Friday, November 19, 2010

Nanowrimo Week 3, What's Your Genre?

Here we are, nearing the end of National Novel Writing Month 2010, Week 3, and I'm already worrying about my marketing plan.  No matter that my current manuscript won't be ready to sell for a good two to three years, maybe even four; I just want to be sure I can describe my story in a quick and easy logline that starts with a key word:  my chosen genre.

As I've mentioned earlier, for Nanowrimo 2010 I'm attempting my first adult murder mystery.  While the mystery genre is not exactly new to me, my book set in Egypt for 8-12 year olds, The Great Scarab Scam, is more of what you'd call a "caper."  The plot revolves around stolen and forged antiquities, presenting a dangerous puzzle for my junior sleuth, Lydia Hartley, to unravel at great risk.  Despite plenty of action, scary moments, and some real bad guys--there are no dead bodies, an absolute must in the adult mystery.  But there are some deeper levels to writing genre fiction that go beyond "mysteries must start with a murder," or "romances have to end happily ever after."  These extra levels are the real reasons people are drawn to one genre over another.  For instance:
  1. Do you believe in justice--that crime doesn't pay and that good can prevail over evil?  The mystery genre might be just right for you.
  2. What about love?  Does love make the world go 'round?  Does it "conquer all"?  Do you believe there are such things as "soul mates"?  Romance may be calling.
  3. Technology, parallel universes, six impossible things before breakfast.  Science fiction can be a real pleasure to write if you enjoy stretching the "what if?" boundaries of the known world into new and foreign (outer) limits.
  4. Using those same stretches of imagination as science fiction, fantasy and paranormal fiction allows writers and readers to explore the world of myth and fairy tale in a modern format.
  5. Do you find yourself frequently dreaming about the past, wishing you lived in another time and era where life was more difficult but perhaps much more interesting, too--and the clothes were fantastic?  Historicals may be your perfect genre.
  6. Are the stories you prefer centered around women in all the various stages and aspects of their lives:  juggling career and family, being a daughter, sister, wife, best friend?  Women's fiction certainly doesn't  mean "no boys allowed," but it does focus on issues that can be unique, and special, to women's lives and experience. 
  7. Do you love the sound of words and language?   Do you enjoy "open" or even tragic endings?   Are you fascinated by experimental, off-beat plots, and "breaking the rules"?  Literary fiction may be a good fit.
  8. What about belief in a Higher Power and the role of faith in our lives?  Inspirational fiction can be a dramatic expression of your strongest and most uplifting values.
  9. Choosing to write for children does not mean you live in Talking Bunny Land (but if you do, I'm envious).  Neither does it mean you have the mind of a child and are only comfortable with fourth-graders.  What it does say is that you can celebrate themes of wonder and innocence, as well as understand and acknowledge the pain of the "bad stuff":  first betrayals, bullying, fear of the adult world.
  10. And what if you just can't stand the "made-up" story, and prefer to write things that "really happened"?  Go for it!  Nonfiction sales make up 95% of the book trade.
Other points to consider when choosing your genre are things such as patience and endurance levels:  Are you prepared for a marathon (reading and writing hundreds of pages, with months and years of revision)?  Or are you more of a sprinter, enjoying the quick, satisfying read of a shorter word count, and willing to write one or more books per year?  If so, you may be perfect candidate to write a series.  And what about the "multi-genre" book:  the paranormal Western, or a romance where the principal characters are also working for the FBI?  The best approach is to still choose one main category and describe your book in those terms:  "A Western where the sheriff just happens to be a vampire."

Whatever you choose, the secret of genre choice is not what you think will sell, but what you really, really want to read more than anything in the world.  If you love to read it, chances are you'll love to write it.

Tip of the Day:  Brainstorm some of your favorite books and movies.  Identify the themes and genres, and then write about why those themes were meaningful to you.  You may find certain phrases will pop out that can help you easily steer your current WIP in the right direction for both the actual writing and your marketing, too.

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