Choosing a Genre—Anatomy of a Best-Selling Story Part 7

Screen Shot 2014-07-30 at 10.42.33 AMUnderstanding structure helps us write cleaner and faster. Whether we plan every detail ahead of time or just intuitively have the architecture in our head, structure makes the difference between a workable first draft and a nightmare beyond salvage.

I know a lot of you are chomping at the bit right now to get writing. All in due time. Today we are going to talk genre and why it is important to pick one.

Understanding what genre you are writing will help guide you when it comes to plotting your novel. How? Each genre has its own set of general rules and expectations. 

If we don’t pick or we get too weird, we will confuse agents and readers because there is no clear idea of where this sucker should be shelved. It will also make plotting more than problematic.

Fifteen years ago, when I first got this brilliant idea to start writing fiction, I didn’t do any planning. I knew zip nada about the craft, and, frankly, was too stupid to know I was that dumb. To make matters worse, I tried to write a novel that everyone would love. It was a romantic-thriller-mystery-comedic-inspirational-memoir that would appeal to all ages, both men and women and even their pets and houseplants.

I am here to help you learn from my mistakes.

Just as nailing the log-line is vital for plotting, we also must be able to classify what genre our novel will be in. Now, understand that some genres are fairly close. Think Mexican Food and Tex Mex. An agent at a later date might, for business reasons, decide to slot a Women’s Fiction into Romance.  Yet, you likely will NEVER see an agent slot a pure literary fiction as a thriller. They are too different. That is like trying to put enchiladas on the menu at an Indian restaurant.

Um, ew.

Part of why I stress picking a genre will be a huge factor in driving sales and connecting readers with a work they will LOVE. We need to make certain we have slotted our product correctly because 1) we want readers to FIND our work and also 2) readers can be very unforgiving with reviews.

Screen Shot 2015-04-09 at 12.18.24 PM

As an example, writers often make the mistake of putting their books for sale in the incorrect spot. One of the most common oopses I’ve seen is writers believing they have a Romance, when in fact they have a Women’s Fiction or a General Fiction. Romance has rules and expectations.

I once worked with an author who’d had terrible sales for her book and gotten some scathing reviews. But, when I looked at her work, she didn’t have a romance at all and had listed her book for sale in the wrong place. She’d gotten razed in reviews because guy and gal didn’t end up with an HEA. In Romance, that is BAD. In Women’s Fiction? Not bad. She was connecting her work to the wrong audience.

Once she reslotted her work, sales improved and so did the reviews because she was now connecting to the correct audience who were now judging her story as a Women’s Fiction.

Additionally, some writers will try to get clever and blend genres together. Literary Thriller is one example.

Yes, it can be done, but in my POV, why? Readers who love thrillers love fast-paced action. Readers who like literature love a slower pace and lots of deep probing character development….which is likely to alienate most thriller readers. Also, add in the action and it’s going to be tough to keep the attention of the literary folks.

Can this genre work? Yes, but we have to realize we DO risk losing the audience so it better be done really well. Also, I think the term “Literary Thriller” is just for marketing. “Thrillers but written gooder.” And either they are a thriller or a general fiction. I think this genre term is confusing, misleading and more than a bit insulting to thriller authors.

Granted, there are people who like to read everything, but betting our writing future on entertaining statistical outliers is a serious gamble.

I didn’t make the rules, but I can help a writer understand those rules and thereby increase his/her chances of publication success.

Understanding your genre will help immensely when it comes to plotting. It will also help you get an idea of the word count specific to that genre. I am going to attempt to give a very basic overview of the most popular genres. Please understand that all of these break down into subcategories, but I have provided links to help you learn more so this blog wasn’t 10,000 words long.

know I haven’t listed all the genres, so if I miss one, feel free to add it in the comments😉 . These are just the “biggies.”

Mystery—often begins with the crime as the inciting incident (murder, theft, etc.), and the plot involves the protagonist uncovering the party responsible by the end. The crime has already happened and thus your goal in plotting is to drive toward the Big Boss Battle—the unveiling of the real culprit.

