What’s in a Genre?

Just before kicking off this little blog, I went through the inventory of items that I had written over the years, going back to a poetry book I made for a middle school English class in fifth grade. Actually, a decent haiku in there, but I am not sure it will sell.

I also found a story I started a number of times, but never really got it beyond a third chapter.  Some stuff was only on paper and pre-computer era, others were on various discs, some from college starts and stops and a few I had been kicking around more recently.

In all, I found four novels in various states, a half dozen short stories, three or four flash fiction pieces, three plays, two screenplays and nearly three dozen poems.  It begs the question what next?  And it begs a bigger question and the next decision, which genre?

It sounds easy, but when I enjoy reading a number of different types of books, from non-fiction to historical fiction, science fiction/fantasy, adventure, spy stories, mysteries and westerns, it makes for an important choice.  Some successful writers get to expand well beyond their original genre of choice, others stay strictly within their specialty they become known for.  Stephen King is clearly known for his horror, but he has shown there isn’t much he can’t do when he decides to write about it.

Agatha Christie is famous for her run of mystery novels, but she also wrote at least half a dozen romance novels and three non-fiction books along the way.  My grandfather loved Louis L’Amour westerns, yet even Louis jumped over to tell a science fiction story, an historical fiction novel and a pile of short stories and poems.  Thus it appears my kindred spirits are similar in that we just love to write, not always drawing from the same well.

It might be nice to have a single great book lined up ready to go, or one genre oozing from my creative pores, however, the ideas that bounce around my cranium every day originate from just about anything.  Overhearing a conversation, a line in a movie, a silly ad poster on a bus, and all of those wacky dreams that are tough to explain as I regain consciousness each morning.

It gets weirder when one does a few searches for genre specifics, as the choices are quite numerous and vary with extra categories depending on the source.  One such example I found was at Book Country with more genres than I previously considered possible: http://www.bookcountry.com/readandreview/books/genremap/

Outside of the romance writers in the studio audience, did anyone else know there were ten distinct romance novel genres?  Me neither.  As a huge science fiction fantasy fan, it is a little crazy with 17 genres some of my work may or may not fall into.  I some crossing over, like a short science fiction story that is a bit dystopian, soft science with a dash of romance in it.

Of course the obvious first thought is simply write and let the genre fall where it may, but marketing is everything, even on the self-publishing path.  Ultimately, after finishing, editing and looking over a couple of my most ready for prime time tales, I’ll look again at the genre list and go from there.

As one of those people who still wanders into a book store like a kid who enters Disneyland for the very first time, there isn’t much of the written word I don’t like.  Books are cool, and they are another big reason we’re all here today, in the continuing adventures of reading and writing them.

The work begins in earnest as I’ll stay with the piece that has the most immediate pull. Maybe I’ll be able to combine a record number of sub-genres into a single novel, a sci-fi historical fiction suspense thriller mystery gothic romance western!