Writing Technique: Know Your Genre

(These are my notes and thoughts in relation to the second part of WritingExcuses podcast Season 1, episode 2 (first part) and content from Fiona McIntosh’s How to Write Your Blockbuster. I will also disseminate this information to the topical sections of my resource section).

Tips by the experts:

Decide who you are writing for and how you are going to market it. This is informed by the question we must ask ourselves first “Why are we writing?” Are we writing as a hobby or a cathartic release, to document a family history or are we writing in the hope of being the next Stephen King? Are we interested in selling popular novels or do we want to add a significant contribution to literature?

Who you are writing for is probably a project-by-project question, unless you tend to stick like glue to your favourite genre. Escape from Hell was obviously written to express my beliefs. Vengeance Will Come was conceived out of inspiration from other stories; but without a firm idea of who I was writing for.

I’d like to think that in future projects I might consider the question of audience more before I begin. It is a discipline and a process that I didn’t think about until recently.

Read extensively in your genre. Know what is currently being written by the leading authors of the genre, and what is selling well.

At the moment I don’t know my genre. I am more at the experimental stage where I want to try a plethora of genres in order to see what I like, and as a challenge for myself.

Fiona McIntosh says,

Give your audience your full respect by reading their favourite works. Analyse them, work out how the writer’s structure their tales, learn about pacing and dialogue, plots and popular themes.

This raises another question: how to find the time to write and “read extensively”. The WritingExcuses guys say that they don’t find much time for reading these days… and yet I remember also reading an article that said Stephen King used to read 70 novels a year! I think what that means is that you need to be very targeted with your reading. When you can’t be writing; read. The Stephen King article talked about him reading a book while waiting in a grocery line: every minute counts. I consider it to mean:

  • be selective: read the top authors in the genre (not random authors)
  • be intentional: learn from the books you read (don’t just enjoy the story)
  • maximise effective reading: abort bad books quickly (instead of I-must-complete-what-I-start)

Write to be ahead of the curve. Follow what is happening in the market and learn to anticipate what will happen. If you’re writing with the intention of selling, don’t write what is big now because you’ll probably miss the trend. Understand the stereotypes involved with the genre and play with them.Try to be at the front of the writing pack, not tailing along behind.