Genre – the bane of my writing life

Hello to everyone finally officially in Spring from me in Autumn / Fall.  To combat the reverse envy I’m now sensing, at least Melbourne has a long weekend for Labour Day. 🙂

Ruth Snyder's blog hop

This fortnight’s post for Ruth Snyder’s Blog Hop is “My Favo(u)rite Genre”.  Again, I fail miserably to fit into mainstream thinking on this topic!  Oh, I absolutely understand the need for genre classification, especially now that e-books are flying across our e-noses from all sides, but for someone who’s endeavouring to draw readers towards a topic to which they may not have previously been exposed, I constantly bump up against the walls.  And they’re not padded…

We live in a world of drop-down lists, check boxes and radio buttons, for which I’m partly to blame, since I’ve been involved in many such abominable creations.  These nifty, high-tech methods of filtering and sorting clearly enable us to group the abundance of treasure into manageable slices of information.  The more we depend on websites to make our selection of reading material, the greater the need for some speedy classification mechanism.  Genre in the Internet age has found renewed purpose.

I also understand that genre is a convenient way for authors and readers to connect on common ground and feed their shared passions.  It’s a signpost to direct supply and demand to consummate that magic transaction, and in the absence of a better solution, I suppose I’d better “suck it up”…!

As a reader, I spread myself shamelessly across as many genres as I have time for, but still there are a few I avoid.  My least favourite subject at school was History, and on the whole I tend to steer clear of reading historical books, whether fiction or non-fiction.  Yet why then do I list my all-time favourite authors as Victor Hugo, Honoré de Balzac, Eugène Ionesco and Fyodor Dostoyevsky?  My conclusion is that they too were generalist observers and change agents who sought to breach boundaries rather than to exist within the constraints of tradition and convention.  I wonder what the Blog Hop posts of these esteemed gentlemen would tell us about genre in bygone days?

Therefore, as a writer with social justice aspirations, I have to target my favourite genre as Contemporary Fiction.  Mention the words “love” and “romance”, and most men run in the opposite direction.  Throw in “star” or “celebrity”, and the work may be dismissed as superficial or lacking in substance.  Mention “inspirational”, as I did before I realised its connotations in North America, and I find myself stalked on social media by evangelists promising to save my e-soul.  And dare to discuss “depression”, “post-traumatic stress disorder”, “deathwish”, “nightmares” (sans vampires) and “inescapable social exclusion”, and everyone except fellow sufferers is disaffected.

Contemporary Fiction is, by definition, an overwhelming buffet from which it’s often difficult to decide or even identify what might take our fancy.  On the other side of the coin, however, strict genre classifications tend to “preach to the converted”.  What I’m seeking is the “I’m willing to open my mind” genre; the “teach me something I don’t know, and entertain me at the same time” category.  Now that would be the perfect genre for me, and one which would have allowed my post to be a whole lot shorter!

Best wishes from a cloudless Melbourne Sunday!  There’s writing to be done.

21 thoughts on “Genre – the bane of my writing life

  1. Hmmm, interesting thoughts! In my creative writing classes, we often raise the topic of genre and whether it’s a good thing or a bad thing. At a university, of course, we are striving to write “literary” fiction rather than “genre” fiction. Other books I’ve read cross bigger genre boundaries by combing fiction and nonfiction (like Betty Jane Hegerat’s The Boy). Like you, I read in as many genres as I can – and challenge myself to keep an open mind when reading (though I’d say I don’t usually read “romances”). As a writer trying to market a work, fitting into a specific genre can definitely be frustrating. 🙂 Thanks for sharing!

  2. I am a genre writer, plain and simple. I need the boundaries to focus my writing. There are so many elements that cross genres, though, that I see the genre classification as a way to market your work rather than as a hard definition. Thanks, Lorraine!

  3. I think that variety is a good thing and boxing ourselves in to one genre is quite limiting. As a writer, howeber, i see the need to find my ‘sweet spot’, as it were. My favorite genre to read isn’t necessarily the same as what I write, though. (As you will see in my blog post!)

  4. It’s good not to be a free form cookie instead of the tired old cookie cutter variety. I think as writers we want to push the boundaries a bit, even if we feel at home in a certain genre. Thanks for the insights!

    Leanne Ross ( & @LeanneRossRF )

    • You’re welcome, Leanne. I guess there’s room for cookies of many weird and wonderful shapes in this world. And perhaps one day I’ll find one which is tasty but isn’t fattening….

  5. I enjoy reading cozy mysteries, but I write contemporary fiction. The first is light entertainment with a measure of analytical thinking to figure out ‘whodunit’; the latter is usually (quite) a bit deeper. Glad I’m not the only one on the hop who writes in this ‘genre’!

  6. I want to read books in these new genres you’ve coined. They sound incredibly interesting.

    I love your writing style, by the way. Your “voice” rings loud and clear.

    All the best from the we-are-expecting-yet-another-snowfall southwestern portion of Ontario, Canada.

  7. As a writer, i balk at little at the restrictions, but as a reader I can appreciate them a little more. It’s nice to know what you’re getting when you pick up a book by a certain author (although sometimes surprises can be good too.)

    • Sara – you beat me to it – I agree genre is a bit like a straight jacket for the writer (I suppose in the same way as a discipline can be for a university professor) but for the reader (or student) it’s clarification. Thinking of the size of my nearest Chapters store, I’d be totally lost if the books weren’t divided into genres.

  8. I enjoyed the style of your post, Lorraine. And “contemporary” does make a good catch-all. Do you find using tags and keywords in posts about your writing help? Readers may not find a “PTSD” genre, but if they’re searching online they’d use those terms and find you…

    Keep writing what’s on your heart. The upside of the Internet is now there’s a whole world who can hear of your writing.

    • Hi Janet, Thanks so much for your feedback. Yes, I try to use a liberal smattering of tags, although Amazon only allows seven per title. I try to target specific search words in my synopsis too. You’re right about the amazing reach of the Internet, particularly for us in the tiny markets! Best wishes.


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