A genre is a book-selling category. If you go into a real-world bookstore, there may be a section of science fiction and fantasy, a section of mysteries, a section of romance. In a big bookstore there may even be a bit of literary fiction around somewhere.
Genres are the way most of us find stuff to read. We learn that certain genres reliably give us a good reading experience and other genres do not. We pick up Westerns or mysteries or thrillers or military SF or gothic romance or whatever other kind of book we have learned delivers the kind of story we want.
When you are becoming a writer, part of the job is developing a self-identity as a writer. And writers are known by the genres they work in— there are romance writers and horror writers and Western writers and science fiction writers.
Of course there are writers who write in multiple genres, or who write a book in one genre but then write in a different genre— as in the case of Louis L’Amour, whose first published book was poetry and wrote many many Western novels, which are still in print today.
But your writer-identity ought to have one or more genres connected to it. It’s not a limiting thing— you are still free to write and publish what you like— but it helps you think of which playing-field you will likely be working in. But how do you figure out what genre(s) to pick?
What Genres do you Read?
When you are reading for your own pleasure, what genres are you most likely to pick? Don’t be ashamed of what you like— even if your English prof told you that intelligent people only read literary fiction, that doesn’t mean you should feel bad for reading things you actually enjoy. Learning to be a good writer— of ANY genre— means a lot of reading since if you are a Regency romance writer you need to learn what current writers are doing IN THAT GENRE. It’s easier to do that reading if you don’t hate the genre!
What Genres do you get ideas in?
Some well-known writers enjoy READING in certain genres, but they don’t really THINK in that genre. They may read every science fiction novel that comes out, but their brains don’t come up with valid science-fiction story ideas. Or they may love historical fiction but not be able to do the massive amount of research involved. (I might want to set a story in the Roman empire but I don’t speak Latin well, and don’t have access to a library that would have the books I’d need for research or the money to buy a library’s worth of books about Roman history, so any mystery novel ideas I have where the Emperor Claudius solves crimes will have to remain unwritten.)
What Genres currently sell well?
This is where many aspiring writers go astray. They think the genre they love doesn’t sell or is too competitive so they randomly pick a genre that’s currently ‘hot.’ But if you think Amish romance or Dystopian YA is utter dreck, you will likely not be able to write in that genre in a way that fans of that genre will appreciate.
But there is room for writing in popular genres in the world of writing. The top Gothic romance authors, when the genre tanked, called their books Romantic Suspense and kept on writing. Fantasy writers might try writing some ‘paranormal romance’ if that category is selling. Science fiction writers might try a ‘dystopian YA’ novel, especially of some of their science fiction novels have been described under that term.
Even when you are a mere unpublished— not even indie published— writer, picking your genre(s,) reading in your genre(s,) and thinking of yourself as a future writer in those genre(s) is a good step towards becoming a writer for real. And that’s always a good thing.
What genres do you read? Get ideas in? Write? Publish? Are there other genres you might like to try someday? Share about it in a comment!
Yours in genre-identity,
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This was a post in the Insecure Writer’s Support Group blog hop: https://www.insecurewriterssupportgroup.com/p/iwsg-sign-up.html
Need to know more about book marketing? Read ‘How to Market a Book’ by Joanna Penn. (Not my book, not a paid ad. Just a recommendation.)