Crossing genres, or what’s the story?

30 thoughts on “Crossing genres, or what’s the story?”

  1. You’ve made some very valid points, Alison. Moulds are being broken more and more so it’s imperative the reader knows what to expect when buying. This is where good blurb can be so valuable and important.

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  2. It is very interesting to read your thoughts on genre. Attitudes have really loosened up since authors have felt more empowered to write what they want to write. I wrote a couple of blog posts on genre way, way back … ooh in Nov 2009 when we were young and life was gay! http://miriamwakerly.blogspot.co.uk/2009/11/question-of-genre-is-it-vexed.html Another post followed on: http://miriamwakerly.blogspot.co.uk/2009/11/still-bugged-by-genres.html I can now perfectly understand publishers’ commercial need for clarity but … but …

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  3. Well I pictured the scenes from the book as you described them, so… I’m thinking I would probably enjoy this one! I agree with Kit re the blurb though, which woud also mean that the synopsis would have to work and sell it well. Nice post. 🙂 x

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    1. Hi Sheryl
      Ever since I took up writing I have bee a touch hypercritical of what I read. Will no doubt get my comeuppance one of those days!

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  4. What an interesting post, Alison! I struggle with the whole concept of genre. Yes, of course, speaking as a reader, I would like to know what to expect when I read a book, but as Kit says, a crafty blurb is the most important tool here. Speaking as a reader still, I am always delighted if I come across something fresh, something that isn’t easily classifiable or that is a bit different. And on my own road to publication, I was told by a few people that ‘genre with a twist’ is the new answer; writing in a certain category but with a subcategory, e.g. romantic crime or something similar. HUH? So i think the answer is: let’s all simply write the best books we know how to! x

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  5. I don’t think there is anything wrong with blending genres together as long as the story remains: original, readable and credible. I think you can safely combine genres that are theme-based with genres that are emotion-based. I would love to see sub categories encouraged on that basis. We already have that with paranormal romance, these need to be accepted as happening in other areas.

    I was told Gunshot Glitter could be a tricksy commercial sell as it straddled genres, but that book itself was great. But I want it read and enjoyed the way it was intended and for that reason alone, I’ve decided to self-publish it, the narrative would fall apart if I tried to make it into something else. And that would defeat the whole purpose of writing it in the first place!

    However, I loved what you said about the promise made to the reader, that was interesting and something that writers should consider to some degree and ensure when they’re promoting the story they’ve got the perspicacity to convey clearly.

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    1. Hi Yasmin – yeh – that promise to the reader is a powerful concept. Lots more good stuff on Sarah Duncan’s blog – link on my sidebar. Good luck with the book!

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  6. It’s in the air… I’ve just written a piece for Nicky Wells’ blog CentreStage due out on Wed 11th July on kind of the same subject, called How Make Your Novel Your Fly?, asking the questions: how do we choose what we are going to write about? Are we influenced by genres and what we think might make our novel more successful? Or, as Nicky, so rightly says, do we simply write the best books we know how to! x

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  7. Hi Harriet
    Beginning to think I am being out-voted here! Will take a look at your blog for Nicky when it comes.

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  8. Interesting post. As an author of genre-busters, I think the problem for readers isn’t the mixing, but the *transitions* from one genre to another. You need an overall context in which the author can whizz readers from genre to genre without them feeling dizzy. (A strong point of view or authorial voice helps.)

    People don’t have a problem with a genre-mix when it comes to TV & movies. Was LOVE ACTUALLY a comedy, tragedy or drama? THE LIFE OF BRIAN was a historical religious satire. BLACKADDER GOES FORTH was the blackest of comedies about a tragic subect.

    But readers do need guidance. My publisher rejected my 4th novel HOUSE OF SILENCE because it belonged to no clear genre and they’d wanted to market it as a romance. So I published it myself on Kindle with the tagline, “REBECCA meets COLD COMFORT FARM.” It became a Kindle bestseller and some readers told me the combination of those 2 classic titles had been enough to make them click.

