Before I started writing to publish, I spent a lot of time thinking about what genre I wanted to write. When I look back a year or two ago to when I first returned to writing fiction, it’s hard to believe I spent so much time in angst about it.
Did I want to do literary fiction? Chick lit? Romance? Ultimately, I followed my gut and decided to write stuff I’d most like to read, which ended up being steampunk, fantasy and science fiction.
However, I also ended up writing in a genre that I never intended.
My most recent book is categorized on Smashwords under Steampunk, but it’s also categorized under Young Adult.
I didn’t really set out to write YA fiction. The requirements for my my small press anthology piece, Bitter Cold, had to be “YA friendly” but not specifically targeted at young adults and teens.
Then about two or three ebooks into my experiment this year, I noticed something. Social reading networks Goodreads and Shelfari let readers categorize books, by genre, keyword, or tag. My books were being “shelved” as YA or teen fiction by readers.
I hadn’t set out to target a young adult audience, but it seemed like they’d found me. And I’m not about to turn away readers who like my stuff.
Ultimately, that’s all genre is: a label that readers use to help filter and sort towards the books they might enjoy. Writers and publishers tend to make a “class system” of it, and try to determine who is in the cool clique and who are the outsiders. But genre is really just a broad descriptor that helps readers who are predisposed to like the kind of stuff you write, find your stuff.
With that said, if I decided to write in a very different genre, like “literary fiction” or romance without any speculative elements, I’d probably set up a pen name. For the same reason: I want readers to be happy with my books. If someone downloads one expecting one thing because my name is on it, and gets something very different, that’s bad for both of us.
Here’s a writing prompt, should you desire it. Write about a character who is trying to capture one group’s attention (and failing) while unintentionally attracting a totally different audience.