Today, I want to share a guest post I once penned for author S.M. Boyce.
Hey!! Watch Where You’re Putting That Thing! (Why Genre Matters)
How many times have you heard that before?
Perhaps you heard it as a harsh whisper creeping down the hallway from your parents’ bedroom after they’d gone to bed early, or as a shout echoing across a parking lot when someone jammed in too close to a rear end. Regardless of the situation or circumstance, there’s one thing that was likely:
It wasn’t going to end well.
Hello everyone. I’m so excited to be S.M. Boyce’s guest today! I’m Thomas Winship, author of Væmpires: Revolution, Væmpires: White Christmas, and the upcoming Væmpires: Zombie Rising.
Now, before you get all hot and bothered, please let me clarify. This isn’t going to be a post about adult toys and safe words and various scenarios that a human body simply wasn’t built to withstand … this is going to be a nice, clean, G-rated post about writing.
I’m sorry to disappoint the deviants among you.
You see, the uninitiated believe that being a writer is all about ideas and creativity and the power of the written word and following your heart and all kinds of new age-y mumbo jumbo, when the reality is that writers are faced with more rules and regulations than your average recent-college-grad-turned-submissive is.
There are rules about word counts and sentence structure and perspective and … well, more crap than you care to know about.
Then there are rules for each genre.
If you just said, “Are you f*in kidding me?” and looked disgusted, then you are my hero. I bet you sparkle in the sun. I mean, truly, you’re my Rue. Only, you know, still breathing.
Anyway, enough gushing. She was in the movie for roughly five minutes.
Understanding genre rules is important if: 1) an author intends to write in a genre; and 2) an author intends to successfully write in a genre.
If you’re an author and you don’t fit into #1 or #2 above, congratulations on your MFA!
Let me share a tale of woe to illustrate my point.
I wrote my first novel about five years ago. It was a spectacularly grandiose novel (150,000 words) about murder, betrayal, obsession, and human nature. I labeled it a mystery/legal thriller and shopped it to agents. For more than a year, it elicited feedback (on occasion). I wrote revision after revision, plugging along like a fool until someone actually took the time to point out one obvious flaw.
I had a genre problem. It didn’t meet the genre rules for a mystery or a legal thriller. I guess I could say that I swung both ways, but, man, could that be misconstrued, misinterpreted, misrepresented, and all kinds of mis-somethingorothers … all of which would be bound to get me into hot water with some special interest group.
But, seriously, realizing that I was in a genre predicament was an unpleasant realization. Not quite as unpleasant as visiting the doctor for the first time after you’ve turned forty and realizing you’re about to become closer than you ever anticipated … but unpleasant, nevertheless.
The novel now sits in a box in my office. Who knows if I’ll ever muster the energy to do right by it?
So, with some important lessons learned, I approached my væmpires novels from an entirely new perspective (lie #1). I researched genres until I found the one I intended to write in (lie #2), studiously learned them (lie #3), and carefully adhered to them (lie#4).
Okay, the truth is that I wrote the first damned book in the series and then asked someone else to tell me which genre it best fit in. *shrugs* I never said I was wise.
Luckily, Væmpires: Revolution slid very snugly into the urban fantasy genre. It’s like they were made for each other. It was like a hand in a velvet glove or a juicy hot dog in a warm bun. It just felt like … home.
Actually, it was better than home. It was like a home-away-from-home, or your coworker’s home, or anyplace where infidelity occurs when you least expect it (but what the heck were you doing there, anyway?).
I like the urban fantasy genre. It lets me play with the supernatural side of things without being forced to focus on romance. When it comes to romance, I want to live it, not write about it! It’s kinda like that old saying about teaching: those who can, do; those who can’t, write.
I’ve got vampires and mutated vampires (væmpires) battling for supremacy in a post-apocalyptic world. There are kings and princesses, heroes and villains, enhanced abilities and super powers, revolutionaries and terrorists, and I even threw zombies into the mix for kicks.
Let me bring this train to a close with a few words of caution: even meeting the genre rules doesn’t guarantee you’ll do well. I had a person refuse to finish reading my book because he/she objected to one cuss word I used.
Can you imagine?
Moral of the story is that you’re better off picking a genre that you like and understand than you are flying blind. So take the time to figure out where your Work in Progress falls on the genre & age labels scales.
And the next time you hear, “Hey!! Watch where you’re putting that thing!” pay attention. It might be the voice in your head.