Mysteries have a lot more leeway to develop characters simply because, if you choose, they can be slower in pacing because the crime has already happened. Mysteries run roughly  75-100,000 words. Mysteries on the cozy side that are often in a series commonly are shorter. 60,000-ish. I’d recommend that you consult the Mystery Writers of America of more information.

Thriller/Suspense—generally involve trying to stop some bad thing from happening at the end. Thrillers have broad consequences if the protagonist fails—I.e. the terrorists will launch a nuclear weapon and destroy Washington D.C. Suspense novels have smaller/more intimate consequences. I.e. The serial killer will keep butchering young blonde co-eds. It is easy to see how thriller, suspense and mystery are kissing cousins and keep company. The key here is that there is a ticking clock and some disastrous event will happen if the protagonist fails.

So when plotting, all actions are geared to prevention of the horrible thing at the endThrillers can run 90-100,000 words (loosely) and sometimes a little longer. Why? Because some thrillers need to do world-building. Most of us have never been on a nuclear sub, so Tom Clancy had to recreate it for us in The Hunt for Red October (Clancy invented a sub-class of thriller known as the techno-thriller).

Pick up the pacing and you can have a Mystery-Suspense. Think Silence of the LambsA murder happens at the beginning, and the goal is to uncover the identity of the serial killer Buffalo Bill (mystery), but what makes this mystery-suspense is the presence of a ticking clock. Not only is the body count rising the longer Buffalo Bill remains free, but a senator’s daughter is next on Bill’s butcher block.

When plotting, there will often be a crime (murder) at the beginning, but the plot involves a rising “body count” and a perpetrator who must be stopped before an even bigger crime can occur (Big Boss Battle). These stories are plot-driven. Characters often do not have enough down-time to make sweeping inner arc changes like in a literary piece.

Pick up the pacing and raise the stakes and you have a Mystery-Thriller. Think Killing Floor by Lee Childs. The book begins with a murder of two unidentified people at a warehouse, but if the killers are not found, what the killers are trying to cover up will have global consequences. And I am not telling you what those consequences are b/c it would ruin the book😀.

When plotting, again, there is often a crime at the beginning with rising stakes, and the protagonist must stop a world-changing event from happening (Big Boss Battle). The focus of your plot will be solving the mystery and stopping the bad guy.

For more information on this genre, consult the International Thriller Writers site.

Romance—Guy and girl have to end up together in the end is the only point I will make on this. Romance is all about making the reader believe that love is good and grand and still exists in this crazy world. The hero cannot be your Big Boss Trouble Maker (read Structure Part Three if you want to know what a BBT is). Yes, the guy will likely be a scene antagonist, but that is different.

Romance, however, is very complex and I cannot do it justice in this short blurb. If you desire to write romance, I highly recommend you go to the Romance Writers of America site for more information and that you join a chapter near you immediately. This is one of the most amazing writing organizations around and a great investment in a successful romance-writing career.

Word count will depend on the type of romance you desire to write. Again, look to RWA for guidance because there are SO many categories of romance that it could make a book.

Literary Fiction is character driven. The importance is placed on the inner change, and the plot is the mechanism for driving that change. Literary fiction has more emphasis on prose, symbol and motif. The events that happen must drive an inner transformation.

Pulitzer Prize-winning book, The Road is a good example. The world has been destroyed and only a few humans have survived. The question isn’t as much whether the man and the boy will survive as much as it is about how they will survive. Will they endure with their humanity in tact? Or will they resort to being animals? Thus, the goal in The Road is less about boy and man completing their journey to the ocean, and more about how they make it. Can they carry the torch of humanity?

When plotting for the literary fiction, one needs to consider plot-points for the inner changes occurring. There need to be cross-roads of choice. One choice ends the story. The character failed to change. The other path leads closer to the end. The darkest moment is when that character faces that inner weakness at its strongest, yet triumphs.

