Deciding what genre you write should not be this difficult!!!!

Finding the Correct Genre For Your ProseOkay, admit it, we’ve all been there. You get an idea; invest time, tears, aggravation, and determination to write it all down. Then you struggle with letting it go long enough for a friend or relative to read it. You gird yourself emotionally (or at least you try to) while you listen to their feedback, then cry when in private. Despite however many edits it takes to tell your tale, one of the first questions asked by your reader is, “What genre do you write?”

You would think it would be easy to say, (fill in the blank), but not these days. Genres no longer carry the simple tags of Romance, Mystery, Suspense, Drama, and Sci-Fi. There are sub-genres to these popular book categories that muddy the waters when it comes to deciding exactly where your manuscript fits in. Not to mention, new categories seem to pop up every day. Ever heard of Science Fiction/Alternative History? Me neither, but it is out there!

So, how do you find out if your manuscript fits into one, or more, of these sub-genres?

Well let’s start with defining what a fiction genre is. Visit this link, Exploring Different Types of Genre, which is found on the For Dummies website.

To summarize, here are the two main types of literal and commercial fiction:

Commercial fiction: Attracts a broad audience and may also fall into any sub-genre such as mystery, romance, legal thriller, western, science fiction, and more. (Example: The Bridges of Madison County by Robert James Waller. Popular authors in this genre include John Grisham, Sidney Sheldon, Danielle Steele, and Jackie Collins.)

Literary fiction: Appeals to a smaller, more intellectual audience. Works in this genre can fall into the above listed genres. The difference is the qualities it contains: excellent writing, originality of thought and style. These qualities raise it above the level of ordinary written works. (Examples: Cold Mountain by Frazier. Popular authors in this genre include Toni Morrison, Barbara Kingsover, John LeCarre, and Saul Bellow. )

The article goes on to describe the main genres, as well as list the sub-genres and its most popular authors. Visiting this link provides valuable information to help you discover where you fit in, as well as where to best promote your work when it’s published.  The site also provides links to the Writers of America website for each genre for more detailed descriptions and the accepted rules.

For those of you on a time crunch who don’t have time to read the full article, but want to find our more information about your genre, here are the links:

Mystery Writers of America        Romance Writers of America

Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America      Western Writers of America

So, where does my writing fit in? While I writer Romance, because I ‘break the rules’, the stories I tell fall into several categories.

The settings are modern day which puts me in Contemporary Romance.

Though I write from the female and male point of view, the stores are mostly about women’s issues and the ability to overcome, which places me in Women’s Fiction.

My characters are not all from one race. The heroines in the first three novels of The Butterfly Memoirs are an African-American, Caucasian-African-American, and Caucasian. The heroes are Caucasian, African-American, and Hispanic. This puts me in the Interracial Romance category. Unfortunately, this is a relatively new category that is just now being acknowledged by the publishing industry. (Here’s a great blog post written by a fellow author on this topic: Interracial Romance: The Most Popular Genre No One’s Heard About.)

And last but not least, because I am an African-American author, anything I write, regardless of the topics, writing style, or genre, I am automatically placed in the African-American genre before anything else is considered.

So, where does YOUR story fit? Good luck with figuring it out!

MJ

The Value of Critique Partners and Beta Readers

“Friend’s don’t let friends write crap.”

If you are a new author and are not a part of a critique group..find one immediately!!!!!

But don’t just join any group. Your critique group needs to consist of several key ingredients to make it work:

  • Everyone must write in the same genre.  Okay, this statement is more my personal opinion than fact, but it has also worked best for me. As we all know, each genre has sub categories, so as long as you find a group that focuses on the main part of the genre, you’re good.
  • Your personalities must be able to mesh together. If you aren’t comfortable with your partners, or can’t joke around with them when you’re not talking about writing and connect on another level…they may not be the group for you.
  • Develop a thick skin! The focus of a critique group is to have someone review your writing and offer honest feedback about your storyline, writing techniques and technical errors. No one is out to dog you or bring you down. Everyone’s goal is to lift up and make your writing better. You have to be willing to not only accept this, but to offer it as well.
  • Make time to assist your critique group members with their work as much as possible. One of the major rules of being a part of a group is to review work of others just like you want them to review yours. You can’t be a member and not participate. All writers have lives – be it at home as a homemaker, or a nine-to-five – our main focus is to complete our MS. As a group member, we all make time to critique other member’s work. Does this mean you have to meet a critique minimum, like one a day? Lord, I hope not, but different groups have different requirements. Make sure you review them and see if it will fit into your schedule. 
  • HAVE FUN!!!!! Writing should be a learning experience, a way to release your creativity and let ideas flow. If writing suddenly becomes a chore and is no longer fun… step away, take a break and see if you still have the urge to write. If not, then maybe being a reader and not an author is for you.

