Why Is Genre Important?

Classification – Tool for Every Stage – Judging Merit – Freebie

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Hello Lovelies, and welcome to the third introductory talk on genre. In our first week, we talked about what genre is. Last week, we spent some time defining something a little more controversial, or what is not considered a genre. As our last introductory post before we jump into the first genre category, I want to touch upon three reasons why learning about genre is so important for everyone wanting to write, no matter what stage of the writing process you are in.

Genre Helps Classify What We’ve Written

The most obvious reason for needing genre is to help writers, publishers, booksellers, and readers to classify what we’ve written. 

If you’re writing a murder mystery, there’s going to be a dead body found at the crime the scene within the first few chapters. If you’re writing a romance and there’s a dead body on the first page, it’s going to be a much harder sell. 

Genre gives us tropes and conventions that we can expect and not expect to see in each type of book. This allows readers and writers to niche down what they want to read or write. Each genre also has a sort of structure that, while not set in stone, lends to the pacing and style of work being written. For instance, it is very common for a travelog to be written in first person.

If we can accept that these tropes, conventions, and structures exist, we can learn them well and apply them in new and interesting ways that readers will love.

Genre is a Tool for Every Stage of the Process

Genre is not just a tool for publishers. Genre can be a tool used at every stage of the writing and publishing process.

Not everyone is a plotter, and not everyone flies by the seat of their pants. Whether you outline as your first thought process, or you write first, you can use genre while thinking through your first (and subsequent) attempts. 

I didn’t become a writer because I wanted money or fame. I read a lot of books. My current To-Read list on StoryGraph is 718 books long, and even reading over 120 books per year on average, I will never finish it. But you don’t have to read insane amounts of books each year to have an intuitive sense for story structure. You know when something’s not working, when you aren’t hitting your mark, when you haven’t built something up enough to be emotionally powerful. And it’s your love of reading in that genre that gave that sense to you.

We talk about genre in the back end a lot, and that is undoubtedly where the discussion on genre matters most. The genre you classify your book as matters. It matters during cover design that your book has two fully clothed cartoon teens on it rather than a half clothed man and a woman in a corset gown. Are they both romances? Possibly, but it matters that one is a New Adult and one is classified for full Adults. Your genre matters to your rankings at retailers. It matters when you are put on shelves next to other books of the same category. It matters in your reader’s decision-making process whether they think your book is or isn’t for them.

Genre does matter to the back end, and it is discussed at length as if the end goal–this shelf at the bookstore–is the only reason genre matters and has any worth. But I want to highlight here that genre is a tool for writers just as much, if not more, than it is a tool for the marketing team.

Genre Allows Us to Judge the Merit of Our Work

Having a genre classification is extremely important because it allows us to be able to judge the merit of the work that we’ve created. This is, in my opinion, the most important aspect of knowing genre.

Knowing genre gives us the words and the structure necessary to deem what is and what isn’t appropriate for every type of literature. We’ve already talked about how there isn’t one right way to categorize a book, and how genre is fluid and subjective. Putting those considerations aside however, High Fantasy is different from Science Fiction, even if there is no hard and fast thing that makes something science in one realm and magic in another, other than the author saying it is so.

Knowing genre allows us the ability to compare and contrast works in the same genre and review them. I can take, for instance, my own book, Utopian Melody, and say that it is a little bit Unearthly and a little bit Good Omens and it might give you a good idea of what my book is about. We can say that Harry Potter and Star Wars are basically the same in that a young male orphan who lives with his aunt and uncle is met by a bearded stranger who teaches him about “magic”. He will learn more about “magic” from an older, wiser “magician”, but he leaves home and makes friends with a girl and a guy, and eventually he figures out he’s the chosen one and must save the world from the big bad. If that’s not the Hero’s Journey in a nutshell, I don’t know what is.

The thing I like most about genre is that knowing genre allows us to read in our niche, or read widely, and to be able to suggest similar novels to our friends. When my friend says she’s already read all of Sarah J. Maas and Cassandra Clare because she likes to read love triangle books, and wants to find another paranormal slow burn romance, and basically make it young adult, I’m going to introduce her to the Sweep series by Cate Tiernan. If my guy friend loved Ender’s Game, but couldn’t get into any of the others, tried the first Dune book but it was too slow and couldn’t get into it, and hasn’t really read any sci-fi since, I’m going to recommend the Red Rising saga by Pierce Brown. I can recommend books that my friends will be obsessed with because I’ve read them and been obsessed with them, and because I’m familiar with the genre enough to know what they are saying when they say they like one book and not another.

Freebie

As a reminder, I have a freebie for you that will help you through the entire year. I have been talking about this for several posts, and though I will likely offer this at limited times throughout this year, this is the last time I’m going to be reminding you about the PDF I made for you for a while. This year is going to be a fun ride, and I hope you will come along for the journey. So if you want your very own PDF to follow along, you can grab those pages totally for free by clicking the link below!

THE FIVE PILLARS OF GENRE

Discussion Questions

  1. What categories do you think make up the five pillars of genre?
  2. What genre is your favorite to read in, and do you write in the same genre or a different one?
  3. How many genres and subgenres can you name?
  4. What is the most important reason writers should be aware of genre and its conventions?
  5. What questions would you like to see me answer in a blog post or podcast episode?

Leave your answers in the comments section for this post!

Click this link to hear this blog post as a podcast with your favorite podcasting app!

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