For instance, in The Road, there are multiple times the man and boy face literally starving to death. Will they resort to cannibalism as many other have? Or will they press on and hope? Word count can vary, but you should be safe with 60-85,000 words (The Road was technically a novella).

Note: Literary fiction is not a free pass to avoid plotting. There still needs to be an overall plot problem that forces the change. People generally don’t wake up one day and just decide to change. There needs to be an outside driving force, a Big Boss Troublemaker, and a tangible physical goal. Again, in The Road, the man and boy have a tangible goal of getting to the ocean.

The only difference in literary fiction and genre fiction is that plot arc is now subordinate to character arc. In commercial genre fiction the plot generally takes precedence. In Silence of the Lambs catching Buffalo Bill is top on the priority list. Character evolution is secondary. In literary fiction these two arcs reverse. The character growth and change is of primary importance and plot is merely the vehicle to get them to change.

For instance, in Joy Luck Club, June’s impending trip to China is what brings the women together and what forces each of them to change the patterns of the past. The trip is irrelevant save for two purposes—1) bringing the women together to face their demons and 2) when June actually makes the trip to China to meet her mother’s twin sisters (the lost babies) we know the change has occurred and the chains of the past have been loosed.

Fantasy and Science Fiction will involve some degree of world-building and extraordinary events, creatures, locations. In plotting, world-building is an essential additional step. How much world-building is necessary will depend on what sub-class of fantasy or sci-fi you’re writing. Word count will also be affected. The more world-building, the longer your book will be. Some books, especially in high-fantasy can run as long as 150,000 words and are often serialized.

In regular fantasy, we will generally have a singular protagonist. In high fantasy, the various parties each become protagonists. Think Game of Thrones or Lord of the Rings.

Consult the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America for more information.

Horror—This is another genre that breaks down into many sub-classifications and runs the gamut. It can be as simple as a basic Monster in the House story where the protagonist’s main goal is SERE-Survive Evade, Rescue, and Escape. The protag has only one goal…survive. These books tend to be on the shorter side, roughly 60,000 words.

Horror, however can blend with fantasy and require all kinds of complex world-building. Clive Barker’s Hellraiser is a good example. Stephen King’s horror often relies heavily on the psychological and there is weighty focus on an inner change/arc. For instance, The Shining chronicles Jack’s descent into madness and how his family deals with his change and ultimately tries to escape the very literal Monster in the House.

Horror will most always involve a Monster in the House scenario. It is just that the definitions of “monster” and “house” are mutable. Word count is contingent upon what type of horror you are writing. Again, I recommend you consult the experts, so here is a link to the Horror Writers Association

Young AdultI won’t talk long about YA, since YA beaks into so many subcategories. Often YA will follow the rules of the parent genre (i.e. YA thrillers still have a ticking clock, fast pacing and high stakes just like regular thrillers). The differences, however, is that YA generally will have a younger protagonist (most often a teenager) and will address special challenges particular to a younger age group.

For instance, in Veronica Roth’s Divergent, Tris is taking on a very real political battle between factions. But the plot also involves her evolving from child to adult, how she defines her identity aside from Mom and Dad and forging a new romantic relationship with Four. These are all prototypical struggles for someone in that age group.

Picking a genre is actually quite liberating. Each genre has unique guideposts and expectations, and, once you gain a clear view of these, then plotting becomes far easier and much faster. You will understand the critical elements that must be in place—ticking clock, inner arc, world-building—before you begin.

This will save loads of time not only in writing, but in revision. Think of the romance author who makes her hero the main antagonist (BBT). She will try to query, and, since she didn’t know the rules of her genre, will end up having to totally rewrite/trash her story or change the genre entirely because she actually wrote a Women’s Fiction and NOT a romance.

Eventually, once you grow in your craft, you will be able to break rules and conventions. But, to break the rules we have to understand them first.