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  9. Hi Linda
    I think what you;re saying is that the genre is less important than having a USP – one that will tie everything in. Voice is a good example. It did strike me that it was the changes of POV/voice as much as the changes of scene which threw me a bit in The Charter. But it could just as easily be something else – terrific premise, larger-than-life MC, stunning location. Referencing 2 classics in the pitch is certainly a pretty cunning plan!
    (Love Actually – romcom writ large and for every generation?)
    Thanks for such useful comments.
    AliB

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  10. Wow, such an interesting discussion. Can I just point out when I started out on this book, I wasn’t even aware I was breaking any rules or crossing any genres – it was only years later when I started subbing that my agent explained publishers need to pigeon-hole your book to be able to market it. In the beginning, I just wanted to write a story about a place I loved, a shipwreck that fascinated me, and tell a story I’d had in my head for years. And, selfishly I suppose, I wrote it in the way I wanted to read it. Not thinking about other readers at the time! I guess I’ve always been stubborn! Thanks for the read and the comments, Ali. I’m glad in the main you enjoyed the read. Gill x

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  11. Hi Gill and thanks for coming along. I did enjoy the Charter and I think it will stay in my memory which is the test of a good read – and hope you don’t feel singled out for cirticism! Just seems to be a topic that has caught the moment. I think that unless there’s a publisher waiting we all write what we want to write and hope it will strike some chord with others. Looking forward to having you back here some time soon.
    AliB

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  12. Not at all singled out, Ali. I appreciate your honesty. And yes, any book that stays with you has it’s own special place, I think. Thank you. And I look forward to featuring on your blog soon. Best. Gill x

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    1. Gill, I wrote my novel with 100% the same mentality you wrote yours lol. It was only when it was being Beta read and being seen by publishers/agents etc that I realised genre was even an issue and commercially it could be problematic. To me it was solely about the story and writing it to the best of my ability. I don’t think I’m designed to approach fiction any differently and enjoy it.

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  13. HI again, Alison. You mention ‘voice’ – that’s so important but so hard to get.. and it probably won’t work unless you do get it. And yes, having a USP…. which may be the voice!

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  14. Excellent post and I agree. The Charter is a great story. I see the various elements of history, crime, otherworldly and powerful location as a series of USPs. That’s what makes the book stand out, for me.

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    1. Hi Jill – I see you are another Triskele author! Thanks for popping in. I must say Behind Closed Doors sounds pretty intriguing!
      AliB

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  15. Hi Alison, I can’t help thinking the fashion for “genre” writing has created a real stranglehold on creativity (or at least, willingness to be imaginative, off the wall). Authors should write what they want to write, go where the story takes them. Otherwise it’s the tail wagging the dog. Thank goodness smaller publishers are beginning to be more flexible. Linda Gillard makes some good points. And it’s also about treating readers as grown-ups.

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  16. Sometimes there isn’t a label that suits … or, as Gillian said, new writers might not be aware they are breaking rules or crossing genres. Perhaps the answer is to have ‘more genres’ to help the reader, but then again that might be a bad thing. Recently I’ve met so many readers/reviewers who have started reading outside of their normal range of genres and are finding books they love!

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  17. Hi Linn and Shirley – yes, it is good to go reading ‘off piste’ so I suppose writng off piste is the way to go. Not that I feel I inhabit any particular genre myself. General fiction just sounds quite dull!
    AliB

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  18. At a writer’s conference that I attended earlier this year, the organisers set up a three minute pitch to agents or publishers.
    I booked my three minutes, telling myself that this was just a fun part of the day and hoped it would help build my confidence for the real thing.
    My genre is humour, and the two page sample that I slid across the table towards him was promptly slid back without so much as a glance. ”Change your genre,” he said, ”comedy doesn’t sell any more.”

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    1. Hi Screenscribbler – a sympathetic hug is winging its way to you. I have had such moments and they are so demoralising. I understand this is the livelihood of agent/publisher but what would it cost to be more constructive? I thought humour was doing well – (like what would I know?) and in a market that’s changing so fast, really, who can say? Hope you will soldier on and keep submitting.
      Ali B

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  19. The problem with genre is that there are always sub genres. Take women’s fiction for example – where there are sub/sub genres. Are we doomed if we check the wrong box? Probably!

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  20. I don’t think anyone should be constrained by an idea of genre when they are writing, but it does help, I guess, when you come to present it to the world. I always think of genre as synonymous with bookshelf or category, in that it is for retailers to know where to put your book, and for readers to know where to look.
    I believe if a publisher loves a book enough to get behind it, but isn’t sure of its genre, he or she will do one of two things: wedge it into an existing genre anyway, or invent a new one!

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    1. Joanne, I would absolutely love it if the latter was true all round, in fact I am sure it is in some instances, but I was told by a few to consider re-writing mine to fit into one genre or approaching a smaller, niche publisher. I think the reason I did neither was because I was so time conscious by then and very aware I could be waiting an awfully long time and/or expending energy, so decided to take control back. Not to say I’d never consider a mainstream publisher again, I’d love that, but the creative control balance has to be more even than it seems to be out there right now.

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