Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Insecure Writer's Support Group and Fractured Shout-Out

I wasn't sure if I was going to participate in this month's Insecure Writer's Support Group, hosted as always by the awesome Alex J. Cavanaugh, because I was feeling burned out after the A-Z Challenge. But I managed to find myself with a new insecurity recently, so I thought this group would be the perfect place to ask about it.

I am nearly finished with the final draft of my WIP Polar Night, and I've started thinking about publishing options and the process of sending out query letters, etc. While reading about this process, it dawned on me that I really have no clue what the genre of my story is.

It's a suspense thriller, but it also has a significant supernatural element. The story takes place in the "real" world and the main character is a police detective, so in some ways it would be considered crime fiction. But there is one character with a supernatural or paranormal quality. I really don't feel like it is a paranormal story but, as I said, the supernatural aspect of this one character is significant, and the character is central to the story. When I think about it, the history and behavior of this character also bring elements of horror to the novel.

Once I started mulling over this issue, I immediately became convinced that there is no way I will ever be able to get the book published because I don't think it fits into one specific genre. One minute I am feeling very enthusiastic and positive about the story, and the next I'm convinced that I should toss it in the trash because it will never be marketable.

I am curious to hear opinions on this issue. Do you think it is necessary for a story to fit neatly into a genre category? Do you think a mash-up of two or more genres is a possibility?

Part of me feels that if I've done a good job on the story I can find an audience for it regardless of what genre it is or isn't. But then there is also a part that is whispering in my ear that I've made a terrible mess and should just throw in the towel. I'm not going to listen to that whispering, but I do wish it would shut up!

Thanks as always to Alex for hosting this great group!

I also wanted to give a shout-out to my buddy Susan Oloier and her book Fractured, which is officially released today! I had the good fortune to get to know Susan during the A-Z Challenge, and I totally loved her 80s-themed challenge since I will always be an 80s girl at heart. I read her collection of childhood stories, "My Life As A Misfit," last month and really enjoyed it, so I know Fractured will be great as well. Congratulations to Susan!! 


  1. I don't have anything helpful to say about the genre choice, but I've struggled with this too.

  2. Yeah, I think there are a lot of us who bump up against this fear. It's very easy to mix elements of different genres into stories and then wonder if one dominates enough to call it suspense, or mystery or literary. We're all told to think of where our book would go in a bookstore, but the truth is some of those categories are sort of vague.

    I think there's room for a lot of crossover in fiction. The main thing is to identify the strongest element, in your case maybe suspense/thriller, and go with it. I think most agents understand better how they would pitch a book to publishers, so I wouldn't fret over it too much.

    How exciting that you're almost done with your revisions!

  3. I'm sorry I can't help with your genre issue, but I have to believe there is a way to pitch our stories where that doesn't matter. If the query is compelling enough, the story will get read.

  4. I am in a fairly large writing group with mostly fiction writers, so I hear a lot of different types of stories. If it's good, I don't think it matters if it doesn't fit neatly into a specific genre. I think the most important element is to be able to say what the story is in an elevator pitch--"It's like Wuthering Heights meets Jaws." You get the point.
    Don't throw in the towel. I think I've met only one (maybe two) writes who weren't insecure or unsure of their writing talent. And you know what? I don't particularly like either one of them.
    Write on!
    Be sure and check out my blog on May 6th, when I feature Susan's book and a wee little story about my own miscarriage.

  5. I have learned through Indie writers I brush cyber elbows with that when you don't have a niche novel, self-publishing or small publishers may be the way to obtain the readership you're looking for.

    In fact, from a marketing standpoint, I think it's absolutely critical that an agent can slot your work into a definite category. A number of years ago, I sent out queries for my memoir. I had excellent responses regarding the writing and the story, but I was told they didn't have a market for it (in other words, they needed to put it into some category, and they couldn't). They didn't know how to market it. This came from well-known NY agents.

    But, as Pam said, don't give up hope. You never know who in publishing may be hooked by your story.

    Also Julie--thank you so much for the shout out!!! I am so glad I met you through the A to Z Challenge. Your writing is phenomenal!! And now I want to visit Cinncinati.

  6. I think there's definitely room for crossover in fiction. L.G.'s advice sounds like good advice to me.

  7. Hey Julie, we meet again *giggle and clap, spinning around*

    Oh, I think you should write the story and see where it goes. At the moment I notice alot of writers mixing genres in their stories. My YA is dark fantasy with sci-fi elements. I remember starting out as pure dark fantasy, then somewher ealong the way, my character found an object, which added a sci-fi flavour to it. Adding that supernatural element adds flavour to the story.

    Keep strong and keep writing. :)

  8. Urgh, sometimes genres are a real pain! I think maybe yours falls into Contemporary Fantasy, which sounds like a contradiction, but The Dresden Files falls under that category. Of course, I may be totally wrong, but here is a link I found that might help:

    Good luck!

  9. Genre choice is something I struggle with too. Last night I heard an agent talk about it and she said it's important to know your genre because if you don't it might show you don't understand what you're writing.

    Not sure I agree but it did make me think about this subject and feel like I should get a better handle on genre.

  10. @Tonja, I'm sorry you've had this problem too, I hope we can both figure it out.

    @LG, thanks, I am excited about it! I do think it would fit most with the suspense/thriller group, that's what I had in mind originally. Thanks for the advice!

    @Karen, that's what I'm hoping, thanks so much.

    @Pamela, thanks for the encouragement! I love your sample elevator pitch LOL.

    @Susan, I wondered about that, some of the things I've read have made me think about the small publishers too. I'm sorry you had that experience with your memoir, but it's good to know, thanks for sharing. And, you're welcome for the shout-out, my pleasure!!