I have done my best to give you guys a general overview of the most popular genres and links to know more. If you have some resources or links that you’d like to add, please put them in the comments section. Also, for the sake of brevity, I didn’t address other genres, like children’s or Western. If you have questions or advice, fire away! Any corrections? Additions? Questions? Concerns? Comments? I love hearing from you. What is the biggest hurdle you have to choosing a genre? Do you love your genre? Why? Any advice?

To prove it and show my love, for the month of MAY, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly. I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novel, or your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

For those who need help building a platform and keeping it SIMPLE, pick up a copy of my latest social media/branding book Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World on AMAZON, iBooks, or Nook

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  1. #1 by K. L. Romo on May 25, 2015 - 9:59 am

    Reblogged this on K. L. Romo and commented:
    Kristen Lamb’s Genre Run-Down in a Nutshell.

  2. #2 by K. L. Romo on May 25, 2015 - 10:00 am

    Thanks for the info, Kristen. Great to have some brief guidelines in one place. Sometimes hard to decide where our story fits! I’ve reblogged your post.

  3. #3 by Jean M. Cogdell on May 25, 2015 - 10:35 am

    Reblogged this on jean's writing and commented:
    How serendipitous (I know-big word) the timing. I don’t believe I could have ordered a better follow-up for my last post. Thank you Kristen, I know my readers will enjoy your latest post at Warrior Writers.

  4. #4 by Samantha on May 25, 2015 - 10:39 am

    Thanks, Kristen. I love how you explain things. You are opening up the world of writing to me.

  5. #5 by Jean M. Cogdell on May 25, 2015 - 10:48 am

    I’ve loved this series. Reblogged them as much for myself as my readers. Thanks for all the great info and tips Kristen. Keep-em coming. @jeancogdell at Jean’s Writing

  6. #6 by aurorajeanalexander on May 25, 2015 - 10:51 am

    This is a great list of genre description Kristen. I love it. This is very useful to upcoming authors. Thank you for sharing it.

  7. #7 by aurorajeanalexander on May 25, 2015 - 10:53 am

    Reblogged this on Writer's Treasure Chest and commented:
    This is quite some informative list for upcoming authors. I even will go somewhat further and recommend to subscribe to the blog. There is so much to learn! Kristen Lamb is an expert within the writer’s world.

  8. #8 by frank fusco on May 25, 2015 - 10:58 am

    For those of you would might be interested, here are the movie genres: Biopic – Comedy – Crime – Dark Comedy – Dramedy – Family – Fantasy – Heist – Horror – Noir – Period – Political – Romantic Comedy – Satire – Sci-Fi – Thriller – Western. Notice that Sci-Fi and Fantasy are separate genres. Also, add Gay/Lesbian and Faith Based as adjectives.

    I think this list could be used for fiction.

    Kristen asks the question: What is your biggest hurdle in choosing a genre? If you’ve never asked yourself this question then you probably don’t know what genre you’re writing in.

  9. #9 by nancysegovia on May 25, 2015 - 11:29 am

    Picked the wrong door, on more than one occasion. Finally, got it right, now I have to make it write.

  10. #10 by nancysegovia on May 25, 2015 - 11:29 am

    Reblogged this on Nancy Segovia and commented:
    Pick a door, any door, but make sure it’s the right door for you to write

  11. #11 by Sue Coletta on May 25, 2015 - 11:30 am

    Thank you! I’m a thriller writer and every time I see an agent’s website who’s looking for Literary Thrillers I say, “Huh? Two different animals.” Now, if they could only see this post. Hmm… Sharing widely in hopes that they do.🙂

  12. #12 by dkent on May 25, 2015 - 11:55 am

    If a writer can’t guess what genre they are writing, then they aren’t reading enough to write a book that a specific type of reader wants to read.

    I always suggest that a writer who can’t guess their genre go to a site like RTBookclub which covers most of the popular genre and subgenre and read reviews until they find writers telling the kind of stories they are and note the genre. They should then read those books, find others by means of reviews, and features like Amazon’s book suggestion to find more, then read them. Read as widely as possible.

