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Picking the wrong genre

At the writing conference I attended, identifying your genre was a hot topic.

“Magical things occur, but fantasy doesn’t feel right because it happens in the future. There are demons like a paranormal, but it’s also an adventure novel. Romance plays a big part in the protagonist’s arc, too. The voice is commercial with a thriller edge.”

Don’t label your book a futuristic urban fantasy thriller with romantic suspense. It feels like you’re trying to be everything at once so you can be a “good author.” Greatness is found in knowing your style and writing it well.

But writers at the conference feared agents would find fault with you if you chose the wrong genre. The pages would disappoint the agents’ expectations. You’d look like an ignorant amateur.

First, yes. Second, no.

It’s disorienting to expect horror or romance and get a commercial thriller. It’s disorienting to prepare for swords, mages, and agrarian life and meet ghouls and djinni in a modern Saudi city.

But it doesn’t turn me off right away. If the writing is good, I read on. If it isn’t, I don’t.

It’s true what agents say: the ultimate factor is the writing. Many things contribute to an offer of rep, but the basic question is whether the writing captures me.

Try to get your genre right. Read books like yours and see what they’re labeled. Ask writer friends. Then pitch the book, and don’t sweat it anymore.

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