Thursday, January 24, 2013

Knowing Your Genre

Knowing your genre is kind of like knowing how to bake a cake. Without all of the right ingredients, your cake might come out flat or lopsided. It might even taste funny.


Photo by: Rhonlynn, courtesy of Flickr

I remember the time I mistakenly put in salt instead of sugar. We keep both our salt and sugar in large white tubs, preferring to buy it in bulk, and this one time I mistook the one for the other.

Nasty, I can tell you.

Photo by: Rasdourian, courtesy of Flickr
We may even bake our cake too long or put in the wrong ingredients, especially if we think we can remember the ingredients in our head and don't need at recipe.

Consider a cake that's frosted before it's cooled.

A science fiction book can be like that, or a murder mystery or a Christian fiction novel. Keeping in mind that not one of the options I've listed above is written the same as the next one, you need to know some specifics in writing the genre of your choice. You need to know the ingredients, the temperature it needs to be cooked at and how long.

If you've never read a science fiction novel you shouldn't be writing one, and that goes for a murder mystery, a Christian fiction novel or anything else. It just doesn't work for you to guess. Trust me.

I tried to write a romance once, having never cared to read one. I thought mine would be better. What I soon discovered was that I had no idea what I was doing and eventually scrapped the project. Sure, I write very small scenes sometimes with a little romance in them, but I haven't considered starting a romance novel since.

Another good way to know your genre is to read nonfiction books from authors who also write the fiction variety. Orson Scott Card, for example, writes Science Fiction and Fantasy. His book, "How to Write Science Fiction & Fantasy," offers writers knowledge in time, space, magic and story elements needed for these two genres of writing.

Some writers will tell you that the best genre to write is the one that's selling the most, but I beg to differ. Write what you love.

The bottom line is like the bottom of the cake. You don't want it to be burnt so do all you can to know what you need to know to write it right.

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