Friday, July 20, 2007

Know Your Genre

by Heather Moore

Whether you're writing Romance, Fantasy, YA, or Suspense, you must know what works and what doesn't in your chosen genre. Read the bestsellers in the genre you want to be successful in. Ask yourself what makes them successful.

Does this mean if you’re writing a WWII historical, you need to read other WWII novels? Not necessarily. But you should be reading in the historical genre in order to understand the concept of combining fact with fiction, and how much or how little historical information you should put into a scene. You also need to know what’s out there, what’s already been published, and how to make your work take on a unique angle.

If you’re writing Romance, know that there are specific guidelines or formulas to follow. For instance, Romance is always written in 3rd person narrative. Boy and girl have to meet in the first 10 pages. Study the guidelines at the Romance Writers of America website. Attend conferences or download classes on CD. There are also word count guidelines and restrictions on the age of a heroine. These can be quite strict according to the different romance lines. Before you invest months in writing a novel, know your target audience and publishing guidelines in advance.

If you're writing YA, you need to know that most YA is written in First Person. How old should your character be to target the most readership? The older your character, the more age groups will read it. A fifteen-year-old is less likely to read a novel about a thirteen-year old, but a thirteen-year old will definitely read about a fifteen-year old. Your dialogue and themes must also be consistent with the YA readers.

If you’re writing Fantasy, you must decide the target market—YA or Adult? Know the differences. As you create your new world, there must be a reason for everything . . . WHY do the characters have the skills or physical characteristics that they do?

Knowing your genre also helps to prevent cloning--by this I mean reusing plot elements that have already been published and putting them into your own book. You may know someone who's written a novel only to be told that it's similar to another book that's already published. This can happen innocently, but it will prevent you from getting that book contract. Stay educated, read your genre, and write well.


Julie Wright said...

Speaking from the viewpoint of a writer who genre hops, I couldn't agree more. Know your genre. I read in a lot of different genres and therefore write in those same genres. I don't dare write in an area where I don't read.

LDS Publisher said...

I gave your blog an award. You can pick it up here.

Janette Rallison said...

My editor forbids me to write in any genre until I've read a dozen or two of the best selling books in the genre--but I've also heard you should read 100 books in the genre. Of course, who would have time to write then?

Heather B. Moore said...

Great insight, Janette!