    If the book you want to write is cross-genre, then you should be well-read in BOTH genres because you have two sets of fans to please.

    The same advice is true if you want to write for a specific publisher. Read what they have to offer so you get a sense of what they want.

    The worst case of misidentifying a genre I’ve seen is a book that was labeled urban fantasy which was about a bunch of post-college slackers in NYC dealing with an evil artificial intelligence. This doofus hadn’t even bothered to read anything remotely fantasy, let alone urban fantasy.

  13. #13 by ontyrepassages on May 25, 2015 - 12:33 pm

    Reblogged this on Christina Anne Hawthorne and commented:
    I learned this one the hard way, but I learned it well.

  14. #14 by margaretpinard on May 25, 2015 - 12:54 pm

    Great post! This would have been so useful to Me of 2 years ago, who hared and scared around the internet looking for the ‘rules’ of classification, basically the market’s expectations for each. Succinct and helpful🙂

  15. #15 by s.a.klopfenstein on May 25, 2015 - 12:55 pm

    Reblogged this on Mr. Writerly and commented:
    These are some great breakdowns of what is typical of genres.

  16. #16 by s.a.klopfenstein on May 25, 2015 - 1:03 pm

    Great post here!…. I would add to YA that no-matter what genre of YA you write (horror or sci-fi or thriller or whatever) there is typically a very strong love interest element. You can try to cut it, but it is extremely rare, if present at all. Otherwise I would agree they tend to follow the basic structure of their adult counterparts.

    Oh and YA tends to run a bit shorter than adult books depending on the genre. There are always exceptions, but anything longer than 90-100,000 words (even for fantasy), and you will have a hard time publishing it as a debut author. Thrillers and romances will probably run closer to 60,000.

    An awesome resource for YA and middle-grade writing is Mary Kole’s book “Writing Irresistible Kidlit.” http://www.amazon.com/Writing-Irresistible-Kidlit-Ultimate-Crafting/dp/1599635763

  17. #17 by Kim McDougall on May 25, 2015 - 1:36 pm

    I know you mentioned somewhere that you would get to plotting and structure of a series. I would love to hear your thoughts on that. Twice, I’ve written full manuscripts of what I thought was the first book in a series, only to realize that I started at book two or three. How does creating structure for a series differ from a single novel?

  18. #18 by American Writers Exposed on May 25, 2015 - 1:51 pm

    Reblogged this on American Writers Exposed and commented:
    Thanks again Kristen!
    Team this is phenomenal advice. When headed to our first big conference the one thing the whole lot of us found out was we had our genres WRONG. It is very important that you slot yourself properly so you can talk to the right people, this happens before they even see your work. Not a big deal? Not so, this is a VERY big deal.

  19. #19 by regilson1 on May 25, 2015 - 2:18 pm

    This is great advice. I definitely did not keep this in mind with the first novel I wrote and the draft I had in the end was a disaster. Definitely going to direct people to this!

  20. #20 by Janna G. Noelle on May 25, 2015 - 2:43 pm

    Kristen, how does historical fit into this? It doesn’t usually get its own section in book stores or on Amazon, so is it more of a subgenre?

    • #21 by frank fusco on May 25, 2015 - 3:13 pm

      Hi Janna: I checked the Amazon website. Here is how they list Historical: Historical Fiction – Historical Romance – Historical Mysteries – Historical Fiction for Children 9 -12 – Historical Western Romance. Click on “books” then type in “historical” and there you are! I hope this helps.

    • #23 by Author Kristen Lamb on May 25, 2015 - 3:55 pm

      It generally will be added to a main genre. Historical Romance, Historical Mystery, etc. and often winnowed down to an even more specific time period, like “Regency Romance” or “Gothic Horror.”

  21. #24 by MishaBurnett on May 25, 2015 - 6:08 pm

    I don’t write books that fit neatly into a genre because I don’t like to read books that fit neatly into a genre. Finding readers who feel the same way I do and are looking for something that breaks new ground is difficult, but they are out there. To be honest I don’t think that I would be able to write something salable that followed one of the formulas above because I’d be bored writing it, and I’m sure that would show.

