Hello, and welcome back to Day 26 of “31 Days of NaNoWriMo Prep”! Sit down and stay a while, because today we’ll be learning how to determine the genre of the novel you’ll be writing this November! If you haven’t read the other 25 posts in this series, you can catch up here, or you can watch the corresponding YouTube videos here.
So, what is a genre? A genre is a category that your novel fits into, used to properly advertise your book to potential readers. I’m sure that, if you’re even remotely familiar with books, you’ve heard of the different genres that are out there. Let me tell you, there’s a lot. Some of the most popular are:
You may be wondering why it’s so important to know what genre your novel is. After all, it’s just an arbitrary category, right? Well, not exactly. Like I mentioned a moment ago, the genre is how you properly advertise your books to potential readers. Not categorizing your book will most likely alienate readers, since they won’t know what they’re getting themselves into. It also helps keep you on track with your writing. If you go into the writing process knowing that you want to strictly write a horror novel, then odds are you won’t go off on a tangent about romance. That’s not to say that your novel has to be only one genre, though. Many, if not all, novels are cross-genre, which means they’re made up of many different genres. If you Google The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, for example, you’ll find that it’s listed under Utopian and Dystopian fiction, Adventure fiction, Science fiction, Drama, and Action fiction. Just try not to cross too many genres, or it may feel more like a muddled mess with no direction than a great novel with a solid plot.
Okay, so how do you know which genre or genres your novel is? Well, I’ve come up with some things for you to consider:
- Does your novel focus heavily on romance, where the plot centers around two (or more) people and their relationship? You’re writing a romance novel.
- Does your novel take place in the future, in space, or in a place where technology is highly advanced (or any combination of the three)? You’re writing a sci-fi novel.
- Does your novel focus on mystery elements and/or feature detectives trying to solve a crime? You’re writing a mystery novel.
- Does your novel take place in a futuristic world with utopian and/or dystopian-like qualities? You’re writing a utopia/dystopia novel.
- Does your novel have fantastical elements, such as a magic system or magical/supernatural creatures? You’re writing a fantasy novel.
- Does your novel aim to psychologically mess with and terrify your readers? You’re writing a horror novel.
- Does your novel focus on relationships (be they romantic, platonic, familial, etc.) and the emotional growth of your protagonist? You’re writing a contemporary novel.
- Does your novel feature copious amounts of fight scenes? You’re writing an action novel.
- Does your novel focus more on writing stylistically than the actual plot of the novel? You’re writing a literary novel.
- Does your novel follow a hero who is facing exciting, dangerous, and physically demanding challenges? You’re writing an adventure novel.
- Does your novel take place in the past? You’re writing a historical novel.
- Does your novel aim to keep the reader on the edge of their seat, throwing psychological twists and turns at them? You’re writing a thriller novel.
When deciding which genres to cross-pollinate, almost all combinations work to some degree. In fact, literary fiction seems (to me, at least) to be the hardest genre to cross with another. Literary fiction and contemporary seem to go hand-in-hand, but a beautiful, stylistic action or adventure novel seems a bit off. Still, this isn’t me saying that you shouldn’t try it out. I’m all for experimentation when it comes to writing!
As for my (soon-to-be-published) debut novel The Caspian Chronicles: The Forbidden Prophecy, it falls pretty snugly into the fantasy category. Possibly urban fantasy, but I’m not entirely sure about that just yet. I’m still doing my research. For those of you who aren’t familiar, urban fantasy is a sub-genre of fantasy. Sub-genres, unfortunately, are a topic we won’t have time to get to this month, but if you’d like me to make a post about them in the future, let me know! Anyway, The Caspian Chronicles is fantasy, or possibly urban fantasy, but I also like to think that it has some adventure and contemporary elements to it, as well. There may even be a small bit of mystery snuck in there too, because I love a good mystery subplot.
How did I figure out that my fantasy novel/series had these other genres attached to it? Well, as far as contemporary goes, while the primary focus of the series is the fantasy elements, coming in at a very close second is the relationships between my main character and the people he meets. There’s also heavy emphasis throughout the series about my main character’s personal growth. Adventure-wise, toward the end of The Forbidden Prophecy there’s definitely some adventure elements that play a large role, and throughout the rest of the series the adventure elements become much more prominent.
It may seem intimidating to have to put your novel into two or three boxes, especially if it feels like you’ve written something totally unique. If you really look closely at the content of your novel, however, you may find that it really does fall pretty neatly into a few categories, at least. And it isn’t shameful for your novel to fit a mold. I know that a lot of writers like to imagine that what they’re doing is fresh and new, but the fact of the matter is that it has been done before, to a certain extent. Which is actually good, because it means you’ll have an audience waiting for you when you publish your novel. It means you’ll have people who will actively seek out your book because it’s in a genre that usually contains specific things that they enjoy. Genres are sort of magical that way.
So, I hope that this post was informative and that you learned something new today! If you’re interested in learning even more new things, then check back in tomorrow for Day 27, where I’ll teach you how to write a back cover copy for your book!