Writer, Know Thyself!

I recently spent four days with a wonderful group of writers. We meet every year to pray together, brainstorm each other’s books, and laugh uproariously. I always come home feeling like I’ve had a major ab workout from all the laughter!

In the course of our discussions, I realized that with publishing changing in so many ways, writers can sometimes lose their focus on what they’re really writing. For example, a writer I know is crafting a novel that’s a departure from what she usually writes. It has a romance thread, but romance isn’t the primary focus of the story. She was calling it a romance, but the more I read it the more I saw it wasn’t really a romance. Romance readers have very specific expectations of romance novels, and her book didn’t meet those expectations. What she’s writing is, in fact, a supernatural, medical thriller with a strong romance thread.

So why was it important for her to know that? Because what you’re writing—the genre and reader expectations—affect everything about the book. Plot, pacing, character development and interaction, chapter hooks, title, cover focus, proposal information, what the readers expect of that story…it’s all impacted by the kind of story you’re writing. Had my friend put a romance title and cover on this book, the readers who bought it may well have been disappointed—or even frustrated—when they discovered it wasn’t at all what they expected.

So how do you know what you’re writing? Here are a few tips:

  1. Ask yourself:
    1. What is the primary message of this book?
    2. What is the primary plot of the story?
  2. Ask others:
    1. Give it to a group of those who love to read and ask them when they’re done, without giving any clues, what category they think it fits in.
    2. Do some research online. There are a number of places you can find good descriptions of genres to help you position your book correctly.

So for your sake, the editor’s sake, and your reader’s sake, be sure you know your genre and focus. You’ll all benefit!



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