So, bet you’re wondering what brought this blog on, huh?

I’m working on the second round of edits for my first book, A Heart Not Easily Broken. The first round involved me having a beta reader- my cousin- take time out of her busy schedule to read my rough, typed up, completely unedited version of my story and give me honest feedback. That went really well. With no major issues or comment from her end, I proceeded to start my own round of edits.  During this process, I submitted my versions of the edited chapters to my critique partners for their feedback. Since this was being done chapter by chapter, I received feedback as I edited chapters further into the story. I reviewed their notes, answered questions and filed what they said away to come back to at another date. If they pointed out an issue with a character or plot point, I made note and picked up the correction in the later chapters I worked on. Last week I completed my first round of edits. Twenty-one chapters and an epilogue. Now I’m on to the second round.

Round two consists of pulling together all the critiques from each chapter and lining them up side-by-side on my computer screen, reading their comments, and deciding what and if it’s something I agree with and typing up a new page. Of course all technical errors are corrected, and sometimes the comments make me laugh, such as, “body parts doing something on their own is impossible”, or my personal favorite, “breast has an ‘s’ because there’re two of them!” LOL! Once that is completed, I review, check for repeated phrase/words and whittle down as many passive words as I can so my editor can do a happy dance that her work won’t be too difficult, and voila! I’m off to the next chapter!

The technique used to write this book is different from what I’ve done in the past. I’ve made it my goal to blog about every step I take so others who are like me, a new author who is unpublished but determined to make it, can see what I’ve learned along the way. Has everything been easy?…Uh, NO! But I’ve learned a lot. It has officially been two years of writing for me and man, oh man, have I come a long way! I hope you will refer to my past post and find something that can help or encourage you as you make your own journey.

Besides having my desire to see this project through to publication, I owe a lot to my critique partners, The Critter Yard, who are some of the most talented and hardworking women I know. All are published authors, some you may have heard of. They are, Chicki Brown, Ednah Walters, Erin Kern, and Zee Monodee, and up and coming author, Jessica J. Clarke. All of these wonderful ladies have seen success in their writing dreams, and have lovingly accepted me with open arms as a novice writer. I will admit, I was nervous when I first submitted my work – one year ago. I was so confident in my story and my knowledge as a new writer I knew I was on my way. My goal of having my work published by the end of the year was destined to happen… Ladies, I know you’re laughing your butts off right now. So am I, but honestly, that’s what I thought!

And then, I started receiving their critiques…

And I realized, I showed promise, but wasn’t there just yet.

Questions like, “What genre is this exactly?” made me pause. “Romance,” I said, then was nicely advised that there are many sub-genre’s within the genre. Yep, I still had a lot to learn. But thankfully, the women weren’t harsh in their comments. They offered me tips and advice, even when they had to repeat themselves because I didn’t get it the first time. When I felt like I had to step away and take a break from writing, they understood. And when I finally felt strong enough to submit my newest project for their honest feedback, they were just as excited as I am to see the obvious growth in my writing.

So to my partners I say: THANK YOU FOR YOUR SUPPORT IN HELPING ME BECOME A BETTER WRITER!

And you can never forget Beta Readers!

You know, the ones you scope out and wonder if they will take the time and read your work and give not technical feedback like critique partners, but actual story line feedback?

“Does this make sense? Does my storyline interest you? Would you consider buying this book if you read the cover?”

Family and close friends don’t always make the best beta readers unless you know without a doubt they will give honest feedback. Mine have, thank God. My number one beta reader is the ONLY reason why I’ve continued to go forth with this story! In the past, she’s read my work and had no problem telling me she does not like the story line and why. Each time, her feedback made sense. I took what she – and believe it or not, my husband’s too – had to say and worked diligently to make the characters three-dimensional and realistic as possible.  I slaved away for months, refusing to share  details with her unless I needed to use her as a sounding board for my ideas. When I finished, I asked her to read it. After several hours, she promptly stomped her way downstairs and demanded I finish typing up the rest of the story – it was all written by hand – so she could finish reading it ASAP! When she finished, I drilled her for fifteen-minutes, just waiting on her to say something needed to change or at least have a question about why so-and-so did this. She had none and gave me the green light to move on.

Why was that so important? Because she does not, and I mean, DOES NOT read romance! Having her give me a thumbs-up let me know that I should be able to capture anyone’s attention with this story, romance reader or not.  So, if you are blessed to have someone like her in your life, take advantage of that resource!

To my wonderful Beta reader I say: I COULDN’T HAVE WRITTEN A GREAT STORY WITHOUT YOU!

The following are links that have been suggested to me for those who are unable to locate a critique group in your area or are in need of honest feedback. I haven’t checked them out yet, but feel free to do so:

Time to jump back in to my editing! Until later, Write On!

MJ

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