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.

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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!

Changing Tastes

Hello once again!  This week, we return to the randomness of unplanned blog topics.  Joy!  Though, I guess technically this one was kind of planned.  A few weeks ago, my friend, Roxanne, asked me if my tastes in manga (Japanese comic books) had changed over the years and, if so, how.  We were talking mostly about shoujo (manga aimed specifically at a female audience).  My answer was a resounding “yes, my tastes have definitely changed and grown over the years.”  Here, I think I’ll expand the topic to books in general, which is a little more hazy on just how much I’ve changed.

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Then there’s Sailor Moon.  Nothing will ever change my love of this series.

 First, I suppose I should explain how my taste in manga has grown.  The thing is, I’m not entirely sure things have changed as much as I’ve just become more willing to admit when I don’t like things.  I spent years reading all of the things my friends suggested and I admit the stories were usually fun, but I never really identified with the characters.  I wasn’t the type of girl who idealized males and gave out free passes for inappropriate behavior just because the guy was hot (both super common tropes in shoujo manga), so the whole concept of “romance” (this applies to both manga and the genre of romance) never really appealed to me.  Now, I basically avoid stories like that.  I guess I’ve become more selective over the years.

As far as books go, I’ve grown in the opposite direction.  Used to, I’d only read horror and fantasy.  Up until Stonecoast, I had only read the Twilight series (hated it, but read it anyway) and whatever I had to read for school outside of my preferred genres.  Now, I have friends and mentors who write across all genres, so I don’t really have the luxury of being picky.  I’m not going to tell someone I won’t read something just because I don’t usually care for their genre.  Not only is that rude, it’s also limiting yourself.  You’ll never know if you like something if you’re not even willing to try it.

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Blood Rose by Danielle Rose.  Paranormal romance, but still a quick, fun read.

For instance, I normally never would’ve read the book pictured above if it hadn’t been written by a friend of mine.  It’s one of those things where I simply wouldn’t have even thought to look for it, but now I have people to recommend books outside of my comfort zone.  I guess that’s the reason my tastes have changed in such different ways between manga and books.  I always had different people recommending manga across all genres that I eventually had to stop and whittle away the stuff I didn’t like, but with books, I’ve always had such narrow interests that it was time to expand.

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Pretty much.

 So, what does all of this mean?  Basically, tastes are strange things indeed.  If they’re not narrowing, they’re expanding.  Either way, they’re always changing.  What about your tastes in reading materials?  Have you noticed any changes over the last few years?

Until next week!