See what I did there? See it? I am so proud of myself. Hi. My name is Krysteen. I’m a writeaholic and I sometimes make bad jokes. It’s been 30 days since my last meeting and I…
Seriously though. Genre is the base, well part of the base, of writing. If you don’t know what category your piece of gloriously crafted fiction falls under, then how the hell are you going to market it? How do you expect anyone to find, buy, read, and pass on your clever and brightly colored Cthulhu fanfic if you don’t know to label it as horror? No one. That’s who. And you will die penniless.
To be fair, even if you’re the next Rowling and your genres are on point, you could still die penniless. Look at Poe. Poor bastard had no idea we all would love him so much. *sigh*
But are genres the be all and end all of fiction? Do you need to know that your future manuscript is going to fall under fantasy romance adventure before you’re even done with the outline? Even when your done, are you going to know exactly which categories best suits what you’ve create?
Not necessarily. Genre is important and can sometimes be the difference between low sales and best sellers, but they aren’t needed in the very early stages of your writing, so don’t stress it too much. You’ve got time and you have options. For example, when I first started envisioning Bugs and outlining it, I thought it was going to be pure horror and nothing else. But now that I’m halfway through it and I completely redid the outline, I’m not so sure. It’s still horror, but it’s also a thriller, a suspense, and some might even say paranormal but I will probably never label it as such.
Ok. So picking my genre isn’t important if I’m still starting out, but what if I still can’t pick just one when it’s all done? Well, writing a novel takes quite a bit of time to do and I’m not even talking about all the rewrites, the beta reading, editing, and finding a publisher (if you go traditional), so you still have a lot of time to figure it all out. But if you can’t, refer to your beta readers. A simple ‘do you feel that this is a romance or do you think it’s more of a mystery?’ will work. And they may surprise you, it may be both! If you have written a murder mystery that needs to be solved by a duo that happen to fall in love, or already were in love, then you very well may have written a romantic mystery. A mixture of genres can actually help you when it comes to being discovered.
You could also have the complete opposite problem where your plot is a mixture of several genres and then you have a few subplots that bring their own baggage. First off, drop the subplot genres. They’re not the focus of the story so they shouldn’t be the focus of your marketing. So that leaves your plot. If it falls under, romance, mystery, thriller, suspense, and a little bit of horror, you kind of need to narrow it down. No one wants to surf through the horror genre and end up with something that has more face kissing than blood dripping. Focus on your main plot points and decide which ones reign over the others. If you have trouble with this, again, refer to your beta readers. They can, and will, help you out a lot. Critique partners are good to have too.
Now the big[gish] question. If my first MS is horror, am I stuck to that genre forever? I’ve personally been struggling with this one. The short answer to this is, no. The long answer is, it’s a little more complicated than no. Here’s how I feel about it, and I doubt I’m the only one. My first MS, Bugs, is horror. But I also have plans for more horror, fantasy, and some that I can’t even pick genres for. Some of these non horror plans I’m actually pretty excited for and I can’t wait to write them. But I’ve been marketing as horror, because that’s what I’m currently writing. What if I’m creating a following of just horror lovers? Do I need to start over when I write the fantasy? I sure hope not. I know that several authors write in several genres and do it successfully, but it still worries me. Nora Roberts is well known for her romances, but she also writes mystery under the pen name J.D. Robb. Sure a pen name would work and certainly help make it distinguishable for my readers, but that’s also a lot more work. That seems to me to be double the work, new social media accounts, different websites, different followers, different everything. Plus, I don’t want to have a pen name. I guess with this, I’ll just have to find out for myself what will work best.
Do you have problems with picking a genre either because you have too many options or not enough? Do you have experience with writing in several genres and the marketing problems that come with it? Let me know in the comments!