    • #25 by Author Kristen Lamb on May 25, 2015 - 8:06 pm

      Okay. Where are you going to list or shelve it? At the very least we have to have a basic genre classification. Even if that is general fiction. Just because we narrow to a genre doesn’t mean we can bend rules and blend genres and it doesn’t mean we have formulaic writing. Being formulaic is in execution and not the genre’s fault. It’s the author’s.

      And you don’t want a genre because of inability to “write something salable”, but where would a reader find your writing? If people can’t locate it, odds are it won’t sell. And if an agent can’t classify it, she can’t sell it so she won’t rep it.

      • #26 by MishaBurnett on May 26, 2015 - 2:06 am

        My books are currently listed as “Urban Fantasy” on Amazon, because that seems to be the most open category.

  22. #27 by rahima9 on May 25, 2015 - 6:27 pm

    Thanks for this informative post. Your description of literary fiction fits my trilogy, but I have called it fantasy because there is light and dark magic in the story, and divine beings (Goddess and God), and it is set in a fictional world. But the story is character-driven and about the protagonist’s inner transformation from the blindly obedient slave of an evil sorcerer to a man of courage and integrity who keeps facing the choice to follow the “hard path” of healing and compassion. Can this still be classified as Literary Fiction? Or does it belong in Fantasy? Or?

    • #28 by Author Kristen Lamb on May 25, 2015 - 8:09 pm

      Inner transformation is called “character arc.” I would say it is Fantasy.

  23. #29 by JaimeOMayer on May 25, 2015 - 7:17 pm

    Ahh, genre. I’m a fantasy writer and find the line between high/low to be muddy.

  24. #30 by dcrosewater on May 25, 2015 - 10:40 pm

    I’m going to embarrass myself and ask a question I’ve been holding onto for awhile. In his book Plot Versus Character, Jeff Gerke discusses “plot-first writers” and “character-first writers.” I realized that while I love character building, I generally think of myself as a “plot-first writer.” I get ideas for books from a general plot and conflict, and then go to work deciding who this conflict was made for. I like to write middle grade fiction, and hopefully my work would be categorized under the genre of literary fiction for middle grade. My question is this: Is a “character-driven” novel the same as “character-first” writing? I have started to worry that being a plot-first writer will make me incapable of writing good fiction for the genre, but I love middle grade. I wouldn’t think of myself as an action or thriller writer at all, but I do love a good mystery or adventure to put my characters on…

    • #31 by Author Kristen Lamb on May 26, 2015 - 9:13 am

      That isn’t a stupid question. Though I haven’t read the book I will explain what it means to me. Some writers begin with a story and then they select the cast. Say I want to make a funny movie about a team of misfits who win a game of Dodgeball. I come up with the idea and then choose Ben Stiller as the lead and the subsequent cast. Other “writers” might love Ben Stiller, love his acting and decide they want Ben Stiller…now we need to come up with a story that fits his acting.

      I’ve had stories I came up with that I knew the plot, then had to figure out the cast. Other times, I had an idea for a type of character so then I had to come up with the plot. Make sense? Same end, just different starting points.

      I don’t like the term “character-driven” because it can lead new writers to believe they get a pass on plot. That isn’t the case at all. Even literary pieces MUST have a plot. But, like “The Road”, the plot goal is less important than the character goal. In a thriller, the characters must just reach the Ocean. In a literary, there is a theme or motif, so it is less important the characters make it than HOW they make it.

      In “The Road” the population has resorted to cannibalism, thus given up their “humanness.” In the story, how much can the characters endure before they give up what it means to be human? Or will they even die, but die as fully human? In a thriller, if everyone died, it would be a French film. But for a literary piece it is acceptable.

      That help?

