A Genre Away from Ruin

While I procrastinated writing this blog post, I commented on another blogger’s post regarding genre. It was about writing in a popular genre or writing what you love most. Some believe one will find success by writing in a popular genre instead of following the rule of writing that you write what you know and love.

I’m one who writes what I love. As for writing what I know, I can’t say I write what I know because I’m not crazy or killed anyone, although my mid-life transition has a way of creating and releasing insane thoughts. Because I write what I love, I’ve made the biggest faux pas of writing, and that’s not sticking to one genre. So not only do all my books NOT fall into the current mainstream genres, but I’m inconsistent too. According to this 2014 article about the 5 Book Genres that Make the Most Money, Horror, Science Fiction and Fantasy, Religious/Inspirational, Crime/Mystery, and Romance/Erotica are the top selling genres.

Categorizing books by genre helps readers find the books they want to read. The problems I see with genre labeling is that many cross genres, and place in the wrong genre. We can find plenty of descriptions out there, but we’ll also find contradictions. It’s difficult to know what genre descriptions to follow. For this post, I used some from the Writer’s Digest.

After I finished my first novel, Net Switch, I had to figure out what genre fit best, along with making my book trailer represent it. It wasn’t too difficult regarding the description for psychological.

“A narrative that emphasizes the mental and emotional aspects of its characters, focusing on motivations and mental activities rather than on exterior events. The psychological novelist is less concerned about relating what happened than about exploring why it happened.”

This matched Net Switch, but there was more to the book than the psychological part so I looked into suspense. The Writer’s Digest lists suspense/thriller as a sub-genre of mystery. I thought suspense/thriller was a main genre. Here is a definition of psychological thriller from dictionary.

“a suspenseful movie or book emphasizing the psychology of its characters rather than the plot; this sub-genre of thriller movie or book. Examples: In a psychological thriller, the characters are exposed to danger on a mental level rather than a physical one.”

I labeled Net Switch as a dark, psychological suspense thriller. From what I could find, there isn’t a sub-genre category for dark, but I promoted and marketed my book using that description because of the book’s content. It is dark, and some people just don’t want to go there.

Opening paragraph of Net Switch: “Mental institutions don’t relieve the mind of misery, they only create more chaos where overcrowding exists. As the patient, I feel withdrawn from life because they, the doctors, are ignoring me and are not improving my situation so I can get back into society. This has been my home for over a year and it still troubles me to talk about what brought me here. My mind is my own prison and sharing it with anyone else won’t change my predicament as long as the evil that put me here continues to enjoy freedom. Still, I know I must comply with their requests if I want a chance to be discharged from this miserable place.”

My second novel, Fogged Up Fairy Tale, was a bit more tricky because it crosses genres. Unfortunately, the Writer’s Digest doesn’t have a genre for women’s fiction or contemporary. These definitions are from Find Me An Author.

“Women’s fiction is a wide-ranging literary genre that includes various types of novels that generally appeal more to women than men. They are usually written by women, are addressed to women, and tell one particular story about women. The genre description is an umbrella term that covers mainstream novels, romantic fiction, Chick lit and other sub-genres.”

“Chick Literature, called “Chick Lit” is a genre description disliked by some people…The characters are recognizable, often featuring a contemporary heroine that women of today can relate to. Often the protagonists are addressing an issue of today or even ‘the modern female experience’, whether that is single life, married life, office politics, playground politics or all of the above.”

I categorized Fogged Up Fairy Tale as a women’s fiction / chick lit book, but I think I might have put the wrong label on it. It has lots of romantic elements in it. Sub-consciously, I think I avoided the romance category, because I’ve read that so many people don’t think highly of the genre. People consider romance cheesy and amateurish. I work hard on my writing and stories, so I didn’t want anyone judging my book before reading it. I’m sure this was poor judgment on my part.

And if mislabeling wasn’t an issue, some of my readers read Fogged Up Fairy Tale thinking it was another psychological suspense thriller. They were disappointed once they realized it was a different genre. It made me wonder if I was a genre away from ruin. Am I destroying any kind of success by writing what I love no matter the genre?

Opening paragraph of Fogged Up Fairy Tale: My name is Brand Rye and last year I lost my life—not literally, but mentally. I had amnesia, which erased my past memories. It was an awakening for me to recreate my life and regain my memory. With the help of my husband and friends, I learned about myself. This is an interwoven story of the days I struggled with amnesia and the past that I had lost and recovered.

Stroke of Genius (Working Title)

But I can’t help it. My writing turns to mush when I write about something that doesn’t interest me. For my current WIP, I’m leaning toward a crime mystery or suspense/thriller. I’ll have to look into all of these genres to pinpoint which one. Below is the description for mystery.

