Monday, August 16, 2010

What color is your genre?

I got the rare chance to have alone time with my Kindle last week when I flew to and from New York City for BlogHer.

No kids. No responsibilities. Just sitting on a plane with nothing to do but read. 

Before I left, I had to download some books. I chose Lift by Kelly Corrigan and Lit by Mary Karr (I didn't notice til just now how those titles are one letter apart. Coincidence?). I have read other books by both authors before, and Corrigan's Middle Place is one of my all-time favorite books. Thing is, these books are memoirs. Another of my favorite books ever is also a memoir, Blackbird by Jennifer Lauck.

I am attracted to these books because, foremost, they are great stories written by tremendous authors. That they are true either plays to my voyeuristic tendencies or to my journalistic ones, as I always loved to find out the real stories of the athletes I covered.

Why am I telling you this?

I'm trying to figure out what genre of novel I'd like to write. And since my life isn't a thrill a minute and my childhood didn't involve anything horrific to overcome, I'm thinking memoir isn't going to work for me.

And the thing about writing a novel is you need to know what genre it is. Because eventually, you'll want to sell this bad boy, and your prospective publisher is going to want to know how to market.

Here are some of the most common genres, in no particular order:

1) Romance
2) Science Fiction
3) Mystery
4) Western
5) Horror
6) Men's adventure
7) Memoir
8) Fantasy
9) Gay/lesbian
10) Erotica
11) Young adult
12) Mainstream (which will have elements of another genre(s) but will be something that will have mass appeal)

So how do you know which genre you should attempt?

Figure out what type of books you like to read. If you're always picking up Kate Grafton's newest letter novel, you might want to try mystery. If it's Sophie Kinsella, maybe chick lit is your game. This is not to say you can't do something else, but if you're drawn to something, it's likely because you have a passion for it. And passion goes a long way in making your story come to life.

You will also obviously be more familiar with it than with other genres.

And you should continue to read, read, read. Examine what your favorite authors do. Decide what works and what doesn't in terms of the genre.

All novels start with an idea. Let's say a woman meets a man she likes but he's involved with someone else. Romance, right? Not necessarily. Maybe the man is a fugitive and he's on the run - and he kidnaps her. Now it's adventure. Or maybe the man is really a three-headed alien and he's involved with a giant space worm. Now it's sci-fi.

A great idea is a great idea. It's up to you to decide into what genre it fits. Clearly, I have some work to do to figure out what's right for me.

What genre does your novel (or novel-to-be) fit? Do you struggle at all with choosing a genre or is it a no-brainer? 

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