A Rant About Genre.

Genre. Something of a dirty word in some literary circles who don’t believe they write in one (sorry people, literary fiction is also a genre) and something the publishing industry believes in passionately. Writers used to be pigeon-holed into one genre pretty quickly by publishers and it took a lot to even be allowed to try publishing anything in another, to be honest this still seems to be the case with most major publishing houses. However, independent authors are now changing this.
The biggest problem I always had with genre was working out which one many of my favourite books fit into. Was The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy a work of Science-Fiction or Comedy, was there a Science-Fiction-Comedy genre? Are the works of Bernard Cornwell filed under Historical Fiction, Military Fiction or Action & Adventure or some mish-mash of all of them? What about the Dragonlance novels of that marvellous combination Weis and Hickman – are they Fantasy, RPG Based Fiction or just Damned Good Fiction? Was Cold Comfort Farm to be filed under Comedies Of Manners, Literary Fiction, Comedy or just Pure Genius?
Outside of the big publishing companies people have already started using multi-genre descriptions for their works – Zombie-Comedy, Historical-Romantic-Comedy and so on. This leads me to the question of whether anyone can be pigeon-holed to being a single genre writer anymore? I don’t think they can and I think that is a very good thing. So far I have published a Crime story and two Thrillers, although they would perhaps be better described using multi-genre titles like Modern-Noir-Crime, Archaeological-Political-Espionage-Thriller and Archaeological-Technology-Espionage-Thriller – even if all of those are needlessly confusing! So, should I now restrict myself to the ‘Mystery & Thriller’ category I see listed everywhere? Each of my works so far published would fit comfortably under that umbrella and publishers seem to be under the impression that it is a huge risk to change from one genre to another.
I think you can probably guess that, no, I won’t be restricting myself to one genre, even if it has a fairly wide remit – after all surely almost every story has some sort of mystery within it and thrills of one sort or another? The truth is that I have about a million ideas for stories (shut up, whoever groaned when I said that) and there are more crimes and thrillers in there but they are alongside Science-Fiction, Fantasy, Comedy and others whether they be single genre descriptions or multi-genre descriptions. One of the main points of self-publishing is freedom so why restrict yourself to one genre? I don’t know anyone who one reads one genre, watches one genre of movies or TV shows – so why would anyone write in just one.
If you are writing just to make money, sure, find a genre you think will make the most money and plug away at it. But only do it if you are in it purely for the money. I genuinely believe you will not be successful without at least a modicum of passion for what you do but go ahead anyway. However, if you write because you are at heart a writer, because you cannot not write, then write whatever you like and flit from genre to genre as you wish. The age of writers being restricted to one type of book by the world of publishing is over, don’t restrict your own creativity.


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