Write in A Genre that Feels Like Home.
The question isn’t what genre do you want to write? It’s what genre do want to rewrite in? Over, and over, and over again. You have a lot of talent. You have a lot of interests. You want to write a novel people will actually read. And there are writers out there churning out novels in whatever genre they think will sell. They seem to be having success.
But you are also in the writing game for the win. For the meaning. For the career. You don’t want to get stuck writing in some genre you only kind of like — that’s only sort of meaningful to you. Life’s too short. And eventually readers will be able to tell.
To choose which genre to focus on, make a list of genres you enjoy.
Then try these 3 tests.
1) Make a Quick List of Stories that Feel Like Home. Think about the books, movies, and series you can personally watch, or read, over, and over again. Without getting bored. These are movies, or series, you could put on right now and watch all the way through if you had time. These are novels you’re compelled to pick up from time to time just to read that one section again. These are books you have to tear yourself away from even though you’ve read them before. They feel like home. This list is likely short.
For a story to make the cut, it can’t just be something you’ve read or seen multiple times. It can’t just be something you think is brilliant, or fun, or so well executed. No. The only stories that make the cut are the ones that evoke a feeling of childlike wonder and home. Sure. You like stories from many genres. You’re a writer. But there is something special about these stories. They get you. And you get them.
Take note of what genre (or genres) they are in. Take note of their common themes, character types, character dynamics; how they start, how they end; and what settings have in common. These stories hold the blueprint for the kinds of stories you most want to tell. If you’re unsure of the genre, look up how the stories are categorized by fans and reviewers online.
2) Choose the Genre You Respect and Love Enough to Master. Ask yourself which genre you love and respect so much that you’d consider investing the time to become one of the best writers of that genre in the world. Now you don’t necessarily have to become one of the greatest writers of that genre to build a loyal following and have a career.
But if you hit a snag in your story, this kind of love and respect will help motivate you to go that extra mile to delight yourself and your readers. So does the thought of reading a new book in that genre every week, for a year, thrill you? Or sound like torture? What about spending your career writing in that genre to the exclusion of all others? Does that sound like a sacrifice or an adventure?
3) See if You Like, Relate to, and Respect the Fans. Go online and do a quick scan of fan boards, fan reactions, and fan reviews for the hottest books, and then the longest selling books, in the genre you’re considering. If what most excites the fans of the genre also excites you, you’re on the right track. If what fans most love induces an involuntary eye roll, it’s time to cross that genre off the list.
Finishing your novel requires a mini-marriage between you and the text. A lot of genres can be fun for you to write in. But commit to the genre you’ll still want to write in, even when it’s driving you nuts. That way, when you face temporary roadblocks, challenges, or self doubt, you can say to yourself, I am writing the kind of story I love the most in the world. The blood, sweat, tears, and temporary heartbreaks, are all worth it.