“A form of narration in which one or more elements remain unknown or unexplained until the end of the story. The modern mystery story contains elements of the serious novel: a convincing account of a character’s struggle with various physical and psychological obstacles in an aeffort to achieve his goal, good characterization, and sound motivation.”

Opening paragraph of Stroke of Genius (still in revision):  It isn’t the increase whites of their eyes, or the rush of blood pounding in their ears, or a paralyzing fear that makes me do it. Those are a given. The smell of fear drips from their sweat and tears, wafts from their skin. No, the fear isn’t what makes me do it. It’s about the last thing, me being the last thing they see. Their life will flash before them, but I’ll be the one they physically see. My face, my hands, my motions burned into their soul. I am the one they will see before the infamous heaven or hell.

Do you write in a specific genre? What are your thoughts about genre categorization?

Genres and Writing,
Baer Necessities

11 thoughts on “A Genre Away from Ruin

  1. I don’t really stick with a single genre either. Granted I do have a primary with monster/horror/psychopaths, but I do write in a few others besides that. My thing is always about the story more than just searching for boxes to put my stuff in.

    I will always be one of those writers that writes what interests me at the time instead of simply chasing the hottest trend. If I went solely with chasing I would grow bored pretty fast.

    1. Jon, your stories are good and tend to drift to the darker side. I like that thinking about not searching for the boxes.

      I agree. I would probably give up writing if I couldn’t write what interests me.

  2. My writing is fiction and my story is an ongoing theme about the old west. It has romance, geography, some history, and mystery. It should be a movie much like “Lonesome Dove” or “Open Range”. The library puts me under plain fiction. I think they are wrong. My story pulls in many genre’s and doesn’t have a specific genre. My followers are mostly women, a few men, and they pressure me to keep writing and advancing the story. My biggest love is writing out to the rodeo fans. I write what I love and ignore what genre sells the best.

    1. Nice of you to stop by, Diane. It’s great to meet a woman who writes about the old west. Keep writing those stories for your audience. Congrats!

  3. Genre is a useful marketing tool, but not a very helpful writing tool is the conclusion I’ve come too. My genre of choice for reading and for my own writing is memoir, but something within told me to rake myself over the coals to write a work of fiction. I will always love writing literary short stories though. I just need to be submitting them to the right journals.

    1. Jeri, so true about it being a useful marketing tool. There has to be some kind of direction.

      Submitting works to the right journals is tricky. I’ve been submitting my poetry, but I’ve stopped sending to those magazine that don’t provide free sample copies, or those that publish poems I can’t even relate to.

  4. R.L. Stine, who’s going to be the guest of our local writing conference in a few months, once famously said, and I quote…

    “I hate it when people tell kids, ‘Write what you know. Write from your heart. ‘

    That’s terrifying; I’ve never written a word from my heart, never. I’ve been writing for 30 years, and I’ve never written a single word from my heart.”

    I will not be attending the conference this year simply because I have no desire to see this soulless hack depress everyone.

    I may never be rich, and our books may never be popular (though I still hold out hope they will be) but I’d rather write what I love and be happy than write to the fad-of-the-month just for the sake of making a name.

    1. I had to look up R.L. Stine. He might be a successful author, but I wouldn’t take advice from him. It doesn’t jive with many other author’s advice, and I’m guessing he’s missing a heart. When I read a book, there are places in the book that show the writer’s heart wasn’t into it. How do you NOT write from the heart? Then again, it stated he writes horror, so maybe emotional writing isn’t needed.

      I’m with you on the may never be rich, though still hopeful. I believe it’s important to write what you love. My grandmother always said, “Whatever you do in life, make sure it’s something you love.”

  5. My books have always come out of thin air. My first to be published was a time travel, it didn’t start off that way in my head, it happened within the first few paragraphs. Write what you know? I haven’t time traveled, but the words flowed. A tear jerker romance came next, a suspense/thriller after that. Since then, they are a jumble. I’m sure there are readers that like some above others, but they are stories that pick at me until they are done so I finish them. In my hesitation, I have a favorite that has been on the back burner for almost 5 years. It’s the most simple romance I’ve ever written, but I love my couple. I’m sending it out there. I can only hope people take the time to read the blurb & pay attention that it’s not as suspenseful as my last few. I hate 1-star reviews I’ve read for friends that read “it wasn’t what I thought it was going to be”. They shouldn’t judge on “what they wanted it to be.” I read all over the board. I’m sure there are people that don’t only stick to one type of book. Write what’s in you, Tater. I’ll read it. <3

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