Tag Archives: genre

“What Do You Write?”, or The Genre Prison

I just recently read one of those articles about how the “new wave” of self-publishers “must” act, and it left me rolling my eyes. It said, instead of just writing, editing, and publishing something, and then working on a social media platform/blog, you should do it the other way around: blog first, become popular (literally, that was the whole step–oh, ok!), hope you still have time for the book you originally wanted to write.

I’ve seen that advice before, but today it just made me eyeroll particularly hard (because of course it’s as easy as “get popular.” Gag me). The advice was further to pick what you were going to write about–presumably the same thing that is your future book topic–and then write extensively on that narrow subject.

Now, don’t get me wrong, that totally works for some people. I met a woman at a conference who started her blog about kids’ photography, and it led to a book deal and stuff. Great. But guess what? She didn’t start the blog so she could eventually write a book; she started the blog because she wanted to be a blogger.

Anyway, back to the “write about one topic a lot” thing: most broadly, that means writing about a specific genre. But I think that’s locking yourself into a prison for no good reason: so your first book ends up being a steampunk romance, great, but what if you want to do a sci-fi horror for the second one? Do you have to spin off a totally different blog? Start all over again? Insanity!

Besides, sometimes the genre is stupidly hard to define. That’s one of the biggest problems with Undead Rising. What genre is it? It’s got zombies, so that’s sometimes horror, even though it’s maybe PG-13 level scary. Zombies are also supernatural, so it kinda fits in that arena. But it’s also funny, so does that make it humor? Except it turns out, weirdly, that most humor books are nonfiction, so that isn’t exactly a good fit. It’s a gamebook, which is awesome, except it’s a genre completely dominated by children’s books from the 1970s and that’s not exactly a section most people are familiar with… so what, exactly, would my one-genre blog be about?

I guarantee you if I had to talk exclusively about zombies, this blog would have died a long time ago.

The conventional publishing wisdom is contradictory here, too. Officially, you pick a genre and you just write in that genre until your hands fall off. It used to be if you wanted to write in a different genre, your publisher would frown on that and your new stuff wouldn’t be published; you were only “known” in one arena. Except… if you got famous, then it was back to whatever you wanted, apparently. All my favorite authors right now may be best known for a certain thing, but they cross genres at will, following whatever they are interested in: Neil Gaiman (comics, children’s books, YA, adult novels); Brad Meltzer (historical fiction, superhero comics, children’s picture books); Margaret Atwood (dystopian fiction that she likes to call literary fiction, short stories, fantasy); and Jim Butcher (urban fantasy, role playing games, comic books, steampunk).

So I say….write what you want. Following your passion is far more interesting and more likely to keep you motivated. Who cares what the box is supposed to be? Just go for it. Make the box fit you, not the other way around.

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Filed under Publishing, Undead Rising, writing

I’m Writing the Wrong Genre

I’ve seen two kinds of scuttlebutt online about “what to write.”

A: Write what you love and what you want to read!
or
B: Research the genres that are selling and fit your writing to that mold.

One of my personal rules is to maintain my own integrity, so I’ve been following advice A (which is how I ended up writing a 63,000 zombie apocalypse gamebook/CYOA). And yet I have fits of anxiety when I see things like this:

agent_categories_list

This is an edited version of a list of agents who will be at DFW Writer’s Con and what genres they have a particular interest in. (I added the highlighting and cropped out the agents’ names. You can find the full list here.)

The yellow areas are Middle Grade and Young Adult respectively. Look at all those delightful excited happy faces!

The blue area is science fiction. Only 3 happy faces and one big ugly poison Do Not Talk To Me About This.

Hm.. Zombie apocalypse. Gee, where does that fit?  Blue column of sadness. Maybe horror (it’s not really that scary, though) or humor (because being a zombie is funny!). Well crap. Those columns are pretty depressing, too, 2 and 4 happy faces respectively.

The agent pitch sessions are one of the most exciting parts of DFW Con, but dangit, I don’t think I’m going to have a lot of success this year. I’m in all the wrong categories. (Though I feel a certainty in my bones that just about every adult would get a real kick out of determining their own path in a zombie uprising book. I was talking about it with a friend in a restaurant and a passerby interrupted to say “excuse me, did you just say zombie apocalypse CYOA? Cool!”)

And my prior novel that I’m not actively pitching? Squarely sci-fi dystopia. *sigh*

I have no real interest in writing YA or MG (aside from a dalliance with The Boxcar Kids, as a kid I never even read books that would fit those categories!), but seeing this kind of heavy-loaded listing is depressing and has made me wonder if I should be trying something different. It’s hard to do while continuing that whole “to thine own self be true” stuff, though.

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Filed under Conventional, writing