As a writer and an editor, I often hear of writers who want to write a thriller or a young adult dystopian fantasy or a romance or so on. My first question when I talk with them is why.

You need to think about why your idea should be packaged in a certain genre. That’s right, packaged.

Genre is essentially a piece of familiar packaging that tells the reader what they can expect from your story.

Readers like certain genres because they know what they’ll get. The mood, the pacing, aspects of the plot, and the structure are all set by the genre.

When you have an idea for a story and think perhaps you’ll write it as YA or as a mystery, take some time and do some research.

Simple Research: Read the genre

It’s that simple, really. If you want to write for a specific genre, read that genre before you start writing.

Read for research. What has already been written? What does it sound like? What types of issues do the stories deal with? How does the story progress, quickly with lots of action or more slowly with a more contemplative vibe? What types of characters are there? What types of conflicts? What level of language is used? Are the sentences long and complex, or simple and succinct? What’s the focus of the story?

Even Simpler: Write for the genre you already like to read

As I’ve been researching this topic and reading other writers’ and bloggers’ thoughts on it, it’s become abundantly clear that writing for a genre that you already read is the best way to write a genre well. You’ll already be unconsciously familiar with the aspects of the focus, style, and mood. This doesn’t mean you can’t write for other genres, but it’s easier to write in a genre that you’re already quite familiar with and enjoy.

When to choose your genre

Do you choose your genre before or after you write? For some authors, the genre is obvious from the beginning and they write to fit there. Others prefer to write across multiple genres, and then pick one genre to be the lead for marketing.

Choosing your genre may be something you do before you write or it may be something you figure out after the novel has already been drafted. Either way, choosing this packaging for your novel is key to finding readers to read it.

Remember how I mentioned that genre is packaging? Genre is the key to finding readers and keeping them.

Bookstores and online booksellers use genre categories to organize and recommend books to their readers. If you try to market your novel as a thriller but the main focus of the story is on a romance between Jill and Jamie rather than on the serial killer that is stalking Jill, then thriller readers will put it down and not pick it up again. If that same story was labelled as a romance, the right readers would be more likely to pick it up, read it, and recommend it to their friends.

What genre do you like best and why?


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