Thursday, October 14, 2010

Gabbling on Genre

They tell you – these experts, not Bernie Horowitz – that as you craft (that’s a word that’s all Bernie) your query letter when you’re searching for an agent for your novel that you’re better off knowing that the agents you’re querying handle the genre you’re writing in.

That brings up an even more fundamental question for Ur-writers such as myself:

What’s my genre?

Sadly, though the story’s first draft is done and I’m percolating on ideas for the second draft, what’s more important in getting this thing published is not that I’ve got a second draft, but that I know what precise pigeonhole to jam it into.

Not that the fissionability of the generic fantasy genre makes it any easier.

Honestly, and only in the most general sense, I don’t really fuss about the genre of the books I read. I read them because they’re by a familiar author. I read them because they’ve got a fascinating tale to tell. Or I avoid them because they’re Terry Brooks.

There are inherent dangers here; if fantasy genres were cartographized as things were in the twelfth or thirteenth centuries, everywhere you look on the map you’d see the epigram “Here Be Monsters.”

Pick the wrong genre and send it to the agents who specialize in that genre, you’ve wasted effort. Pick too narrow a genre and you may never get your book published at all. Is what I’ve written Ergodic literature? Do I market it to agents as religious fiction? Or am I brilliant enough to classify this as a novel of ideas? But pick too generic a genre and you may not stand out much.

Here be monsters.

So worry about the story, I say. I know I’ve got plenty to worry about in that department. My story isn’t the best, though it’s got possibilities. Going to concentrate on the writing. But at the same time, I can’t leave the genre and query questions in the dust. So many things to think about . . .

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