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Should a writer worry about genre?

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I'm new to the forum, and I don't want to stand on anyone's toes. So please tell me if I'm out of line here in what I am about to say. Though I am a full time writer of non fiction, and earn my daily bread through writing, I am a wanabe when it comes to crime, and most of you know more than I do.

What I want to ask is: should writers worry about what genre they are writing in? When I write, all I am interested in is telling a good story, not whether it fits into the cosy bracket, or whether it's a PI yarn or a whodunit. If I had that in the back of my mind as I wrote, I would freeze up.

I can understand publishers being interested in genre, as it affects their marketing plans, and I can understand readers being interested as well, but it has never been something that has interested me as a writer. Maybe this is because I enjoy ALL kinds of crime yarns, from cosies set in one of those idyllic English villages that don't exist in real life, right through to sex-filled, violent, bloody tales full of cuss-words set in the steamy alleyways of New York.

Anyone agree with me that writers shouldn't worry too much about genre? Or have I got it wrong?

I think you're right, James.  Most of us must write the story we have to tell.   My stories seem to be "born" in one of two categories (cozy mystery or mystery with fantasy elements), and I don't think I could change them to something else, no matter how hard I tried.

But in my (limited!) experience, when you're trying to pitch it to publishers or agents, they demand to know exactly what kind of story you have.  Then you have to label it. 

By the way, welcome to the board!

Kathy Wendorff:
James, I think you have to write the stories that speak to you, or your heart won't be in it, and that will show.  If you write in a particular genre, so be it. If it's not clear where your story fits, let the agents and publishers figure that out. Miss Snark says writers often are wrong when they label their manuscripts.

That said, if your story doesn't fit neatly into a genre slot, or doesn't conform to current genre expectations, it may be a hard sell.  I wrote a cozy romantic suspense which might have done well in 1980, then discovered it's woefully out of synch with the current market, and I'm not a good enough writer to single-handedly turn the market around. >sigh< Or, if you have a cozy that depends on a cat-killing for a crucial plot point -- good luck.

Personally, I haven't entirely figured out how to balance market realities and what I want to write. I'm trying a straight cozy mystery this time, and keeping genre expectations in the back of my mind as I write and edit. But I still wrote a dead cat into the first draft -- go figure. (Luckily, the plot won't collapse if I edit it out.)

Does that help? The solution is probably different for every writer. And every story.

Kathy W.

This is not an issue that worried me much.  I set out to write mysteries because I loved them as a reader, and I chose to write historical mysteries because I also love history.  I think the point here is that I was very familiar with what had been published in my genre and what had apparently appealed to readers.

I now write non-genre historical fiction (having a backlog of mysteries), but again, I would not write this either if I hadn't done a very large amount of reading first.

Since I also read current-time mysteries, it isn't totally out of the question that I might give that a whirl also.


Peg H:
As Donna said, when it comes down to pitching your finished book to an agent or editor it is best you know what pigeon hole it belongs in. This is particularly important if you are pitching it at a conference where you have only a few minutes to grab their attention. They want to know and do not want to have to guess or figure out where it belongs.  Until then I wouldn't worry about it.  Just write the story.   ;D

Peg H


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