We are encouraged to know many things about ourselves based on categories and numbers. Medical professionals want us to know our weight, cholesterol levels, blood pressure and family medical histories; financial experts what us to know how much we need to save for retirement, our credit history and credit score. But, ask writers how to classify their work according to genre and you will be surprised at how difficult this question is to answer. There’s also the question of form but we’ll get to that another time.
So, how many writing genres are there? Well, it seems like new ones are being created every year, something I attribute to skilled marketing practices and techniques to sell books. Although, whether you are selling your work online or via a traditional bookstore, categorizing by genre is important to the seller in terms of knowing where to “shelve” your work.
Many, many years ago, most people knew that genres such as mysteries, romances, satires, and drama existed and later on science fiction, but these broad categories didn’t always lend themselves to helping readers discover authors that didn’t quite fit so neatly into these classifications, or dared to cross lines and blend two or more genres together.
I remember back in the last century (okay it was in the 1990’s) recommending reading material from the romance genre to someone and that person looked aghast that I would even suggest such a thing, declaring that she only read literary fiction. I asked if she had read any of Jane Austen’s work and she replied that of course she did, it was literary fiction after all - AND it was required reading when she was in school! It’s also romance.
How many of us of a certain age remember the first time we read Kathleen Woodiwiss’s The Flame and the Flower? For those of you who haven’t, it was a ground-breaking book in the publishing world for many reasons and not just because of its titillating content.
The romance novel as a genre has a longer history in the UK but around the 1980’s this genre boomed in the US and the idea of category romance novels and romance sub-genres took off. The rest, as they say, is history.
Think you know your genre inside and out? Think again. How many of us remember the classification wars of Romantica vs. Erotica?
Here’s a link to taking a journey on the writing genre express:
You can also click on the links to the different genres and explore those definitions and examples. I think you’ll find it fascinating and you might just discover a thing or two about your writing genre – or sub-genre - that you didn’t know.