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What’s your genre?

YA, Cosy Crime, Romance or Memoir? Which genre most inspires you to write?

A book’s genre means its category or type, the location you’d find it in a bookshop or library. Simply put, what can a reader expect from a book? Is it a Comedy that will make them laugh, is it a tense Psychological Thriller that they can’t put down? Is it Science Fiction, a Romance, a Cosy Crime novel or a YA novel (Young Adults)?

There are myriad genres and sub-genres and many novels straddle two or more. But knowing which genre you want to write in makes a lot of sense when you begin, particularly as each genre comes with a set of reader expectations, which provides a burgeoning novelist with some invaluable signposts and tips.

Let’s take the Cosy Crime genre as an example. Unlike Crime, the Cosy sub-genre does away with a gruesome description of a murder. One certainly takes place but there won’t be a detailed scene depicting how exactly the victim was killed. Someone will find a body and possibly a murder weapon but the genre treads very lightly around the actual murder, focusing instead on finding the culprit and looking at why they did it. This popular genre almost always features amateur detectives, a pretty village or market town where everyone knows everyone else, and a sprinkling of humour.

UpLit (Uplifting Literature) is one of my favourite genres. Books in this genre have a happy, uplifting ending, one where the hero gets their much-deserved reward after a series of emotionally fraught and often funny scenes. This genre normally features a misfit, someone socially awkward, different, or looked down on in some way, who embarks on an emotional journey that sees them come into their own and connect with others.

There are expectations just likes these for each genre and you might be surprised which one you find yourself drawn to. It isn’t always about writing what you love reading, although that’s a good place to start. I love Cosy Crime, I love Literary Fiction, but so far, they’re not what I’m drawn to when I write.

Whatever genre you choose, it doesn’t mean you can’t switch things up with your next book. It also doesn’t mean you have to conform to each and every expectation of that genre because readers do like surprises. But, knowing what readers consider essential and desirable in a Psychological Thriller or a Romantic Comedy, for example, gives you a substantial head start.

When students first start writing with me, unless they have a very firm idea about the genre they want to write in, I suggest giving everything a go. Often, students surprise themselves and discover that a genre they’d never considered writing in, is actually the perfect fit for them.

The best way to find out is to write a few pages or even a short story in one particular genre and see if it inspires you to keep writing. I’d suggest also that you follow your heart. Which genre makes you happy when you sit down to write? Which types of characters do you want to spend time with? You might have your mind set on a Thriller but realise you love writing comic characters. You might discover that the memoir you wanted to write works so much better as a children’s novel? What if the character you’ve been carrying around for years and shoehorning into a Science Fiction novel that never quite comes together, is much better suited to an UpLit story?

In short, experiment with genres. Try them on for size. Consider the expectations that come with each. Have you got a funny enough character for your Comedy? Have you got enough ‘will they, won’t they?’ plot points for the Romance you’d like to write? Does your setting work for your Domestic Thriller or would that country cottage by the sea be more fitting for a Cosy Crime novel?

How did you decide on your genre?

-- Deana Luchia


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