So You’re Writing a Novel

Common Question:  You’re writing a novel?  What genre is it?

Common Answer:  Well, it’s hard to say because there is so much in it.  Maybe a mystery romance, but with lots of suspense.  Oh, and horror, too.  Something for everyone.

Most helpful Response: Uh, no.  Each genre marches to its own rules.  Which means that to be successful, you need to first know the rules.  (I know, I know, you can point out published books that stomp all over the rules and are still successful.  That’s a risky route for a new writer.  Save that until you have a good sales track record, and proof that you know the rules from which you are stomping away.)

It is important to be able to pinpoint the genre of your novel, and to know why it fits there.  To help you, here are the most common genres:

  • Suspense.  These are stories of extraordinary situations, tales with thrilling action. They can be set in the past, present, or future as long as characters are forced out of their everyday lives and into a situation of danger. In the end, the hero wins.
  • Fantasy. Just as the name implies, these are tales outside “real” experience.  The setting may be in an imaginary realm (Lord of the Rings middle earth, for instance) or right here at home (Twilight) or a combination of both (Harry Potter). Characters may or may not be human, and often have other-worldly attributes and abilities.  Good usually overcomes evil—but not necessarily in the way readers expect.
  • Romance.  Whether placed in the past or present, these are stories of a man and a woman who find happiness together.  The intensity varies from safe and chaste to explosive.
  • Horror. Pretty much self-explanatory.  The story provokes… well… horror. Evil is at work, and sometimes it wins.
  • Mystery.  Whether a murder or some other mysterious happening, these stories present readers with a puzzle they can try to solve along with the main character.  Give clues, but don’t make the plot too easy to figure out.  Best if readers do figure it out, but not too completely, and not too far before the main character. The solution will come through point-by-point deduction. The protagonist almost always figures out the mystery. 
  • Science Fiction.  This is a huge and diverse genre, often futuristic.  It can take place on earth or anywhere else. The temptation here is to write something similar to a story you already know.  Don’t.  Dig for a unique plot, yet one that rings a scientific note of plausibility.

Decide on your genre?  Great!  Give it a unique twist, and let your creative juices flow.  Now you are ready to write!

“Everyone who works in the domain of fiction is a bit crazy.  The problem is to render this craziness interesting.”

Francois Truffaut


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