Many new writers cringe at the thought of genre writing. You know, writing a romance, or cozy mystery, or sci fi, or thriller… that has a specific plot line, follows a certain formula, and includes familiar tropes.
But I really don’t see anything wrong with that.
There are times for profound literary stories…
…and times for a fun, simple genre story.
Avid readers love a little bit of both. (I know I love a PG-13 cozy mystery when life gets tough and I want to kick back with a simple no-stress book.)
So, how do you know if genre writing might be for you?
Here are some questions you can ask yourself.
1. Do you like writing with an outline?
When readers pick up a genre romance, they expect there to be a happy ending. When they pick up a cozy mystery, they expect there to be an amateur sleuth and maybe even some baking recipes– and definitely an answer to the mystery.
Genre writing can be creative, but it cannot go too far outside the lines.
With genre writing, you can fit your stories into a general plot line with ups and downs and with rapid scenes and slow development. But what makes a book a genre is the plot devices set in stone: the happy endings, the mysteries solved, the ending release of a thriller, etc. Genre readers have expectations that need to be met. Kill the groom at the end and you lose your romance genre audience.
2. Can you make unique tropes?
That sounds like an oxymoron– can you use a character that we see in genre books, such as the amateur sleuth, and make her your own? Can you write yet another hard-boiled detective and make him stand out?
Genre writing gives you the opportunity to take the hero, the damsel, the detective… and tell an entire new story around them.
I mean, if you think about it, that’s what we have been doing over time with themes such as the hero’s journey. If you’re good at taking a stale trope and injecting it with new life, genre writing might be for you.
3. Would you rather stick with one theme?
I recently read a book that started as a thriller, became a romance in the middle, then a mystery at the end. Nothing wrong with that, but to fit in a genre, a writer must stick to a genre (especially if publishing traditionally).
Genre writing is all about focusing on one theme– a romance, a mystery, a fantasy-adventure– without deviating much from this theme.
Most of the time, genre readers don’t want you to slip them in too much romance if they’re looking for a hardcore sci-fi. They don’t want too much sex if they’re looking for a cozy mystery. They grab that little mass-market paperback from the middle of Barnes and Noble with very specific expectations– meet them or lose them.
4. Are you okay writing for money and kicks?
The thing about genre writing is that most writers do it for money or just to tell a fun story. There is usually not a super personal or profound story, especially if your book is titled something like Cupcake Murder: A Newbie Sleuth Mystery with Yummy Cupcake Recipes!
I am not ashamed to say I’d like to make money for my work. Actually, I’d like to make a whole living from my writing!
So that part of genre writing doesn’t bother me. But it might bug YOU. You might only want to write something that is close to your heart, or you might only want to write to entertain. Both are okay, and they are also not mutually exclusive. The key here is to know yourself.
- Are you cool following a general, pre-made outline?
- Can you give new life to old tropes?
- Would you be able to stick mainly to one theme?
- Are you happy writing just to entertain and earn money?
If so, you should look into genre writing.
Also, don’t look down on genre writing! Many readers need stories that provide them with an escape from daily life. Something familiar and comfortable. Something easy to read and simple. Some people live tough lives, and genre books provide them with relief. (I know I’ve been there!)
I’m currently having a TON of fun writing a genre romance! It does have a bit of cozy mystery in it, but the main focus is still Bonnie and Brandon’s growing relationship. It’s called A Firefighter Hero for Her and it is a sweet southern romance… and I cannot wait to release it!
What are your thoughts on genre writing? Lmk in the comments.
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