Often I talk with new authors writing in lots of genres. This is fine if it’s part of your personal writing journey and learning process. I want my authors to enjoy what they’re writing. But when you get serious about publication, know when to choose and what to choose.
One mistake is to write strictly to market when you don’t like the genre. I love to tell the story of a friend who said she knew someone who decided that vampires were popular. This story is timeless, isn’t it, since vampires seem to occupy some place in literature at any time. Anyhow, supposedly he went home to work on a book about vampires. simply because he thought vampires could make him money. I haven’t seen his name on any book, and he started writing about vampires two decades ago. I speculate that he never saw success because he was writing about a topic he saw only as dollar signs. I believe readers will feel this from you whether you know it or not. So choose a topic or genre you have a genuine interest in and love for.
Here are a few questions to think about when choosing your genre. This quiz works for fiction and nonfiction. I will use vampires as the fill-in-the-blank, but you can substitute romance/thriller/prayer/marriage or whatever you like. If you’re struggling between topics and genres, take the quiz as many times as you need, substituting a different topic or genre each time.
1.) Have I read a number of books, both past and present, about vampires?
2.) Did I enjoy the books I read about vampires?
3.) Do I follow authors writing about vampires on social media?
4.) Do I enjoy interacting with authors of vampire novels?
5.) For the most part, do I share the world view of other authors of vampire novels?
6.) When a new book on vampires is released, do I immediately want to get a copy?
7.) Do I have the time, discipline, and will to write about vampires for several years?
8.) Am I willing to research vampire lore to make my book work?
9.) Do I feel a genuine kinship with readers of vampire novels?
10.) Do I respect readers of vampire novels?
11.) Do I feel comfortable around readers of vampire novels?
12.) Do I want to interact with readers of vampire novels on social media?
Do you have a question you’d like to propose as lucky #13?
Why did you choose your genre?
I’ve considered the answer to this question since you posed it to me a couple of years ago. I go back and forth between romance and romantic suspense.
I had decided romance was where I wanted to be because it makes me happy. But as I read over you questions I realize romantic suspense are the books I gravitate to as a reader.
I also really struggle having my hero and heroine hurt each other, so maybe bringing them together to fight an unknown enemy is where I’m most comfortable.
Thanks for the questions to reflect on.
Have a great day.
Tamela Hancock Murray
Jackie: Wow! What an awesome perspective about romance versus romantic suspense. So glad the quiz helped.
I’ve been thinking so much about crossing/mixing genres that this question has been at the top of my mind. Thank you for such great clarity in one post. Love it.
What great questions to ask, Tamela. Yeah, vampires? Not my thing. Romance and women’s fiction? I’m all there. 🙂
So glad to hear that Jeanne!
Cynthia T. Toney
A timely post, Tamela. All day yesterday I toyed with the idea of my next story being a YA supernatural. My first book was YA contemporary, the second manuscript is YA historical, and the third manuscript (my WIP) is a sequel to the first book. I thought I had a good idea for the main character in the supernatural story but asked myself (and here’s a suggested #13) if I could write something different enough from what’s out there already. Your questions #1 through 12 also definitely crossed my mind in the decision process. It’s great that you spelled them out this way! Thanks!
Tamela Hancock Murray
Cynthia, that’s a great question to add! Agents and editors are always looking for something fresh yet marketable.
Hum … now those wheels are turning again …
Patti Jo Moore
Thank you for this post and list of questions, Tamela. Great food for thought! 🙂
What a great post. Isn’t it interesting how you can sometimes enjoy reading a certain genre but when you try to write it the pieces do NOT come together? That would be science fiction for me. 🙂
As to another questions, how about — would I feel good about showing my vampire book to my mother, friend, pastor?
Tamela Hancock Murray
Vannetta, that’s an excellent question. And to add yet another question along that line, if I’m writing about real people either in fiction or nonfiction, will my self-absorbed friend, mean aunt and/or annoying brother-in-law recognize themselves? And if so, am I willing to deal with those consequences?
That’s a GREAT point. I have girlfriends who end up in my stories often – and SOMETIMES I forget to change their names. 🙂 These gals are great and don’t mind at all. My mean aunt or annoying b-i-l? Probably THAT would be a problem.
Tamela Hancock Murray
Now THAT made me laugh out loud!
I love this post, Tamela. I’ve pinned it so I can go over it a few more times and really let it sink in.
When I think about what books I love reading the most, they definitely must include romance, suspense, mystery, and inspiration.
My writing seems to be in between romantic suspense and mystery. I’m wondering if I need to hone in on one or the other? I really love crossing the two.
Thank you for helping us sort out the genre question.
Blessings ~ Wendy ❀
Sandy Faye Mauck
That is a great list. That should shore up a lot of writers right away.
I guess I ended up in my genre because I kind of wished I been born in that era. I love everything about it (except not having modern appliances LOL) But it not only makes me feel happy writing it, it is what I would want to read myself.
This is so true about many aspects of our lives.
When I started writing with the goal of publishing, I tried romance because I thought that’s what I should write and that it would be easier to try than suspense or something like that.
It was horrible.
But then I took some time to think about my favorite books to read. I taught middle school and read as many YA books as my students did. So, I sat to write a YA, and it just worked. I haven’t looked back. 🙂
Helpful list, Tamela! Many thanks 🙂
I enjoy writing speculative. It’s more theme and world building based, and I always have a heavy romance element. Such fun! I think it having symbolism/theme is what makes it different than fantasy. If I’m wrong, please correct me!
These are questions I have asked myself and I’m so blessed to say yes to almost all of them. I chose Historical Fiction because I love the stories of the past – about real life people that survived events and times I can’t even fathom. History has so much to tell us about who we have become. I know that some of my eras are not popular for new authors in the market today, but I just can’t help myself. I’ll write the stories anyway – they are begging to be told. : )
It really got me thinking and I guess I’m writing in the correct genre, because I answered yes to 11 out of the 12 questions–and I actually write vampire romance.
I’ve juggled the idea of writing contemporary romance instead of my favorite, humorous historical romance with suspense elements (not sure if that’s a genre-stretcher or not), but your first question got me to thinking.
If I’m talking with another reader, and she mentions a contemporary romance book she loved, I’m only interested if the subject is one that intrigues me or if I relate to the characters’ occupations/interests. However, if a reader-friend recommends a historical romance, I’m instantly captivated and want to know what she loved about it, who wrote it, and where I can find it. 🙂
Thank you for these questions, Tamela. Every once in a while we need to examine the facts about our writing in an objective way, and this post helps so much with that.
Thanks for this post – very helpful!
I agree that finding enough depth in and passion for a particular genre will be a fundamental in choosing a genre, so while it will always be romance, at the moment it has a distinct historical flavor!