Choosing Your Genre

I can’t think of worse advice for an author trying to create a career, than, “Write what you love to read.” The problem is that, while writers love to read, we aren’t always reading in the genre we are writing in..., and this can be a good thing.

When we read in different genres than we write for, we pull story elements from those other genres and incorporate them into our own stories.  This cross-mixing of genre elements is where the real art happens. So, how do you do it? You simply realized the constraints of the form you are writing in.  But don’t feel that you must only write in the genre you choose today.  Stephen King wrote an iconic Sci-Fi piece, Running Man, J.K Rowling released a murder mystery., and James Patterson is writing kids’ books now.  The point is, the more you commit to a single genre and spend your life mastering it, the more likely you are to achieve said mastery.  Begin by thinking about your tool-set and what you are going to explore first.


What do you want to be known for?

The method of choosing a genre might appear a bit self-centered, but for some, this can be a powerful way to find a solution to your question.  

What do you want to be known for, 10 years down the road?

This might seem like a ridiculous question to be asking yourself now, but this is the same type of question that business coaching programs ask their students, and for good reason.  When deciding upon my own genre, I couldn’t help but think about who I wanted reading my material and above all, I wanted my audience to enjoy reading my work.  I chose romance.  In the beginning, romance sort of chose me because I had already been writing poetry for many years.  But after my first novel, I chose to write a sequel.  It was a choice to continue writing romance, as was it a choice to try mystery soon thereafter.  My audience responded well and when I look back on my career, I’m certain that there are those who will know me for my first two romance novels.

Your story idea may dictate your choice.

Many books fail to sell because the writer didn’t choose the best genre to tell their story.  Each genre will take a story idea in radically different directions.  If you choose the wrong genre, you might as well discard that great idea of yours.  Start by identifying the goal of your protagonist and see which genre that might best fit into.

If you combine genres, make sure one of them is the primary one.

Hooking the reader could be easier than you think if you take a genre and flip it on its side or blend genres.  Many films made today are a combination of multiple genres.  You’ll find, many action films also have a love story, or a thriller element thrown in.  The reason to remain focused on a primary genre is to be clear on your hero, and their goal.  Only mix in other genres if it fits organically.

Write what you love.

If you love reading romance, why wouldn’t you want to write romance?  You’ll likely know the guidelines for them and are much more familiar with their formats. It is important to write what you love.  The characters, plot, and setting are going to come much easier to you if you love what you write about.  The passion and wordplay will resonate and not only will the process of writing your story be much more enjoyable, in the end, you’ll also enjoy reading it again yourself years later.

Write what you are good at.

Assuming you have some writing experience, choosing a genre to write in can be as simple as what you do best.  Despite the previous advice, you don’t need to limit yourself to writing just what you like to read.  Finding out what you are good at writing can take some time, but through trial and error you will eventually find your niche.

Don’t write with money in mind.

Most authors do not make much money, so setting out with the goal of becoming the next J.K. Rowling isn’t a good idea.   However, keeping the dream of making it big in the publishing industry, is an incredible motivator.  It’s safe to be realistic, but it’s fun to dream.  Everyone always says if you do what you love, you will never work a day in your life.  As cliche as it is, it’s true.  You can make an incredible amount of money but doing any work because you love it is far more rewarding.

Think about your audience.

Not everyone has an audience in mind while they write.  But it is a good idea to think about this, especially once you reach the stage where you are ready to share your book with the world and market it.  Focus on your target audience for;

Social media advertising: age range and location etc.

The design of your cover

The chosen genre

The blurb on the back of the book and what might appeal to potential, whim buyers

Test a few different genres.

If you still have no idea what you want to write, try writing a few different short stories in different genres.  What did you enjoy writing the most?  You don’t have to publish everything you write.  If you’re testing out which genre you enjoy writing the most, try writing single page stories.  Not only will it test your ability to fit a story on to a short page, it may help you discover your next potential best seller.


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