What genre to write?

Since emerging from the cave of anonymity, I have been reading some advice posts/books/articles on how to choose what to write. Recently, I saw the advice to write what one likes to read. It makes perfect sense, but I like to read very nearly everything; that doesn’t narrow it down for me. I adore YA fiction; I also adore fantasy; I adore mysteries, but I think if I tried to write any of those genres, I would be awful at it. Sure, every so often, I’ll think to myself, well, I could write this better than he/she did! But could I really?

An author I admired once told me to write what I know. Hmm. What do I know? I know a lot about medieval literature, history, religious thought and philosophy. All right, then. I’m observant, and describe things well. This isn’t getting any better, is it?

I like finding authors that no one reads anymore, or works by well-known authors that no one reads anymore. It’s analogous to how I absolutely love reading debut novels. I will go to the library to get books from newly-minted authors, because it’s uncharted territory.  I find wonderful books by wonderful authors, many of whom I follow for years, long after they are well-established.

I suspect that my inability to find a niche genre is rooted in fear. Fear and perfectionism. What if I can’t write what I want to write; what if I can write it, but it stinks? Better not to try. While in college, I entered a poem in a regional contest. The finalists had to stand one by one on stage while three published poets, comfortably seated, “critiqued” the work. The quotation marks are included because I did not hear one, single, helpful comment for any of the works, not even the one that won. Notice I didn’t say positive; even that early in my pursuits, I knew helpful was not always positive. One of the other finalists was helpful to me, by asking, why did I write a blank verse poem? I replied that I did not know how to rhyme. She suggested that I try to write a sonnet, or some other highly structured form, just for fun. I managed not to goggle at her, thinking that writing a sonnet was not fun. Regrettably, I didn’t try it either.

So which direction do I go? I’m reluctant about what I know, to be totally honest. Shall I jump head-first into a genre I enjoy, and damn the torpedoes? I’d love to know the process that others have gone through, and the decisions made.

4 thoughts on “What genre to write?”

  1. I write paranormal romance. Sometimes there’s a bit of mystery to it, too. The series I’m working on now is about a private detective whose clients are vampires and werewolves. But I read a lot of different genres. I do read what I write, but I also love detective novels, horror, mysteries, etc. My taste is so eclectic. Why did I choose paranormal romance? To be honest, that was what was popular, and I found it fun to write. I really prefer ghost stories, but my vampire stories still sell better. So you have to look at different factors. Is it something that will sell right now? Is it something you enjoy writing? Is it something that you feel you’re good at writing? The main thing, I think, is the enjoyment factor. If you don’t enjoy writing it, that will show up in the book. If you have fun writing it, I think the readers will be able to see that, too.

    These are just my opinions. 🙂

    1. And thank you for those opinions 🙂 I agree, there are several factors to weigh, but your point about enjoying it is really the key. Even the professional writing that interests me reads far better than what I’m told to write to keep my job–it writes better, too!

  2. Well, Nancy, since the first million words are practice anyway, you can write whatever you want until your apprenticeship is over, and by that time, I bet you’ll know what you’re best at! 🙂

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