Friday, June 15, 2012

Genre Fiction: Is this the way to success?

I have to be honest. I've been toying off and on for years with trying to find a genre that I like enough to want to write for it. I started a P.I. type novel that I grew bored with after a few chapters. I've wondered if Westerns would be something I'd like. No. I like Western movies, but not books. The Thriller is big today. The novel of suspense, I think. Some of these are so closely related and overlap that they could fall into more than one genre. But, whatever the genre--vampires, paranormal, sci-fi/dystopian--that's what sells today (that makes the NY Times bestseller list). Sure you have the occasional The Help. But they are really far and few between.

So, I ask myself over and over again: am I missing the boat? The only thing I write that even hints of genre is Historical Fiction. And I don't consider myself a Historical Fiction writer. I just happened to write a contemporary novel back in the 1970s that, by its evolving offshoot stories, moved back in time to WWI, The Great Depression, and WWII. And because it was never published until I self-pubbed one of the offshoots (Only The Lonely) until 2011, my 'contemporary' novel by default became an Historical novel, I guess. I don't think I've seen a true Historical novel on the best-seller list in a very long time. It's almost all genre fiction.

So, again, I ask myself: am I missing the boat? I majored in English in college. I grew to love Shakespeare, Hawthorne, Melville, Hemingway, Joyce, Yeats, Keats, Shelley, Thomas, and so on. I love great writing. I just came to realize one day quite a few years ago that I'm not a great writer. If I were, I'm sure I would have been published a long time ago. So, I'm just an average Joe of a writer. So why can't I find a genre to write in? Why is it so difficult? It's enough to make me want to scream sometimes. I guess I'll just continue on with what I've been doing. My books will never show up on the best seller list, assuming I can get published by one of the big six anyway (and being that I don't write for one of the well-known genres, that's not likely to happen either).

Do I care? Obviously, I do care. I wouldn't be writing this and pouring out my heart and soul like this if I didn't. The problem is how to find happiness in an unhappy world. The happiness comes in doing what you love irregardless of the outcome. If you love a certain genre and write in it, then you have a better chance of reaching the heights. Otherwise, you just have to be happy being yourself. And that isn't so bad, is it?


Julia Hones said...

I enjoy reading your work. It's hard to read from my pc and that's where my kindle software is so I'm going very slowly. I know exactly what you mean. You are a literary writer and I share your thoughts. I've had those same thoughts, too. Believe me. I hope you will find your way. Finding the specific audience is challenging when we are more into the literary genre, but we can slip into mysteries, I suppose. They can still be literary... I would never write about vampires, for example. And I'd never read about them.

Jeff Hargett said...

For me, it's fantasy genre all the way--at least for novel-length writing. (My short stories can be *anything* though.) But my writing fantasy is me being happy being myself. It's not a "chosen market" for me; it's just what I like to write. I'm not sure how I would approach my writing otherwise, except story-by-story.

I suppose it comes down to which is most important--art or sales, and then wondering why we can't always have it both ways.

But I can tell you that the story "Battles" has stuck with me ever since I first read it. It's by no means by preferred genre, preferred length, etc., but your story is etched in my memory still. To me, that's the mark of a good writer/storyteller. Beautiful prose is wonderful, but it's the wonderful stories that we remember.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Richard .. I can feel your 'uncertainty' - but if you're enjoying your work .. just write - and try new genres if you wish .. so many authors rarely get picked up - and still true posthumously even .. writers get picked up well after they've gone ... there has to be that passion to keep writing regardless - and you have that .. enjoy, enjoy .. the process .. your children and family will enjoy your writings ... keep them ... have fun, relax and confidence .. cheers Hilary

Clarissa Draper said...

IMHO, write what you love. Unless your goal is to make lots of money and then maybe write a novel about vampires (but hurry, we don't know how long that phase will last).

I like your stories, just the way they are. I know for me, my stories probably won't make lots of money or even be popular until I'm dead but if someone out there reads the whole series and thinks it's fantastic, then it was worth it.

Tanya Reimer said...

I asked myself that a lot, about 15 years ago. Do I write for me or for others?

I came across my answer the hard way which is another story. Regardless, I do like to entertain, and by stepping outside of my "regular" genre which to me is mystery writing, I found new magic and I pushed myself, discovered limits, and I found I could bring the mystery quality to all my writings.

I find we can't escape who we are inside, and nor should we try. We should let our writing be true to us. If it's not our time? Make it ours. We are the writers, we decide how to entertain.

Talli Roland said...

I'm with everyone else here who says write what you love. Writing is hard enough - you don't need to complicate matters by trying to shoehorn yourself into something you don't really love.

Kamille Elahi said...

This is why I'm glad I'm in the UK. Genre trends aren't as they are in the US so chances of getting published with something that isn't the next big thing is higher.

As long as you're writing and you love it, I don't think anything else matter.

Nobody is a great writer btw. We're good editors.

Elise Fallson said...

Are humans truly capable of happiness?

I think if we write in a genre that gets us up in the morning and keeps us motivated than we'll be much more satisfied by the result when we're done. Unfortunately, there are many variables difficult to control. One of them is a marketing campaign. I was talking to another blogger about this just last week. There are a lot of mediocre books that generate plenty of attention and profit with aggressive marketing. What's sad is knowing so many good books go unnoticed simply because they lack expensive marketing campaigns.

Richard said...

I appreciate everyone's comments. You each seem to be of the same mind: write what you enjoy, genre or not.

I've gotten too focused on the end result, not the process. I need to enjoy the process and let the rest take care of itself, although a little marketing, after it's finished, would probably help.

David P. King said...

I find myself toying with genres, too. The point is finding what you love to write, with plenty of ideas like it to write up if one of them gets a deal. Still working on that part. :)

Juliana L. Brandt said...

Oh man, this is such a tough question. It's hard to write something you aren't completely inspired to write, and if that isn't genre do you make yourself write it? I'm not sure you can and be happy with it.

I say, write what makes you happy. That's the most important thing.

Emily R. King said...

I don't think you have to choose just one genre, Richard. Dabble in a few until you find your niche. I swore up and down I'd never write YA, but YA fits my narrative voice very well. Who knows? Maybe you have a paranormal romance in you. LOL! But if you know genre fiction isn't your thing, there's still an audience for you. That's the great thing about books and writing, your options are endless.