Hello, hello! When submitting to agents, one of the most common questions a writer has to answer is what genre they write. Sometimes, this is a really difficult thing to explain, especially if you’re not quite sure yourself. Granted, I know some writers who can tell you what they write down to the subgenre’s subgenre. But, I’m not one of them. And honestly, they kind of freak me out (but I still love them). I never really understood how people could stick to such narrow categories in order to be a specific type of writer. It always seemed constrictive to me. But I eventually fell into a genre and it felt good to know where I belonged, even if I do have a tendency to wander away from it. So, I thought I’d share how I found my genre.
When I first got into Stonecoast, I had people asking me what I wrote and my go-to response was horror. At the time, it’s what most of my writing vaguely (and not so vaguely) fell under. But the truth was, I was still searching for what I was most comfortable writing. I liked dabbling in all kinds of genres, and still do. It was always fun for me when I stepped outside of my comfort zone, so I never really felt right restricting myself with genre labels. Don’t get me wrong, horror was and will always be my true love, but it’s not an entirely accurate description of my writing.
It wasn’t until my fourth semester, during my first half workshop with Nancy Holder (who had also been my mentor my first semester), that I started narrowing in on what genre I felt most comfortable in. When I was on the chopping block, Nancy said my story was “vintage Shawna.” She went on to explain that in her time working with me, she noticed that I tended to write about younger (usually teenaged) protagonists who stumbled upon hidden worlds. She wasn’t wrong. Apparently, I had fallen into the YA (young adult) realm when I wasn’t looking.
It wasn’t exactly my genre of choice, but YA chose me, so I couldn’t argue with it. Granted, I’ve managed to keep my horror leanings even in most of my YA work. Demons and psychological torture and all of that still play big roles in my writing, but there’s also a stronger thread of good old-fashioned fantasy as well. Now, I mostly tell people that I write supernatural YA (not to be confused with paranormal romance) or just YA fantasy. It’s closer to the truth for the majority of my work. Though, I do have pieces that don’t fall anywhere near those genres, because writing is hard enough without restricting yourself to one genre.
So, I found my genre when I wasn’t even looking. Actually, I guess it found me. But I will always suggest stepping outside your genre, whether when reading or writing or both. It’s fun and challenging and you can learn a lot when you’re working outside your comfort zone.
What about you? Have you found your genre yet? If so, how? Do you like working within super specific boxes or do enjoy the freedom of vagueness and blurred lines? Share your thoughts and comments here or on my social media pages!