How Much Does Genre Matter?

In my first ever writing class, my tutor told me how important it was to know the genre you were writing from inside out. For someone who hadn’t “picked” a genre, and who didn’t want to be tied to just one anyway, it was a little daunting. Now, at the stage where I am looking for an agent, I still find it daunting. Genres are wide, vast landscapes, and it feels impossible to know them inside out. And I’m starting to wonder, how important is it anyway?

1. Do you want to be different?

If you’re aiming for your book to be a standout, all-new take on something, it probably matters a lot to study your genre. After all, how can you break the traditions if you’ve never learned them? Know what’s out there in order to learn not only where you can fit into a market, but also the ways in which you are unique.

 

2. Will it change your mind?

Is that book the only book you can write right now? Is that story the one that consumes, burns, drives you? If it is, you probably won’t give it up if you find that someone else has just published something very similar. If this is your book, then keep going, but be prepared for the fact that the world may not be big enough for two almost identical stories.

 

3. Is this your business?

Writing is a labor of love, but for some people it’s also a lucrative business. If you’re planning to make writing your business, then knowing what’s selling is important. It’s market research like any other, and, if you’re aiming to market strategically, it may be best to keep this in mind while you write.

If you’re writing within a genre, chances are you picked that genre because you love it, you already read it and you know it well. Passion shows through writing—not just novels, but also queries and pitches. If you want to be a part of an established genre, daunting as it is, then my writing teacher is right. Know your market and know what you are getting into.

 

Helen Dring is a fiction writer from Liverpool, England. She is studying for an MA in Creative Writing and is currently writing her first novel. She likes fairy tales, ghost stories and modern history.

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