Wednesday, January 26, 2011

How Do We Know That We Know?

Anyone who enjoys writing might or might not be in a dilemma about what they want to write next week or five years from now. And if you happen to be a reader, and not a writer at all, what makes you think that you know exactly what you'll enjoy reading until you have actually read it?

Author, Linda Strawn has offered to contribute her take on genre writing. Hopefully, it will help you in selecting your next juicy book, whether it's putting your own words down on a page that will draw the reader in, or casting your eyes on the story or book type that just happens to tickle your fancy.

Writing Tip
By Linda Strawn

When is a novel born? For most authors stories are often sparked by an event, something someone said, or even a dream, and is brought to life by their active imaginations. These tales can swirl around in our minds for days, weeks, months, or even years before we transfer them to paper. But before these muses are worthy of becoming the written word, we need to determine how they are to be presented.

Genre, a French word defined by Merriam-Webster as a category of artistic, musical, or literary composition characterized by a particular style, form, or content, is how we package our stories. Unlike a gift that is ready for giving, our writing must be “packaged” before it’s complete. The best time to choose a genre is before we begin to write, but how do we know which one is best for us?

The Why Factor

To begin, we must ask ourselves why we write. Is it to instruct or entertain? At the same time, we need to establish whether our future novel is non-fiction or fiction. Non-fiction is based on facts. History, science, how-to, and self-help books fall under this category. Determining which non-fiction genre to write in is limited to your expertise. The non-fiction genre, for the most part, is pretty easy to figure out.

Fiction . . . well, that’s another story.

The Which of the Matter

The list of fiction genres is long and constantly changing. Determining which fiction genre to write in is not so clear-cut. Some new authors find that they won’t pin down their genre until they’ve nearly completed a novel, but by then it might be too late. If you plan to write a marketable book, it helps to know the definition of each genre and what genre is currently popular. Since the publishing market changes almost as often as the seasons, we need to educate ourselves on what’s selling and what publishers are looking for.

I’ve listed many of the more common genres and their definitions in my blog. If you’re interested in taking a look, here’s the link:

To Everything There is a PURPOSE

Once you have a clear understanding of genres, ask yourself these questions:

1) What is my mission?

2) Who is my target audience?

1) What books do I like to read? Authors tend to write the types of stories they enjoy reading.

2) What are my interests? Do you like police work, art, movies? Do you have an interest in certain cultures, traveling, or the outdoors? It’s far easier to write about the things you like than it is the things you have no interest in.

3) What are my skills? Are you a professional? Do you have experience in the fields of medicine, law, or education? Base your writing on what you know. Share your skills with others. You can be sure there are readers out there who’d love to learn about a field they know little to nothing about.

Sustaining that Momentum

You may find that several genres fit your writing style, but most experts advise that new authors settle on only one. Don’t be tempted to flip-flop. Consistency will help you establish a platform, and having a platform helps to get your name out there. It’s a means for readers to connect with you, and often will make publishers take notice. After you’ve sold a substantial amount of books and become well-known in the publishing industry, your credibility will allow you to branch out into other genres without losing momentum, or your readership. Still, even the most celebrated authors have one specific genre they write in. Consider Stephen King for a moment. We all know he’s the king (no pun intended) of thrillers, but can you imagine him writing mushy romance? He probably could if he wanted to, but it might make some of his die-hard fans cringe.

Find one genre you enjoy and stick to it.

Happy writing!

Copyright 2011 - Linda Strawn

We're anxious to hear from you.
Are you a writer: What genres do you prefer writing in and why?
Are you a reader: What genres tickle your fancy most and why?


  1. I liked this article. Thanks. I think my favorite genre is Inspirational Romance, but it has to be before 1900. I've tried to read the contemporary stuff but it doesn't connect with me as well. Probably because I like to escape into the olden days.
    Janice Ian

  2. Ooh. I like that question.
    Give me a mystery and you've gotten me.
    Betty W from Windsor

  3. I like historical fiction and mysteries with humor.

  4. Thanks for commenting on my article, everyone. I write inspirational fiction, both historical and contemporary. I, too, love getting lost in the old days, but get as much satisfaction writing present-time stories as I do historicals. I haven't tried penning a mystery yet. Who knows, maybe one day God will prompt me to. No matter what I write, I try to put a little humor in it. Life can be tough, so you gotta be able to laugh at it, right?

  5. Well, I, like Linda, get lost in the old days too. I love historicals. My first book (which is no longer in print) was contemporary, but I think it's because I love the research and the twist in many of the endings that makes me pull for the historicals most of all.