In the age of increasingly accessible internet and self-publishing resources, new stories are being written every day, everywhere. Authors carefully craft them, stirring their hearts and souls with the plot and characters. Often though, writers get stuck before they even begin. Starting a story, typing words onto a fresh page, is the toughest part for many writers, because they have so many possibilities and directions for their stories to go in. An important aspect of shaping a story is deciding which genre it will fall under and therefore, how it will be marketed toward readers after it is published. Choosing a genre early on is beneficial for a cohesive writing process; it enables the end goal of reaching a target audience to always be within sight.
Genres are important not just for cohesion in writing a story, but also for understanding and elevating one’s own work. There are many different conventions and values associated with each genre, and it is significant that a writer understands them. For instance, the romance genre has an expected ending of happily ever after or at least happy for now in the main characters. If a writer did not understand this, they would be disappointing their readers and discouraging them from reading future stories. A good writer chooses a genre and sticks to its conventions; a great writer considers the genre’s conventions and innovates to further them and make the genre better (Allan). Choosing a genre does not dictate that a writer cannot stray from its origin of popularity, but rather it gives a narrower lens through which the writer can look through to make their own work great.
In traditional publishing houses, agents and editors will take the genre into consideration when deciding whether to purchase a manuscript or not. Publishing companies may have a genre in which they specialize or are specifically looking to publish. When a writer knows the genre of their work, it shows publishing houses that they already have a target audience in mind and have thought about the work post-publishing (Yardley). Often, readers use the genre to find their next read or the next addition to their to-be-read pile. Publishing houses understand this, and it is easier for them to market and help sell the book when it is written with a clear genre in mind.
A great way for a writer to pick the genre of their next novel is to consider which genres they find most enjoyable to read. The majority of writers are also readers, and they will be most familiar with the writing styles and plot elements of their own favorite books (Yardley). Due to the fact that they, as readers of their favorite genre, know what to expect and feel when reading that particular genre, it will be much more natural to tackle that genre in their own writing. Writing in genres of which they love to read will make the writing process more comfortable, but also much more enjoyable for the writer.
Additionally, writers should play to their strengths when choosing a genre (Yardley). For instance, if a writer tries to write a horror novel, yet they have had trouble with capturing the genre’s elements and fright from readers in the past, it might be a better idea to avoid centering the next piece of work around horror. One way to identify strengths as a writer is to test out different genres and writing styles. This experimental writing could exist through short stories until the writer notices a pattern in the stories they felt were the easiest to write and that they are the proudest of (Bray). Identifying one’s strengths as a writer allows for storytelling that can quickly become bold and confident upon editing.
Most of all, it is important that writers write what they love rather than what they think will sell (Bray). Writing out of enjoyment will always read better and connect more with readers than writing out of obligation. What a writer reads and what they write are not always the same, and when it comes down to it, a writer is more likely to be proud of their success if it was from the pursuit of a story they enjoyed writing.
In short, choosing a genre enables writers to better understand their own stories, seek out their target audience, identify their strengths, and have their manuscript appear more attractive to a publishing house. Stories sell for many different reasons, but a lot of times it is due to the fact that the writer had a cohesive story that allowed them to narrow their marketing. When writers choose a genre, they understand their own story and their own causes of enjoyment in writing. This makes the writing more genuine and that much more enjoyable for readers everywhere.
Allan, William. “Why Literary Genres Matter.” OUPblog, Oxford University Press,
1 Oct. 2014.
Bray, Taylor. “How To Choose Which Genre You Should Write.” Medium, The
Writing Cooperative, 30 May 2019.
Yardley, Cathy. “How To Pick The Right Genre For Your Novel (And Why Your
Sales Depend On It).” WTD, 12 Oct. 2019.