Like it or not, your novel fits into a genre. Even if it’s not so-called genre fiction. And your genre (and knowledge of that genre’s market!) will play a huge part in your success as a writer. It’s easy to feel like genres are just another way of categorizing novels and putting them into boxes, but if you know how to take advantage of pre-made markets, you can put yourself miles ahead of your competitors.
Here are some of the best ways to use your genre to your advantage instead of letting it control your story and tie it down:
1. Use it to jump-start your story. Note: you should never let your story be defined by its genre. But you don’t need to re-invent the wheel, either. There are other stories that follow similar trains of thought. Look at some of the more innovative members of your genre and see what’s out there, what worlds have already been created and how logistical problems are solved.
2. Learn the boundaries–and then break them. There are already standards and expectations in place for your genre. If you know what they are, then you can change them. How about making your peace-loving elves secretly all members of an evil and manipulative cult? Or throw a wrench in your romance by having the two main characters decide that they much prefer to be just friends than anything else. Or maybe your sci-fi adventure should focus more on mind control than on space travel. People know what to expect when they start reading–take advantage of that to blow their minds.
3. Target your target. You already have fans who love your genre. Get to know them! Visit forums and websites that they visit; meet other authors who are breaking into the scene. Don’t worry about advertising your book so much as absorbing the atmosphere. A few years ago, I decided I was interested in writing a graphic novel. Before writing anything, I was fortunate enough to secure a position as a writer/contributor for ComicBooked.com, where I focused on independent and web comics. Though I’ve never been what you’d call a comic book buff, I learned the market. I interviewed experts, I spent hours learning the best places to discover new comics and learned different ways to create and write comics. I became a fanatic of the genre before writing a first word of my script, and I’ve never looked back.
4. Don’t settle. It’s easy to relax when you’re at home with your genre. You can write on auto-pilot. You have the knowledge of that genre at your fingertips, so take advantage of that to become an authority. You “wrote the book,” after all. Leverage yourself so that you can propel yourself beyond everyone else’s expectations.
5. Conclusion: your genre is a tool. It’s a mistake to define your novel by genre. Build your writing on top of your genre instead of inside of it. Push the boundaries and break out of everyone’s expectations. Whatever your genre is, you have a huge market that wants to read your work. Get it seen, get it read, and blow their minds.
Please share your thoughts on genre in the comments section below. I’d love to hear from you!