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Revision Review: Genre Shopping

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Revision ReviewI’m shopping for a genre. It’s kind of like shopping for jeans; tugging at zippers, wiggling into tight denim, frowning at the low waist-band. What’s the best fit, I wonder.

Some writers know exactly what genre they’re writing–mystery, YA, lit. It’s like knowing that Levis 501s will always fit. You don’t even have to go to that cold dressing room in the back of the feed store to see if Wranglers might be it.

When you write, just write. Don’t let these niggling thoughts of fit and function distract you. Write. But when you revise, you need to pause and consider the big picture.

Let me explain how I got to this point of looking at different genres on the shelf and why it matters at this point in revision.

When I began drafting “Miracle of Ducks,” the story seemed like one of faith. When I mentioned the word faith to a publisher at Rain-Taxi in Minneapolis, MN he smiled and kindly directed me to the Christian publishing house two booths down the row. With the reference to the Christian publishers–who were very welcoming and interested–I wasn’t sold that my story was Christian, but it easily could be with intentional revising.

In 2012 I completed the first draft. Revision has been slow for me. Much slower than writing, and I understand that I have tons to learn about mastering a project as long as a novel. It ain’t no 2,000 word profile on a cranberry bog or regional beer. And I’m in it for the long-haul, not the publish-quick-as-horse-spit fix.

Since this is not a quick process, I decided to crank out a NaNoWriMo project each year so that I’ll always have material to work. With my 2013 project, LuLu offered a free manuscript review to Wrimo winners. The DNA of my second project came back as a “sci-fi thriller.” That’s not what I expected!

However, when I read the reasoning behind the review results, it made sense. It described my writing style: expressive in dialog, rich descriptive passages, breezy language and kinetic motion. Accordingly, my manuscript placed a premium on plot and character, engaging the reader early and keeping the characters active. It is a common profile for mystery, thrillers and romance. The “sci-fi” tag recognized that my protagonist is a climatologist in the arctic.

More genres to try on: mystery or thrillers? No, I don’t enjoy reading them often so I wouldn’t want to write any. Romance? Yes, this cowgirl likes Julie Garwood and Jude Devereaux. And, according to the Romance Writers of America, it’s a mighty popular genre, generating over $1.438 billion in sales in 2012. I might have to kill off a character, though…tempting.

In order to progress, I’d have to make major structural revisions to craft “Miracle of Ducks” into a sci-fi thriller, romance or Christian novel. And what debuts as the genre, becomes the genre. Even Ann Rice writes about how difficult it is for even well-established writers to cross genres in their career. Not to mention, as I research agents and publishing houses, they are genre-specific. No use wasting my time or theirs with a genre-less orphan or a family of mismatched genre manuscripts.

But before I give up on the jeans, I have one more pair to try on: commercial fiction. According to AgentQuery.com, this genre “…uses high-concept hooks and compelling plots to give it a wide, mainstream appeal.” It also places a premium on plot and the characters are active. Sound familiar? But the best part is, “…commercial fiction maintains a strong narrative storyline as its central goal…” That’s what a storyteller likes to hear.

The zipper is closed on this shopping spree. I’ve found my genre.


4 Comments

  1. Interesting to read what commercial fiction is. Like you, I’d always assumed the genres were ‘set in stone’… and ‘either/or’ proposition. Glad you found the one that ‘fits’. 🙂

    Like

  2. I did not realize there was a commercial fiction niche. Sounds like it was custom made just for you. I am working on defining my nonfiction niche.

    Like

    • Charli Mills says:

      Non-fiction is a different industry, but of course, quality matters regardless the end-product. So work on the craft. Writing every day (as you do!) is a form of practice and helps you develop your voice (that unique imprint that defines you from other writers). Your voice becomes your brand. In non-fiction, your experience becomes your expertise which will help point you in the direction of your non-fiction niche. I’d love to help you with a development plan!

      Like

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