Finding Your Genre

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.

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A genre map… and this is just the basics, not including YA and the like.

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.

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I admit this is totally what I thought of when I was accused of writing YA.

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.

Writingishard
It really is sometimes.

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!

Word Count? Who Needs That?

Hello, hello!  It’s that time again.  Today, I want to talk a bit about word count.  It’s a subject that Lew Andrada suggested when I asked for questions and comments and all that.  It’s also a subject I struggle with, because it’s pretty arbitrary.  Anyone you ask seems to have a different answer when it comes to the correct lengths of things.

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We’ve all encountered a scenario like this one.  I actually kind of think that’s where the concepts of word counts really help (me at least).  It gives me a firm goal to keep in mind and work toward, that way I can have a more realistic idea of how long a project will take me to finish.

So, how do I approach word count?  I keep it simple!  I basically follow SFWA’s counts for the Nebula awards.  In other words, these rules:

Short Story: less than 7,500 words.
 Novelette: 7,500 words to 17,500 words.
 Novella: 17,500 words to 40,000 words.
 Novel: 40,000 words or more.

Adult

Now, I know that “novel” is an extremely broad category that can be broken down by genres or even target audience age.  In fact, the list above is just one example of many break downs you’ll find with a quick Google search.  No, none of them are the same.  Yes, it gets really confusing really fast.  On top of all that, you also have lists for middle grade, young adult, adult, and a relatively new category dubbed new adult.  It’s complicated.  I don’t like complicated things.

In other words, I don’t bother with all of that crap.  My goal is based on my story.  If I’m going for a flash fiction piece (<1000), I usually aim for 900 words.  A short story?  Around 5,000 words.  A novel?  It depends on what it feels like.  I tried for 70,000 to 75,000 for my first novel after tons of research on word count.  It is a supernatural YA, so on top of feeling like a good amount, it also turns out to be a fairly average count for that type of book.  The novel I’m currently working on is different.  I’m going more by my gut for this one.  My current aim is 80,000 to 90,000 just because that’s what it feels like it will need.  I’m sure my past research is playing some kind of unconscious role, but whatever.

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On the other hand, enforcing a word count can lead to fears of rambling.  Don’t worry!  You can fix all of that during edits.  That’s also another factor that goes into choosing my own word count.  I like to choose a middling number, just in case I need the wiggle room.  I have space to brutally cut out all of the nonsense if I need to, but I also have room to fix anything that’s not fleshy enough.

What I mean to say is that word counts are great tools, but don’t let them freak you out.  Let them help you establish a more concrete timeline for finishing your work, but don’t let them rule your work.  Keep it simple and fun, or it’s not worth doing.  At least that’s how I feel about it.  What are your thoughts on word count?