      • #32 by dcrosewater on May 26, 2015 - 11:45 am

        Helps IMMENSELY. I loved what you said about same end with different starting points. That’s how I wanted to think of it, but the more I saw the term “character-driven” in articles and agent blogs, the more I panicked. Thank goodness I am still allowed to write middle grade. Thank you!!!

  25. #33 by Venkatesh Iyer on May 26, 2015 - 4:58 am

    Where exactly would you place humor? A humorous about a politician who wants to be um… king?

  26. #34 by swiveltam on May 26, 2015 - 8:25 am

    “I knew zip nada about the craft, and, frankly, was too stupid to know I was that dumb.”
    Hahahahahahahaha!!! This is soooo me.

    I feel like I did everything backwards. Wrote a book, then learned how to write and EDIT. I’ve been devouring craft books and rewriting and rewriting. Second and third books are better, but I’m still learning and (unfortunately?) still walking the line between genres Romance/Women’s Fiction.

    In some ways I’m kind of glad I did. Knowing what I know now, I think I would have been paralyzed with fear to write anything had I read ALL the craft books, blogs, and gone to the workshops before I wrote that first novel. Because I learned things in bits, I could attack my MSS and look for each error. Now going forward, I’m aware and not intimidated. Does that make sense?

    Backwards I may be, but going forward, I am🙂

    Thanks for all your advice!

    ~Tam Francis ~
    http://www.girlinthejitterbugdress.com

  27. #35 by Jonah on May 26, 2015 - 9:11 am

    Solid, useful information, much of which I had not considered before. BTW, think you meant to use ‘gamut’ rather than ‘gambit’ above.

  28. #36 by DJ Marcussen, Writer Of All Things Light on May 26, 2015 - 11:43 am

    Kristen, This whole series on structure and plot has been very helpful for me. After each of your posts, I keep thinking I’ve got it, then along comes another post and I find you’ve cleared up my direction even more. This post on genre is the best yet. My stories tend to follow along the lines of a set of specific authors, but there are so many different terms that what was clear in my mind in the beginning, became foggy. Until today! You just confirmed for me what genre I write. It fit perfectly! Thanks…. again. 🙂

  29. #37 by Cary Area Writer's Group (CAWG) on May 26, 2015 - 11:53 am

    Reblogged this on Cary Area Writer's Group and commented:
    Fellow writers: If you’re stuck trying to figure out where your book fits on the book shelf, this post from Kristen can help to clear up a lot of confusion.

  30. #38 by 6unamuno5 on May 26, 2015 - 12:23 pm

    A nice, clear explanation of the differences in genre, all in one place, with useful links.

  31. #39 by seashorewrite on May 26, 2015 - 7:37 pm

    Reblogged this on Peaks Island Press and commented:
    Kristen Lamb offers one of the most concise outlines of genres and why, as a writer, you better pick one.

  32. #40 by Sarah's Attic of Treasures and Our Neck Of The Woods on May 26, 2015 - 11:09 pm

    Reblogged this on Sarah's Attic Of Treasures and Our Neck Of The Woods and commented:
    No, I don’t plan on writing a book. I once thought about a book of short stories.
    This blog fills that part of me, long gone. The writer. I wrote and wrote and wrote some more. This is a very interesting series on writing a book. The “How To’s”.

  33. #41 by Lynette Mirie on May 27, 2015 - 11:19 am

    Like YA, my genre of choice, Middle Grade covers a lot of subcatagories. Still like that, there are expectations to be met and boundaries that have to be respected. All these things you are covering have to fit together like a puzzle to make a beautiful picture. It’s awesome and difficult all at the same time.

  34. #42 by Lynette Mirie on May 27, 2015 - 11:20 am

    Oh, and by the way, I hope you and your family are safe in all this insane Texas weather.

    • #43 by Author Kristen Lamb on May 27, 2015 - 11:33 am

      I have barely been able to keep blogging. We’ve been in the middle of some of the worst of the flooding and storms. I gave up setting the clocks we kept losing power so much.

  35. #44 by Chris on May 28, 2015 - 10:42 am

    Very useful information.

