Thursday, June 14, 2012

Genre, and more about comparison

Do you always write in the same genre?

Do you usually read the same genre, or are you the type of person where, as long as there are words, you're going to read them?

One further thought I had on my post from yesterday is how comparison to other writers can also help find your way in what you want to write.

I admit, I'm still on the search to figure out what genre I write it. Sure, the stuff posted/mentioned on this blog all tends to fall into the YA (and one MG) category, but what I used to write was for adults, not teens. But let's lay that aside for the moment.

So far, (in chronological order) I've got:

1) one YA fantasy (the one currently on near-permanent hold) with actual magic/etc

2) something... best described as a YA non-fantasy fantasy (seriously, what the heck IS 'Simon's Oath'??) where it takes place in a fantastical/not-our-world-based city with no magic whatsoever, but it has a historical/dystopian feel

3) a MG magical realism

4) a YA contemporary murder/mystery-ish

5) a full-out YA fairytale (with actual romantic elements!)

I think (and only my long-suffering CP's/writing group could confirm for sure) that all my stories, no matter what they're about, all have a similar flavour, a distinct voice which makes them *mine*, but I really feel like an amateur when someone asks, 'what do you write?', and I can't confidently whip off a single genre.

I don't write dystopian. I don't write mysteries. I don't write contemporary. I don't write fantasy. I don't write fairytales. I don't write romance.

I kind of write a little of everything*.

My reading habits are incredibly eclectic as well. And that might be part of the problem.

Normally, when you find an author you like, and you buy up their new books, it's because that author sticks to a style and type of story that you enjoy, so you expect their next book to be similar.

Sometimes (when I'm feeling negative) I think flailing around in different genres is simply a mark that I can't settle on anything. I've mentioned before that I always want to try new things, that I get bored doing the same thing and always throw myself into things I know nothing about with a kind of masochistic do-or-die attitude.

But other times, I think all this flailing around might be a good thing. If I only read/wrote in the same genre, I'd never get the chance to find out if I'm good at telling other kinds of stories. Or if I'd even like to tell other kinds of stories.

I think it's important to challenge yourself in different areas, not only the ones you feel comfortable in.

After all, you never know if you can succeed unless you try.

If I had stuck with the same thing, I'd still be writing incredibly disturbing short stories where someone almost always dies, and usually not in a pretty way**. So, jumping from that into YA was a huge flailing leap in and of itself.

I told someone recently that whenever I start a new story, it's always something that I think I'm not good at. And it's true. I've even joked about it on this blog before a couple of times.

Reading and writing widely certainly gives you a broader scope for comparison, but the question is, is it better to have a narrower range for more accurate comparison?

In this past year, I've been reading a lot of YA. So far, 68 books on my Kindle and a few paperbacks. This has certainly narrowed my book-purchasing-scope, but I've been doing it on purpose so (hopefully) I can compare an apple with another apple, instead of comparing that apple to an orange or a banana.

In all those books, I found one (that's right, only one) which is even remotely comparable to 'Simon's Oath' (which is still out with a few agents from my initial query batch of ten that I sent out in November). 

And I only read this single, comparable book two weeks ago, so obviously it wasn't mentioned in my query. 68 books, shouldn't it have been more likely to find more than one book that is similar?***

Quirky, hard-to-categorize books are certainly out there... but the odds of an agent taking a chance on one of them is pretty slim.

Which makes me ask myself if I'm looking at the right comparisons or if I'm totally off the mark? Sure, I may say I'm writing YA, but if they're nothing like the YA on the market... then either it's awesome that I've found a gap to fill, or I'm completely delusional.****

So what are your thoughts? 

Is this kind of attitude setting me up for writing-suicide/failure? Or do you see a certain merit in all this flailing around?

At this point, I have no idea :)

* Well, I'm working on it ;) I know there's a ton of genres I haven't even scratched. Though I think it's safe to say I'll skip erotica and super-gory-horror.

**You may have already gotten a hint if you've read the couple pieces of short fiction posted for various blog-fests.

*** Okay, I could probably squeeze out a half-comparison to two others... but still...

**** Anyone want to lay some odds? I'm not sure about the spread, but some days I'm definitely leaning towards 'delusional'


  1. that's a tough one. I tend to write more YA fantasy, paranormal stuff, but I'm always confused as to whether my story is YA urban fantasy or YA paranormal romance. And I can never compare the story to anything else out there.

    1. Well, that sounds encouraging if you can't compare it :)

      ...makes me deadly curious ;)

  2. I would read ALL of your books!! They sound great. You know, I used to want to be able to write every genre and write it well. A little over-ambitious... nowadays I stick firmly to YA and although my first love has always been fantasy, I'm trying my hand at the paranormal/mystery stuff (no vampires though, just a ghost) and we'll see what happens there!

    1. ...heh, you might want to hold back on that statement...

      Ohhh! Ghosts! I can't think of the last time I read a great story about ghosts...

      Is that what you're working on while PPP is out being queried?

  3. I try not to say, too often, the genre I write. I tend to say YA fantasy/sci-fi if someone asks because that giant umbrella encompasses all the different subgenres of dystopian, post-apocalyptic, urban fantasy, high fantasy, hard sci-fi, paranormal and so forth.

    As to whether or not your are delusional? probably want lots of people to read your a lot of perhaps that makes us all a bit delusional?

    1. Ah, that's a pretty clever way to do it...

      So, we're all delusional, at least once in a while?

      Well, I suppose I'm in good company then ;)


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