Deciphering Your Genre

Understanding your genre is important. It’s crucial for marketing a finished novel to both publishers and readers. Without a specific genre in mind, it will be hard to convince others to pick up your story and enjoy it. Both publishers and readers favour a particular genre and openly search for books that epitomise it. That doesn’t mean your novel has to fit into one genre exclusively, but it should easily fall into at least one.

What are some popular genres?

  • Crime
  • Thriller
  • Fantasy
  • Romance
  • Science Fiction
  • Young Adult
  • Literary Fiction
  • Historical

This isn’t an extensive list and there are sub-genres in each category. But it gives you an idea of how a specific genre can and should shape your story. If your writing doesn’t fit neatly in at least one of these categories, then it will be hard to convince a publisher to sign, as it is their job to market.

So what things should you keep in mind when it comes to genre and your writing?

Write what you love, and what you want to read.

What genres do you enjoy reading? Chances are you’ll love writing in that genre too. Perhaps you’ve already been writing in that genre without realising? If you pick a genre that you feel emotionally invested in, then chances are you’ll find it easy to commit to it. Commitment is important. Eventually, readers need to know what they’ll expect from your writing. It doesn’t mean that you have to stay predictable, but they want to know what type of story you’ll be crafting for them. Knowing your audience is fundamental.


This doesn’t mean copious hours of looking up the historical theory of your genre – though you could if you were interested. But it does involve a lot of reading. And I mean a lot. Read every book that you can that encompasses the genre that you are writing in. Learning how to write and craft in a specific genre from authors that have been published – and are reputable – is an extremely rewarding experience. Concentrate on the greats of your area, but also the newest publications so you know what’s selling at the very moment.

Write and re-write…patiently.

Be patient in your writing. It’s important to fully understand your genre rather than skip corners and deliver something that is incoherent and hard to market. Be willing to rework large chunks of your plot to better strengthen your genre. Don’t be afraid to be creative and take risks. Just because you have a defined genre, doesn’t mean you can’t include features of others. For example, in Fox Freed, I aim to create an action-based thriller, with elements from Belfast noir and classic spy novels. All this takes time and work to realise.

In short, choosing a genre and sticking to it is crucial to making your finished product easier to sell and easier to read. Understanding your genre might take a lot of time, but if you’re resilient, persistent and open to feedback, you’ll deliver the piece of work you’ve always dreamt of.



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