    How do you think short stories work in regards to the word counts for the different genres? I’ve been using whatever word count happens naturally but have been wondering if readers have different expectations.

  36. #45 by katrinavanwagenen on May 28, 2015 - 12:10 pm

    I’m so happy I read this! I now can recognize my novel as women’s fiction not romance even though there is a HEA.. Thanks!

  37. #46 by vidhya1983 on May 30, 2015 - 8:25 am

    Reblogged this on scribblings007.

  38. #47 by katkent2014 on June 2, 2015 - 4:36 pm

    I love writing in the YA genre. Teens possess a natural ability to create their own internal conflicts and the goofiness and freshness of youth just adds to make my stories more charming (here’s hoping). I remember as a teen having a wonderful sense of awe, so many things to discover and believe in and my only wish is that I had started writing upteen years ago. But as my husband says, alot of things I am writing about didn’t even exist ten years ago. So true.

  39. #48 by katkent2014 on June 2, 2015 - 4:42 pm

    Reblogged this on writersback and commented:
    Awesome overview of the most popular genres and links from Kristen Lamb and the importance of knowing your genre’s audience that will help in plotting, sales and reviews of your book.

  40. #49 by Holly on June 7, 2015 - 7:49 am

    Hi Kristen, another great article. Thanks.

    I’m trying to decide if I have my books categorized in the wrong genre. I currently classify my series as Uban Fantasy and Dark Fantasy, however, when I look through other books in the Urban genre mine does seem different. Most of these books seem to emphasise a supernatural romance, many with erotic content. While I do have a romantic subplot, the main goal is a survival one, with a civil war brewing and the protagonist’s deep inner conflict between her human and beast sides. If urban fantasy readers have high expectation of supernatural erotica then they won’t buy/like mine. But I can’t think where else it could go! It’s contemporary fantasy about shape shifters living in a city, which is itself a character in the books. It’s a conundrum.

  41. #50 by Shirley Nomakeo on July 10, 2015 - 10:18 pm

    I followed the link from Book Publishing on Twitter to your blog. I appreciate your blog on genre. I have also written a novel started with no structure or plan, just wrote it. I had a semi – disastrous first draft which I was able to “work with”. I am trying to find an agent in the Historical-Fiction genre, geared toward YA, but I must admit I had no such direction when I sat down and wrote my epic family saga – novel. It is 138,000 words. If a story is too long for a genre at what point would the discussion to turn it into a series come about? I welcome any advice and I also really like your responses to some of the comments.

  42. #51 by Robert Lalonde on July 23, 2015 - 10:55 am

    Good information for authors. Marketing a book is much more involved than it appears at first.

  43. #52 by Jens Lyon on January 9, 2016 - 9:14 pm

    The novel I am editing is 3rd person with rotating POVs. The main character is female; this is her story. Large segments of the story are told from the POV of her father and her male skating coaches, but it all relates to this central female character. Would these male POVs disqualify a book from the Women’s Fiction category?

    • #53 by Author Kristen Lamb on January 9, 2016 - 9:55 pm

      BE careful with too many POVs. It dilutes how we feel for the character. If it is her story why isn’t it in HER POV?

      • #54 by Jens Lyon on January 10, 2016 - 12:17 am

        In the beginning of the book, she is a small child. I didn’t want to tell that whole part of the story from a small child’s POV. Some of it, yes. But not all of it. There are other parts of the story where it simply works better if it’s from another character’s POV; a one-character narrative would be too limiting.

  44. #55 by thomasjohnedison on March 11, 2016 - 7:53 am

    Jens. May I suggest you write the main character in first person and the others in third,; in seperate chapters of course.

  1. Do You Know Your Book Genre? | Just Publishing
  2. Top Picks Thursday 05-28-2015 | The Author Chronicles
  3. Tahynain’s Enigma: My First Novel and First Epic Fail | Write Brained
  4. In It to WIN It—Preparing for NANOWRIMO (National Novel Writing Month) | Kristen Lamb's Blog

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