Resources – Genre Writing

There are questions and discussions all over about Genres. Should we push to change ‘their’ rules? Are their rules too rigid?  Does genre writing stifle creative juices?  I personally would answer ‘no’ to all the questions.

One Dance with a Stranger by Mary M. ForbesReaders of Genres expect a certain consistency in a genre.  For example I have had many discussions on the romance genre (my genre) as to whether you can write a romance without a happily ever after ending.  Of course you can.  It’s a free country for which we writer’s should get down on our knees and thank God every day. Unlike some countries we can write whatever we wish.  So write your sad ending – just don’t expect to have it published as a traditional romance.  Try to market it elsewhere.  It’s not a difficult concept. It doesn’t speak less of your work.

One Dance with a Stranger – a contemporary romance with a happily ever after ending  – because it wouldn’t be right without it.

diamond ring

But publishing companies know what their readers want.  Romance has a huge following  Publishing companies in the romance genre are not interested in controversy – they are interested in selling books which includes giving the reader of romance what they want.  There is a massive amount of branches in romance from contemporary, to historical to erotica.  We must just read about Harlequin’s success to understand the guidelines should be in place.  Romance sells.  Romance needs guidelines or becomes less successful. If a reader doesn’t get what they want – the will not continue reading that genre.

If you don’t like the rules, write another genre – or write ‘main-stream’ novels which covers everything in our countries of ‘freedom’.  Writing is a lonely, often frustrating profession.  Don’t fill your mind with unnecessary problems.

Write your story and don’t worry what the genre is if you don’t know.  Just write to the best of your ability.  Once your story is done to your satisfaction then figure out the genre and targeted market instead of trying to change a genre just because you think it needs changing. Who knows you might even be the founder of a whole new genre.

If you want to write an already existing genre – follow guidelines for any success.  Leave it to professional sellers to figure out what changes might be made.  And they aren’t always successful either.  Failure is just a ‘learning lesson’, not the end of the world.

Seraphim by Mary M. ForbesThe story I am writing now, although will have romantic elements in it – won’t be a romance ‘genre’ novel.  I will not market it as a romance genre novel or fight genre guidelines and rules.  Seraphim will find it’s own niche.

Publishing Companies and Guidelines


5. Any story that only allows for one type of genre (such as comedy, drama, action, etc).

This was  in the list Sean gave for over-used story lines.  The predictable story in Genre writing could be a drawback to future readers.  Perhaps it is time to remove some of the necessary stories/characters that publishing companies require.  Does anyone else feel that genres might be stifling the creativity of writers?

Mainstream gives some flexibility but is often stifled by ‘content’ – although the rigid storyline might not be silented often the story-line might not be allowed – which brings many of my points in over-used story lines into play as well. 

This is a bit of advice when considering writing Genre. 

Always get a copy of the guidelines from the publishing company or companies you are targeting.  The publishing companies have a guideline of do’s and do not’s that might be a surprise – and they change.  So remember to get ‘up-to-date’ guidelines as well.  Some topics they don’t deal with might surprise you.

While they might accept a struggling heroine in Romance – she shouldn’t be homeless.  To have a hero as struggling – is not their type of hero. The hero is usually successful in his career as well as being older.

In Romance – although they accept certain types of musicians that is limited as well. It would be a lot of work to write about a Rap singer as an example – only to discover he was not an acceptable hero.  I was surprised to discover that sports weren’t accepted most places as well.  I would have thought that they would often fall into the category of a Romance hero.   He would be their ‘formula’ of a man who builds himself up – becomes wealthy and often keeps himself grounded as well. I don’t know if his age and wisdom comes into play.  Most sports figures are young.

My second suggestion would be not to have your characters just fall into bed with each other because they can’t control their physical attraction.  Although there are certain sub-genres even in Harlequin which often make me think I’m reading porn – and just as often I wonder if this is what the public wants and asking for today.  These types of books have been on the market a few years now – so I would assume there is a demand for them. This would be an example of changing guidelines.

Historical Romances are somewhat different – but I would still suggest you get the company’s guidelines.  I have been advised by companies they are not interested in Canadian content for example.  Canada, like every other country in the world, has some interesting history often like the USA – and even interesting history that has never been used in fiction writing.  I would think it would be something different – but I would be thinking wrong by publishing company standards.  I cannot begin to count the number of times I have been told that.

‘Boy meets girl in Winnipeg – and so what?’ was actually a line I read once – and so my ‘Hawk’s Gift’ was born.  The Riel Rebellion was a Civil War – not nearly as long or devastating as the American Civil War – but I’m sure to the people involved – it was disturbing for them.

In Canada there is a mine reputed to have as much gold as the gold found in the Yukon.  This mine – called the Lost Lemon Mine – is supposed to be in the Crowsnest Pass area of Alberta.  It is said that anyone touching the gold will suffer dire consequences.  The curse was put on by the Indian Tribes of southern Alberta.  And so my ‘Alberta Wild Rose’ was born.

Again, while researching I discovered a large group of Doukhobors migrated to Canada – then a few years later many of this group ‘cracked’ under the strain of hardships they suffered – and went marching across the barren prairies searching for Utopia – naked.  They called themselves the ‘Sons of Freedom’. At the same time Canada was fighting in a war – the Boer War in South Africa with the British.  As this was an unpopular war a British leader – Kitchener – decided to set up his soldiers for any imagined or unimagined slight – and feed them to the press to take the pressure off fighting the war.  There was also a man who decided to set up farmlands using only good English stock instead of foreigners.  This settlement failed as I imagine any successful farmer in England was content to continue farming in England.  When I combined all these fascinating incidents – ‘Paradise on the Horizon’ was born.

There was a point during my insecurities I thought of changing ‘locations’ to please the publishing companies.  Now, I am glad I didn’t. I have learned it is best to write what you love and what you enjoy rather than follow ‘guidelines’.

I will not take away from writer’s that do follow guidelines.  To me it is an example of our individualism. There are many ‘genre’ books I read and enjoy.  Just as there are times when the ‘accepted’ form is ignored by a writer and still published.

Good luck to all writer’s regardless of their preferences.