The boundary lines of genre have become a lot more fluid in recent years, especially since the boom of online fiction, self-publishing and independent publishing.
However, it is still important to understand the role of genre for the author who wants to establish a brand and make money from their writing. But, for many first time writers there are still some lingering myths about genre that we need to debunk.
Here are six myths about genre that need to be shattered:
- Genre Is Prescriptive And Limiting. While there are conventions or principles to genre fiction, there are no rigid rules—the only limits are your talent and imagination as a writer. Take for example, the Amanda Cross mystery series (which began with In The Last Analysis) featuring Kate Fansler as an unusual detective. She is an English professor who solves crimes but is also a grammarian and meets iconic literary figures.
- Genre Is All About A Formula. If only it was as easy as applying a formula and coming up with a great story. Wouldn’t we all like this ‘magic recipe’? We’d all have bestselling books. I think this myth comes out the misguided notion that it is easy to write a romance novel according to this formula. Yes, romance has certain tropes or themes—but it must still reflect the era and times in which it is set and show diversity in sexuality, race and so forth.
- Genre Limits Your Market As An Author. This myth comes from the belief that you have to stay within your ‘tram lines’ as an author—if you write sci-fi writer, you can only write sci-fi. Nora Roberts, for example, crosses genres effortlessly, from futuristic detective stories to fantasy. The only single ingredient she keeps across all her books is a strong dose of romance.
- Genre Is An Easy Way To Get Rich As An Author. Oh gosh, if only this one was true – it would be the equivalent of the Popular Fiction Lotto or Bestselling Author Bingo Bonanza. Genre is not a short cut for craft, or patience or persistence. There is always a bit of luck in getting published or having the right book out at the right time—but the rest of it is hard work.
- Genre Fiction Is Superficial. We tend to assume genre fiction is fat on entertainment, thin on anything else—some would scoff that it can’t have any depth or ‘deep meaning.’ While there are a lot of ‘bubble-gum’ books out there, there’s even more great literature written as category fiction: for example, John Green’s instant Young Adult classic, The Fault in Our Stars or Colleen McCullough’s highly regarded historical series, Masters of Rome.
- Genre Doesn’t Matter If You’re Self-Publishing. Some authors think that self- publishing is permission to abandon the principles of genre altogether. However, I’d argue that you must be even more conscious of it when self-publishing because you don’t have the experience and wisdom of traditional publishing’s editorial and marketing to help you. Recently, I read a self-published novel that was pitched as Chic Lit but read more like a traditional romance. The danger is that you will irritate or confuse your readers. Irritated or confused readers don’t come back for book two.
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