Know your genre.
This is advice given often to new writers, in the interests of making them define their work and therefore be more likely to be able to identify an audience. As advice goes, it’s solid and logical, to the extent that it makes you roll your eyes and say, “well duh.”
Except, is it really that simple? I can’t be the only one who is having trouble pigeonholing my novel into a particular genre. And it’s not that I’m writing something that crosses genres – it’s not a romantic thriller with a paranormal twist and a homicide, for instance. (Not that I have anything against such novels; I’m just using that as a random example.) No, I’m stuck within the sub-genres of romance. I tend to call it romantic comedy, but as far as I’m aware that genre belongs to film rather than books. It may be clearer when the novel is finished, of course, but at the moment I’m torn between labelling my story as chick lit or contemporary romance. Or maybe one of the many other sub-genres out there that I’m just not familiar with yet. You get the idea?
I’m aware of course that genre mis-labeling is nothing new. I remember when Twilight first came out and it was filed in the bookshops under “Horror“, because that was where vampire books went. Of course, it wasn’t a horror story, and before long there were whole shelves labelled “Teen Paranormal Romance“. I think it’s great that Twilight was able to challenge traditional genre labelling like that, but maybe now things are getting a little too specific. Wouldn’t “Paranormal” or even “Paranormal Romance” do the job? Otherwise we’re alienating all those paranormal romances out there which don’t have teenaged protagonists.
I read an article recently about how specific some of the sub-genres out there are, and I have to agree that in some cases there is probably an argument for broadening things a little. Sure, some of the more specific sub-genres have very targeted readerships – gluten-free vegan food, for example – but maybe that should be reserved for non-fiction. I tend to think that fiction readers are rarely that specific in their tastes.
Then again, I’m just one person with very little practical experience in this industry, so what would I know? I’d love to hear what people think about this: are fiction sub-genres getting too specific, or should we be easily able to slot our work under a particular heading? And on that matter, what is the real difference between chick lit and contemporary romance? Any advice would be most welcome.
- Genre switching (jdbeech.wordpress.com)
- Author Branding (nancyjcohen.wordpress.com)
- Genres for Dummies (or a quick list guide of the more confusing genres and sub-genres) (selfpubauthors.com)
- The genre dilemma (verityglasswing.wordpress.com)
- Evolution of genres- No Dubstep without Big Beat… (gearslutz.com)