Saturday, February 27, 2010

Genres are hard! Elevators are scary!

I had a ridiculous dream last night. This is what I remember:

I was arguing with someone in an elevator. "You're supposed to know where we're going!" Someone said, in an exasperated voice.

Feeling confused and a bit exasperated myself, I looked down at the elevator buttons. In glowing letters, they said:

YA Paranormal Romance

Women's Fiction

Commercial Fiction

etc. etc. You get the idea.  I have been endlessly frustrated by what genre SHARDS OF GLASS is, and as I'm moving forward on other writing projects, it's not getting any easier.  With SHARDS, I said, "Oh, I won't worry about genre now; I'll know what it is when it's finished."

Yes, about that. It's finished, and determining how to describe it in a query letter is more painful than the edits. At first, I was thinking chick lit, but chick lit doesn't generally involve heavy topics like, oh, assisted suicide.  It's hard for me to call it literary fiction (which sounds pretentious for my surprisingly bubbly little novel). Nothing about suicide screams "commercial" to me.  I have no idea what I'm doing here, people.

I look at my theme and plot summary for THE GODDESS OF VENGEANCE WORE PINK GALOSHES, and again, I have no idea what genre this would be. I think of it as chick lit, but is anyone goes to accept chick lit with a strong horror element?  At least this time, I know writing it is not going to clear up the mystery.

What's the answer here? After some research, I'm going with "Women's fiction".  Women's fiction is supposed to focus on the story of a woman or on women's issues (Interesting article on women's fiction vs. romance here). While I think the issues in my novels are universal (the complicated nature of suicide for the terminally ill, the role and hazards of vengeance in a society), I have strong female protagonists. Although my hunky male Marine friend loved the draft he read of SHARDS, somehow I expect more women will be drawn to these titles than men. So women's fiction it is.

What genre(s) do you write? Every any moments of doubt about what genre, exactly, a story was trying to be?


Kristin Rae said...

That sounds like an interesting dream... proof that this genre choosing is really bothering you. lol. I've actually had nightmares about elevators for years. They usually are running wild and plummeting 10 stories and rising back up again (much like Disney World's Hollywood Tower of Terror... but without the seat belts. In my dream I just slam against the ceiling.)

I think I mostly write Women's Fiction. My first novel is for sure. My WIP is magical realism, but doesn't that still fall into the Women's Fiction genre??
I'm also REALLY itching to write young adult anything. Just wish a story would pop into my head!!!


Unknown said...

Genre is tough. I had asked myself the same question when I even started thinking about writing. I thought I'd be a chick lit writer, and then it hit me, I love to read chick lits... but am I really a chick lit writer? No. I found that I am very much a mystery writer, and the more and more I write the issue I am having is who will read it? What age limits would be on this book? Right now I have a mix half of it could be Adult & the other Young Adult... its a viscious cycle!!

sarahjayne smythe said...

I totally feel your pain. I've been told that I write literary fiction. But like you say, that sounds a bit heavy and pretentious.

I've also thought that some of my work might be classified as women's fiction as opposed to romance, even if there is a romantic element to it. Most of what I write is pretty dark and there are few happy endings.

It's easier I think to say what I don't write. But what I do write seems very non-commercial to me.

See? I said I totally feel your pain. And I am very confused. :)

Tara said...

It took me a while to classify mine, as well. It definitely began its life as romance, but took a turn, and another. Then some big dangerous twists. And even though there's a lot of action and some thriller, it's lighter than what I'd consider either of those. So, I went for romantic suspense.

If it helps, before I got to your classification, while you were still describing things, I thought it sounded like Women's Fiction :)

Anne Gallagher said...

Well, for what it's worth, I think SHARDS should be classified as women's fiction.

I write romance, regency as a sub-genre, sometimes contemporary. I couldn't, wouldn't ever dream of writing anything that smacks of literary right now because I know I'm not good enough, and truthfully I don't have the energy.
As for women's fiction, well, I have one something in the works but I need to really, really, think about all that would encompass.

Kittie Howard said...

Yes, your elevator dream mirrors confusion. Interesting how dreams encapsulate so much. From your post description it seems like you have Women's Fiction. However, I'd pester your Marine friend a bit more. I'm married to a Marine hulk and quite often he narrows large issues into a succinct Ahhh sugggestion. Regardless, you're a talented writer; the genre will be solved; and I'll look forward to seeing your book on the shelves!!

Shelley Sly said...

What a crazy dream. I struggle with genre A LOT. I still don't know what genre either of my novels are (#1 is something in between romance, YA, and women's fiction and #2 is something like commercial fiction/chick lit) Glad you got yours figured out. :)

Stephanie Thornton said...

Crazy dream! It's hard since the lines between some genres blur anyway.

Good luck!

