Write a Novel: How to Pick a Genre

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You have an idea for a novel. The idea may be flimsy.

Perhaps you can see an image. A woman, standing at a graveside, with a smile on her face¦ A bright summer’s day, with two armies confronting each other — a small, tidy home, with smoke trailing from the chimney — 

Perhaps you just start writing.

It doesn’t matter. What’s important is that as soon as you get an idea for a novel, you choose the novel’s genre. The reason? Because, as I said here, Writing Fiction: Write in a Genre or Not? | Write a Book: Just Write A Book Blog:

“Why pick a genre? Essentially, because readers want what they want, and they want certain types of books at certain times. Paranormal novels are a genre, which Amanda Hocking has mined to the tune of $4 million in a year.

Suspense, romance (and its many sub-genres), science fiction, mystery etc are all genres.

If you’re a new writer, writing in a genre may seem to constrain you, however those boundaries can teach you how to write, and if you’re serious about writing fiction, it’s something you need to learn.”

Readers want what they want.

When you write a novel, you’re creating an experience for your reader. You’re taking him out of the world he knows, and plunking him in the first century B.C.E, or far into the future.

I’m currently reading (and taking notes from) Wired for Story: The Writer’s Guide to Using Brain Science to Hook Readers from the Very First Sentence. It’s a brilliant guide to helping you to understand readers, and yourself as a writer.

Readers want an experience of a certain kind. Genre fiction delivers those experiences, in defined ways, which meet reader expectations. If you fail to meet those expectations, your book will fail.

I’m a voracious reader; I read many books each week. I’m got books all over the house, and they’re ready to read in the Kindle app on my iPad.

When I began my first novel, I read widely in the historical romance genre. I sent proposals for historicals to publishers. However, the first contract I received was for contemporary romance. Why, oh why? I wondered. I even complained to my editor, but she was adamant — they wanted a series of contemporary novels from me.

So, I read, and read. Then I read some more, until I figured I had a handle on contemporary romance.

Could I have sold my novels without knowing the genre?

No, I couldn’t. To repeat: readers want want they want.

Give it to them, and your books will sell.

Need help picking a genre? Fiction Frenzy will help.

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Angela Booth is a top copywriter, multi-published author, and writing teacher. She offers many guides, courses and classes to help writers to enhance their skills on her websites. She also provides inspiration and motivation for writers on her writing blogs. Angela has been writing successfully since the late 1970s, and was online in the 1980s, long before the birth of the Web. Her business books have been widely published.