eyeing up every idea you happen across with that “are you The One” look. Sometimes you just have to let them come to you.

    Which is to say: to thine own self be true. Delve deep into what you care about, what matters most to you, what fills you with excitement and is quintessentially Sharon-y – and then write that. Sooner or later, it’ll find its audience (even if that isn’t a big population). After all, A Wrinkle In Time was rejected more than 30 times before it was published, just because it was a new thing in its genre.

    1. I certainly hope one of my many ideas will spark the passion so I can get back to writing more than a blog post here and there. Last night I had a vivid dream, and as we drove across the mountain to our campground today, I kept thinking about it. We’ll see if it “sticks.”
      I would like to write something other people like to read, though. And I would especially love to find an agent and/or editor who loves my stuff so much they can’t wait to get it to readers. Writing might be a solitary activity, but I wish it wasn’t also a “lonely” one.
      Thanks for your encouragement.

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