It is the end of October. You only have a few days left to donate on my page for the 30/30 Writing Challenge. I have been writing for at least 30 minutes every day, and much time spent thinking about writing.
The leaves are turning their brief Autumnal flirtations, of sparkle and crash, the red lipstick of a Friday night, the purple of painted toes left bare and open to the rain, and the jaundiced view of Saturday mornings. It does not occur that there are ends to these things. The ends will occur.
Does an oak grow a maple leaf? Does the sweet gum take on the foliage of the magnolia? Even in the wide and ruddy family of Acer, we see different sizes, colors, shapes. To ask any of them to grow other leaves requires skillful grafting and cruelty, if not hubris on the part of the arborist.
How helpful is this extension of a Fall metaphor? It weighs on my mind now, because I am nearly ready to release The Nightingale's Stone. "What genre is it?" This is the question I am most loathe to answer. "What kind of book?" is easier to answer with smartassery: "A good one."
Let us be clear: a genre, like any category, will multiply its contradictions, its exceptions, its grey valences. The piling up of predicates to explain certain books sounds like one of the laughable coffee orders Seattle was once famous for:
"I'd like a split shot YA/vampire-steampunk, with 2% zombie, chicklit-crossover, please…"
What sorts of books do you read, and which do you prefer to read? This consideration becomes very important when you are setting out to write. If you are "just starting" you will often write in the genre-styles that interest you. This is an ancient and well respected means of becoming an artist. In the old days, this was called an apprenticeship.
Do you prefer books about undead lovers who need the nourishment of living human blood? Do you feel more comfortable setting your story in current day Manhattan? (Perhaps because doing research on 19th Century Manhattan does not fit in with your schedule?) Did you ever receive delivery of a pair of really kickin' heels obviously meant for someone else? Did they fit? Did you keep them? Did misadventure occur, or did you wish for it to?
That subjunctive part is where the story may start and at the end of it you may have your vampire romance chicklit crossover novel. I'm not sure where the zombies come in; perhaps they are being used as non-union delivery driver/drone labor?
|My friend Kristen tells me a lot of chicklit covers have artwork like this.|
Most writers, agents, editors and publishers I have spoken with caution against writing in a genre just because it "makes a lot of money." There are probably more rejected romance novels than any other genre. Why? It makes the most money and so attracts people interested in that sort of thing. Again, there are doubtless expert ventriloquists out there who can write a romance novel according to formula and make it work. But they are vastly outnumbered by those writers who tried it "even though I don't like romance." Writing is a personal sort of job: as I have said elsewhere, if you don't actually like what you are writing no one else will either.
One of the best ways to find out about a genre that you may be writing for is to ask a professional bookseller! For example, if you walk into Elliott Bay Books at Seattle, they will be more than happy to chat a bit about what you may be writing, where they may shelve it, what sort of blurbs and covers grab attention. This is their job, their career, their field of knowledge and you are all part of the Greater Text World. (Just go when they're not so busy.)
A few words on poetry: poetry has had different genres or forms since its very beginning: lyric, epic, tragic, prose, and so on. However, poetry, in general is much more flexible and fluid with regard to its subject matter. The application of something like a "fantasy" to a poem is quite recent and somewhat ridiculous I think. Fantasy has always been a potential subject matter for poetry! Science? Parmenides described a spherical earth in a poem 2500 years ago.
So what sort of genre am I working in? What is The Nightingale's Stone? Why it's a magical-realist, historically fictional memoir of course. And there is a nice pair of shoes, a problematic man, and skeptical troll so it can be considered philosophical fantasy chick lit. See? Easy, isn't it?
And don't forget to donate!