In this post, we think about genre and its importance to authors, and we give you tips on how to choose your genre.
Genre is here to stay. People love genres in film and books. They choose them because they know what they’re getting and they know that they will be entertained.
Choosing a genre as a first-time author may be more important than you think. When you consider an author, the first thing that comes to mind is the type of books they write. And first impressions count. The first book you read by anyone will likely stay with you forever. It will dictate whether or not you will buy another book by the same author.
So, how do you choose a genre?
How To Choose Your Genre
- Make A Recently-Read List – One of the exercises in our course, Writers Write – how to write a book, is to list the last 20 books you’ve read. This is a way to find out if you’re really writing what you love to read, or simply holding on to an outdated story idea. You should write what you love to read.
- Test Your First Chapter – Rewrite your first chapter in the genres of the books you love to read. After you’ve done a few of these, you may find that you really haven’t been writing what you enjoy reading. Choose the genre where you have most fun – the one that feels right for you.
- List Your Main Characters – Do they fit into the genre you’ve chosen? What are their roles in your story? You need to choose characters that will take your book from a beginning, through a middle, to an ending.
- List Your Strengths – As a writer, what do you enjoy writing? Are you a plot-driven writer (great for crime and romance) or a pantser (great for literary fiction)? Do you like to create worlds or stick to this one? Do you like to solve mysteries? Are you good at writing romantic scenes and creating sensual tension? Write down the things you love to write and consider which genre suits you best.
- Define The Story Goal – This often dictates the genre you’ll be writing in. What does your protagonist have to do in the story? Which character opposes them? The story goal should be a tangible goal, not an abstract goal. If your protagonist’s goal is to kill somebody, you’ll probably be writing a thriller. If the goal is to find out who killed someone, you’ll probably be writing a crime novel. If the goal is to find an object that saves a kingdom, you’ll be writing fantasy.
- Look At Your Tone – If you know which tone you use most frequently in your writing, you know that it creates a mood for the reader. This mood usually fits a genre.
If you want to write in different genres, you may want to choose a pseudonym or pen name. This helps your readers choose the books they actually want to read. You won’t be the first author to do this.
- Nora Roberts writes her romance novels as Nora Roberts. She writes her crime novels as J.D. Robb.
- J.K. Rowling writes her children’s books as J.K. Rowling. She writes her crime novels as Robert Galbraith.
- Agatha Christie wrote her crime novels as Agatha Christie. She wrote romance novels as Mary Westmacott.
- Isaac Asimov wrote science fiction for adults. He used the name, Paul French for a series of science fiction books for young adults.
- Margaret Astrid Lindholm Ogden writes fantasy adventure and urban fantasy for children as Megan Lindholm and she writes epic traditional fantasy as Robin Hobb.
If you are looking for exercises on genre, we have some in The Novel Writing Exercises Workbook.
The Last Word
Choose your genre carefully. It may be what you end up writing for the rest of your life.
by Amanda Patterson
© Amanda Patterson
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