Identify the genre of your novel
So you want to write a novel? Great! But what kind of novel? This question is the first thing you should ask yourself after saying, “I want to write a book.” This initial decision will define your next 6-18 months, your possible fan base, and your future as a writer.
Story comes first
Firstly, consider your story. What story are you trying to tell, at the very core of the novel, and to whom? It could be about discovering oneself, a story of good over evil, or a comment on our times. Whatever it is, the story is responsible for moving your reader forward, keeping them hooked, and ultimately, for making them feel something about themselves. That’s the secret behind every bestseller – the ability to create emotion in a reader. That’s why you spend time making sure your story is as compelling as possible.
Drilling down to the essence of your ideas helps a writer understand their story on a deeper level, and how best to tell it. From there, you can assess how to wrap it up and present it. This is where genre comes in.
Choosing your genre is much more than deciding which section of the bookshop you want to be in. It’s the color and taste of your story, its style, and themes. Your genre also defines your future audience and career as a writer, in regards to who will be reading your novel and who you can market to.
Most writers will have an inkling of which genre they want to write in. However, if you don’t, or you’re open to suggestion, the great news is that you can choose whichever genre you like!
You just have to think about three things:
- Which genre would allow you to tell your story at its best? For example, would advanced technology help you tell your story? Maybe think about sci-fi. Are peril and viscera more your thing? Go for horror, or dark fantasy.
- In which genre do you feel confident writing? Most genres have certain stylistic markers, for example – present tense and first person are common themes in YA. I always recommend going for a genre that you like to read, as you’ll know it well and be passionate about it.
- Do you wish to be commercial or just write for fun? While you can choose any genre you want, some will be more popular, and more lucrative, than others. If you intend to write a bestseller, you can’t afford to go incredibly niche with your genre. If you're writing for enjoyment, then you can do as you please!
After you’ve chosen your genre, it’s time to decide who you’ll be writing about.
- Word count standards by genre (blog)
- A Century of Fantasy: How the Genre's Changed Since the 1920s (blog)
- "Add your spirits of choice and stir": Writing across different genres (blog)