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Jul 27, 2010

Should I Stick With Genre Writing?

Remember the Secret Novel?

I haven't been able to write it yet. I have a plot, characters, theme, setting, everything... but... nothing pulls the book together at the end. It doesn't go anywhere.

That's a separate problem from what I wish to discuss right now. (Maybe.)

The Secret Novel, as I conceive it, is meant to be literary. Or "general commercial." Whatever. Not sf or fantasy, like everything else I write or have ever been inspired to write. And I wonder if that's a good idea.

What if the reason the Secret Novel idea isn't clicking is because I'm fooling myself and my real interests aren't going to be engaged unless I throw in a werewolf or something. I have to wonder. Do I want to write this book set in the real, historical period because that is what is best for the book, or because I have deluded myself this will make it have wider appeal than a fantasy, and make my book a bestseller, Oprah bookclub book, Hollywood film?

And even suppose I could write it and it sold nicely, then what? Then I tell my fans, "Great, if you liked that sober, realistic book, just wait till you check out this next one where gladiators fight pirates!"

I'm not saying that writers have to always write in the same genre. My original plan was to just use a different pen name. But I've done that before (my two published romances are under a different pen name) and it's exhausting trying to "social network" both names. I.e. I write this blog, but do squat all under my other pen name. Logically, I should try and write more category romances, because I know I could sell those, but I prefer fantasy.

So... hmm... should I make my Secret Novel a fantasy. Everything else would be the same. (Which would make it a pretty cool and unusual fantasy). But I just don't know. Above all, I want to be true to the story. It just may be that I'm not the author who is able to write the book I originally envisioned, and I have to write the books I'm able to actually write.

Does that make sense? Does anyone else out there struggle with this kind of dilemma?


Scott said...

Just write and figure out your genre later. That's what I do, and it's working pretty good for me.

I know we have to consider genre at some point, but I normally start out by writing the story I want to tell. Is it mainstream? Literary? Commercial? Urban Fantasy? Well, until it all comes together, I really don't know. Or, in my case, is it a niche genre? Well, in a way yes, but I'm marketing it as mainstream. Ha!

In the end, if we don't love what we're writing, then the genre really doesn't matter.

Write your brilliant novel first and then worry about the genre. : )

scott g.f.bailey said...

I agree with Scott. Of course.

If you don't love it, you shouldn't write it. I have no idea if I'm writing literary fiction, commercial fiction, upmarket (whatever that means) fiction, historical fiction, or something else. I just writes 'em; that's all I know. This winter I think I'll write an Agatha Christie-style murder mystery with an eccentric detective. I don't care about the market or diluting my brand, if I ever have a brand. Life's too short. Write it how you want to read it, that's my advice.

Ban said...

you get a third from me as well - write the story as it wants to be written - don't give a second thought to genre or audience. If it's crying out for a werewolf ... add one. If it screams for purity ... then write that. Just be sure YOU enjoy the story first and foremost. If you don't, no one else will.

Kelsey (Dominique) Ridge said...

I'm familiar with this problem. So far the only truly consistent part of all my work is that it's YA. I think to a certain extent you just have to write what you write and what feels true for the story. You can figure out the genre later,. once you've figured out the book.

Tara Maya said...

Thanks, guys!

I hear what you're saying. I do. It makes sense. But I find don't find pegging my work as this or that genre to be limiting; on the contrary, it helps me keep in mind the artistic goal I'm trying to achieve with a particular work.

So, I guess the problem is, what the heck am I trying to achieve? When I know that, I suppose I'll know the genre. I really think I need to decide that before I write the book. Otherwise, after I figure it out, I'll have to re-write the whole book.

@scott g.f. bailey - I look forward to to your detective novel. :)

Davin Malasarn said...

I'm not sure if what I have to say on this in on topic or not. I thought it was until I read the comments. But, it doesn't seem to be a matter of conscious "want". I hate the idea of this, but more and more I tend to believe that what we have written in the past is probably a good indicator of what we will keep writing. If it's personal at all, it probably taps into who we are in a fundamental way. I write depressing literary stuff. I've tried hard to write anything else: children's stories, funny books, adventure stories, mysteries, porn...I never finish anything unless it's a depressing literary work. I think that's just who I am. I hope I am wrong, but for now I agree with your statement that your real interests probably aren't truly engaged with the literary non-sci-fi book. Throw a werewolf in. Or, and I'd prefer this, dragon-eating algae.

Davin Malasarn said...

Oh, and are you familiar with works like White Noise and One Hundred Years of Solitude? Odd sci-fi and fantasy intrusions into an otherwise realistic literary work is quite a brilliant ride.

Tara Maya said...

Yes, I have thought that maybe a magical realism approach would work. I haven't read One Hundred Years of Solitude yet, but The House of the Spirits is one of my favorite books.

Michelle D. Argyle said...

Tara, you already have some really great advice here, so I'm not sure what I can add. Sorry I'm late getting here! I have about 80 blog posts I'm trying to get through today! This one is very important though!

I've dealt with this, and it's one of the reasons I'm not sure I want to traditionally publish. The first book I publish - if it does well, I'm probably going to be stuck in that genre for the rest of my career with that publishing house/agent/editor.

Cinders is my very first fantasy piece, and I loved writing it, but I'm not sure I'll write a fantasy again. I don't know. I'll have to see what happens.

I've written an adult thriller and YA suspense novel and a fantasy now. And all my short fiction is literary. It's weird. My next goal is to write a literary novella that's poetic and possibly boring to many, many people. Oh well.

Write what you love, yes. And if you're having these doubts about the book, something is off, I can tell you that. I think you're right in thinking that you should figure out the genre first. I'd say figure it out, but don't let the social constructs of that genre bind you into a box for the story or how you write it.

Good luck! Please keep us posted as to what you decide!

Tara Maya said...

Thanks, Michelle! I'm excited to read Cinders. I ordered my copy this morning.