    @MJ, I hope so, thank you.

    @Cecilia, hello again! :) That's kind of what happened to me, I didn't start out with the supernatural element but then ended up going with it. Thanks!!

    @Kyra, thanks for that link, I really appreciate it! That's a possibility too for the genre, I hadn't even thought of that. Sometimes it feels like there are so many!! Thank you!

    @Johanna, that's good to know about that agent, that makes sense really. Definitely something to think about, thanks! And I'm sorry you have this struggle too, it is a pain!

  11. If it crosses genres, I would think that might give you even more of an audience. I guess you just figure out which genre is dominant and branch out from that point.

  12. @Alex, that's a good way to look at it, I hope so. Thanks!

  13. I think we all feel a bit jaded after the A to Z so this month have taken a miss.
    We all have your problem at some time or another but things have a way of working their way for the best.


  14. Because you've worked so hard to come this far, there has to be a way to make this happen. You're a very talented writer with an interesting premise, so I'm sure Polar Night will find its audience. This is an exciting time for you! Please try to enjoy it. Julie

  15. I struggle with this for my most of my work, too, so I'm sorry to say I don't have any great answers for you. :(

    What about picking the most general term, like contemporary fiction or mainstream fiction or mystery and then add something like "with paranormal elements" or something like that?

    As a reader, I like cross-genre stories. :)

  16. A lot of my work have supernatural elements, but I choose not to consider them supernatural/paranormal until someone points it out. That makes no sense at all, does it? Do I get marks for 'most unhelpful comment' :-)

  17. Sorry that I can't help you with your genre issues. Hope everything goes well.

  18. Speaking as a reader, I go for the title and the cover. If they get my interest, then I look at the blurb. The cover art is everything ! :)))

  19. PS It sounds very interesting BTW

  20. I struggled with the same thing myself, not wanting to be boxed into one genre. I know for submitting to agents that they want a clear genre defined, but it's generally okay to add an extra genre element. The important thing is that you want to sound like you know exactly who your target audience is. Query letters are tricky. It's hard when every agent is different, each looking at different elements of the query letter. I thought it was harder than writing the novel. haha. Don't get discouraged. There are so many options available for you to get your book to the readers. Just look at it as the beginning to an exciting journey. :)

  21. @Yvonne, thank you, I will try to keep that in mind! You are very right about the A-Z, I loved it but definitely feel a little worn out now.

    @Julie, thanks so much, I know I should focus on enjoying it, it's been fun no matter what happens next. :)

    @Madeline, I like cross-genre stories too, so hopefully there are lots of readers like us! That's a great idea about the general term, thank you!

    @Annalisa, oh, no, that's very helpful, LOL. I think that's how I feel about it as well, it makes sense to me. Thanks!

    @Gina, thank you! I appreciate your good wishes. :)

    @Carolyn, thanks! I do that as well, covers always catch my eye for sure. It's amazing how important they can be.

    @Michael, LOL, I have no doubt the query is harder than the novel! Thanks for the tips and encouragement, I really appreciate it!

  22. Hi Julie,
    I think everyone is a little exhausted from the A-Z. As far as your genre goes, I think that mash-ups are out there. It is difficult to know how to label. Your description makes me think about some of Dean Koontz writing. Perhaps you should find books of a similar flavor and check out where they are shelved on Goodreads or Amazon.

  23. @Brinda, thanks for the suggestion, that's a great idea! I really appreciate it, thanks. :)

  24. I don't think it is necessary for a novel to fit perfectly into a genre. True, it helps, especially considering where you might want to publish it, but it's not necessary. Take Charlaine Harris's Sookie Stackhouse series. It has fantasy/paranormal elements. It is a mystery novel. Plus, there is some romance. You could call yours a paranormal thriller (yes, I've used that genre to describe one of my own novels).

  25. I think the fact that your book is a combination of more than one genre should help it stand out from those that fit "neatly." I get fed up with the whole genre thing sometimes.

  26. @Cherie, oh, the Sookie series is a great example too! Thanks for the suggestion, I appreciate it.

    @Man O'Clay, I agree, I get fed up with it too. Thanks so much!

  27. don't listen to the voices. And don't throw in the towel! You will get published:)
    Happy weekend!

  28. @Nutschell, thanks!! And Happy Weekend to you as well. :)

  29. We got a flyer in the mail last week from a Chinese restaurant. One thing that struck me about it was the restaurant's standard side dishes for each meal are rice, egg roll, and ... french fries. Which is my roundabout way of saying, cross-over is common in both our cuisine and our literary genres. Sure, it'd be helpful if you could narrow your book down to a single prevalent genre, but if you can't, don't worry about it.

  30. @Susan, LOL, I couldn't imagine where you were going with the restaurant flyer. Perfect! Thanks so much. :)

  31. Just call it a thriller. If an agent likes the story they will know how to categorize it. Don't let that stop you from querying.
    And good luck!!! :)

  32. @Pk, thanks, I appreciate the advice! :)

  33. Good luck with your book. Querying is scary but can be fun. I think most books have a bit of the cross-genre thing going on. I'd say just pick one and query it as that.
    more than likely, pitch it as the fantasy. I say this because while readers of fantasy novels expect pieces of other genres like mystery or romance, readers of mysteries or romances usually don't expect paranormal elements.
    I hope my advice was helpful.

  34. I think that genre bending and genre combo books are the best. There's something very exciting and appealing about the variety to be found in one book. No one's story can fit neatly into a specific category, I think. And that's a great thing to me.

  35. @Jessica, thanks so much for the advice, I really appreciate it! That makes a lot of sense, thanks.

    @Melissa, thank you, I agree!


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