Julie said...

I would go with whatever stands out the most. Commercial seems very general so that could work.

I know one book store will even clasify them different than another. There's no reason why you can't change according to what an agent is looking for if its one of the genre that you have considered classifying it as.

Alexandra Shostak said...

I know exactly how you feel. I'm currently revising a manuscript right now, because when I wrote it I didn't pay attention to the YA/adult line, and it doesn't fit in either. So I'm making it adult, definitely.

I write fantasy, but not high fantasy, and most of it has a really intense urban content, so I feel like to call it action/adventure is also not quite right.

Though, I have to say, for the genre benders, I think you're the winner. But I like genre-benders, so even though I totally understand how frustrating this makes querying, I'm also kind of excited for you. It sounds really unique :)

Sister in Christ said...

I am actually the fiction writer of the satire blog In Loving Submission - you had posted a comment back in January. I had forgotten all about it and...well, long story...but in any case, I wanted you to know that I do understand and agree about where you're coming from. I did realize when very good and kind people were taking it seriously and getting upset that my joke, no matter how well intentioned, was not coming across as funny, only hurtful and that my excercise was probably not successful. Anyhow, I felt bad that I had never responded and wanted you to know that I did appreciate your input. Take care.

Summer Frey said...

Most of what I write is urban fantasy, though one of my favorite in-work MSs is a literary/women's fiction.

And I agree with the others--I enjoy genre-bending fiction. It may make finding the right agent more difficult, but once you do, at least you'll know you have someone who's fully in your court.

Katie Salidas said...

I write Urban fantasy and the occasional Erotic story.

Interesting dream with the buttons being different genre's!

I kinda feel that way at times. Wondering if maybe I shouldn't push a different button sometime.

Guinevere said...

That's such a crazy nightmare, Kristin. It's funny what fearss lurk in our subconscious. Escalators are what REALLY scare me. When I was three years old, my parents were watching the news and I overheard a news story about a woman's shoe getting stuck in the escalator, leading to a fatality. I took the stairs until I was ten!

I'm the same way, Jen, I love chick lit but I just don't think I'm a chick lit writer (at least, not so far).

Sarahjayne, absolutely, it is so much easier to say what we DON'T write than what we do.

Thanks Tara! I appreciate the confirmation on the genre; hopefully now I can quit with the crazy dreams (I also dream about work a lot, which is quite depressing).

Guinevere said...

Piedmont, thanks for the support on women's fiction! I'm starting to feel pretty secure on that one. I'd love to write romance, but so far I've never gotten more than a chapter or two into one... maybe someday I'll manage to branch out.

Thanks, Kittie! I always dream about the most commonplace stuff from my life (for instance, I'm back at my day job almost nightly).

Shelley, I'm glad someone feels my pain, but I hope you get your genres straightened out soon too! It's not something I think matters until you're ready to start querying and realize... uh-oh... this doesn't fit easily into any two-word category.

Thanks, Stephanie!

Guinevere said...

Julie, that's a good point about changing genres, for a genre-blending book, based on who you're querying to. I hadn't thought of that, but it makes a lot of sense!

Thanks, Alexandra! I like gendre-bending books too, but now I have a whole new level of respect for their authors and what insecurities they may go through. lol.

Thanks for your kind response, Sister. :)

That's a good point, too, Summer. Although I do wish there would just be an agent who would say "I'm really looking for... a chick lit/horror crossover", but that's never going to happen. :p

Quixotic, I thought that dream was weird enough to entertain y'all. It's nice to know that I'm not the only one who ever wonders what button to push!

Ellen Brickley said...

I hate this question! I am currently writing a women's fiction historical novel. But my next idea is for an urban fantasy, so I worry where I'll ultimately wind up going.

I guess I'll figure it out when I see what the third idea is :)

Andrea Coulter said...

Just found your blog and read some older posts. I'm an aspiring novelist from northern VA too, and I also switch between a black Coach purse and a brown Coach purse :)

I think women's fic sounds like a good genre fit for Shards. Don't stress too much; it seems that in the end the agent (and hopefully editor!) will decide what shelf it should be on.

I write fantasy, and the only hard part sometimes is figuring out whether it wants to be YA or adult.

Good luck with edits for Shards!

Berlin said...

123 said...

More haste, less speed...................................................

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

I always have trouble determining genres for my pieces, mostly because they're usually composites of a number of genres. My first novel is a mix of pop fiction and romance (ugh, it was never my intention to write romance but there you go.)

I hope you're able to sort it out with minimal knotted-stomach syndrome!

Julie Dao said...

That is such a crazy dream! Genre is a really tough choice sometimes. I actually still don't know for sure what genre my NaNo novel is ... it's a mixture, really. I wish they had a category for hybrid genres.

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