Genre, genre, what’s my genre?

You think that when the writing is over the fun begins? I don’t think so! There’s so much more to do. And figuring out your genre is top of the list.

One of the first assignments I found myself steeped in was determining what genre my novel fell into. What category of writing was it? General Ficiton? Women’s fiction? Chick lit? Hen Lit. Urban fiction? Commercial fiction? Literary fiction?

How do I know???

Who would have imagined that at this age, I’d still be finding myself in situations where my status had to be defined. Class status starts when we’re young. Do we get to be in the class with the smart kids or the dummies? High school it gets even worse – cool crowd or nerds? Popular kids or the losers? College? Career? Aren’t we always defining ourselves according to what others may think of ourselves?

No matter how confident we may seem, there are insecurities lurking below the surface. I assume we all have them. And when we write, we let go of our inner thoughts – or at least we let go of our characters and put them out there for the world to meet. Of course we’re going to be judged – expected. We’ve written a story, we’ve publicized it and we have to deal with the after-effects. But before you can even jump to the judgment part, you have to determine the genre you belong to. Oy. Out pop those old high school insecurities all over again!

Is my book (Menopause in Manhattan) chick lit? That would be light-hearted stuff appealing mostly to women – nothing too heavy or serious enough to make you remember it once you close the book. But my book deals with a woman who’s hitting fifty – and I’ve been told that puts it in the hen lit category. Ouch! So what – like only older women are going to like it? Have I written a novel that will appeal only to senior citizens?

But guys like it. And young people like it. So maybe I need to remove it from the female genre all together?

I thought perhaps it belonged to the urban literature genre – makes sense since my story takes places mostly in Manhattan. Well hardy har har – urban lit refers to the tough stuff – inner city, profanity, sex and violence. That sure as hell ain’t what my story is about.

The decision I finally had to make was simpler – commercial fiction or literary. I think I was asked to assign a category for the Amazon site. Simple enough.

So why did I feel like once again I was being judged? Once again I wouldn’t make it into the cool girl’s sorority? I’d have to settle for second best?

Literary fiction sounded good – Pulitzer worthy. Commercial fiction sounded well, commercial – like Readers Digest maybe would do a quick synopsis of my story. I went to my editor – she knows everything – and she told me. And I did not like her answer!

Yup – Menopause in Manhattan was indeed commercial fiction. Oh the pain of it! My book was good enough to sell – but not of intellectual quality. I meekly expressed my disappointment to her. She laughed.

“But you don’t want to be literary fiction. Commercial fiction is so much better!”

Oh yeah, sure. Tell me another story.

She laughed again. “Look, literary fiction is something like Salmon Rushdie writes a new book. Its considered solid literary fiction. But no one wants to read it, its boring, or heavy anyway. Maybe it will sell because its Salman Rushdie, but will people love it? NO!

Now take commercial fiction. That sells and people love reading it. And it doesn’t matter if its defined as chick lit, or hen lit or beach lit or summer reading or whatever you want to name it. It makes people think or smile or cry. It touches people.

And that’s a good thing!

So Menopause in Manhattan – you get to be commercial fiction. Now get out there and sell thyself!

6 comments on “Genre, genre, what’s my genre?”

  1. silverandsage Reply

    I know exactly what you mean! Any attempt we may to define our work seems rather egoistic to me. But on the other hand, who else will?

  2. M. Howalt Reply

    Hi,
    This was very interesting reading. I find it hard to find just one suitable genre to describe anything I do. Literary fiction gets closest to one of my current projects, but I’m a little hesitant to label it as such. The other is “a historical, supernatural novel of development” is there is any such thing.

  3. Deidre Reply

    Your book sounds interesting, as does your blog. I hope you’re working on a series with the same characters to help with missing them! You’ll definitely know what genre applies.–Deidre

    • silverandsage Reply

      Thanks Deidre – must promote, promote, promote now, but am thinking about what to do next – I’d love to meet all my characters again.

  4. silverandsage Reply

    Hi Jimmy, Great to hear from you! And as we say in these parts Mazal Tov (congratulations) on your 16 year old’s performance at Carnegie Hall. That’s huge!!! New York is really special – isn’t it? So glad you got to visit. I hope to be there in May for the Book Expo. All the best to you – happy reading! Anne

  5. James Garcia Jr Reply

    Hello, Anne. How are you doing now that the book is out? I think the last time we chatted you were still busy formatting. Anyway, congrats. I get few opportunities to read, but I definitely plan to fly over to Amazon soon and check out the book. If nothing else, I’ll probably buy a copy and have it on my Kindle for whenever I get that opportunity. I’m serious about that. If nothing else, I like to support my pals, if I can…
    We live in a very small Central California town, but just had the privelege of visiting New York City. My 16 year old’s high school Wind Ensemble got to play Carnegie Hall. The entire 5 days was the most amazing thing ever! I can’t wait to go back. Unfortunately, every television show or film that we watch now that was filmed in NYC, my wife and I find ourselves so distracted from the plot because we are busy checking out the views to see whether or not we were there!! Isn’t that funny?
    I look forward to doing the same thing with your novel…but hopefully won’t be distracted from the plot. Lol!
    Take care and much success to you, my friend.

    -Jimmy

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