Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Insecure Writers' Group January 2014: Genre


   This is my first post of the year!  Sorry for the delay... there were colds, Nanowrimo and too much work in November and December. That said, sharing my goals for the year and my fears about them is the best start to a new year of blogging.  That said, be sure to check out the rest of the awesome participants in the  Insecure Writers Support Group.
     I have been working in a small independant bookstore now for over a year and I've been learning so much about the book industry.  It's been interesting seeing the relationship between book sales, media and staff-customer interactions.  That said, the internet and brick and mortar stores have an uneasy coexistence.  I can't be as anti-amazon and anti-self-publication and the latest technological gadgets delivering books to readers and whatever.  I tried, in the past to be resistant to change, and now I am tired of that.
There is no amount of resistance that will make the future other than it will be. That said there is a synergy among internet dissemination of information, traditional marketing avenues, readers, and bookstores that is a little difficult to put a finger on, much less explain and it doesn't help that so many patrons of the store are either pro-e-book or anti-e-book, with more on the anti side than admitting to owning a Kindle, Nook, or Reading on their iPads.
But the relationships among these things are exactly what I want to understand this year--particularly in its relationship to genre. This question came to mind particularly with iO9's list of the top SF books of 2013.  Their list included titles like "The Accursed," by Joyce Carol Oates, and "MaddAddam," by Margaret Atwood, which in our store is shelved with the literature.
I talked to someone who occasionally helps out in the store, who writes mystery, and he talks about the genre blending lines in mystery as well.  I feel that understanding how the big publishers make these distinctions, or why, can help to understand what the relationship among the new technologies and communication patterns, traditional outreach methods --t.v, radio, and newspaper articles/reviews-- and brick and mortar stores/online stores (sales).
The questions I want to answer with my reading this year will be:  What is genre? What is literature? What is YA? How does genre fiction characterize itself and is there any underlying characteristics that differentiate it from literary fiction?  If there is what are these and why do they exist?
These questions should get me closer to an understanding of what characterizes particular audiences, and lend a more in depth understanding of how the book industry works, and the significance of these various categories to readers and to the industry.
It's kind of an academic approach... and the reason for that is that I *did* manage to complete both Camp Nano and Nanowrimo in 2013.  I have two 50k word rough drafts to turn into something publishable by the end of 2014.  I want to know where my writing falls on the spectrum and why.
So I am planning to read a lot this year, across many genres, while revising Rule of Magic and The Lady and the Bow.  

13 comments:

  1. If everything in the grocery store were all sorted alphabetically, no one would be able to find what they are looking for. In the grocery store, all the nuts are grouped together. There are all different varieties of nuts on the nut shelf, but if you're looking for nuts, that's the place to start. I think genre is like that - to help the reader find the book. I think maybe too much emphasis is placed on the writer selecting a genre and building a story to fit the genre. If you do that, you might end up writing a book that looks like all the rest.

    I think Joyce Carol Oates is one author that definitely crosses boundaries. The beauty of the electronic bookstore is you will find her writing in all of the genres - not just one. It would be impossible for a bookstore to stack her books on more than one shelf.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Tonja, I agree. I promise I'm not trying to write for genre in particular! LOL. My interest comes from the idea that the categories are subjective and growing more so. People are finding what they like online, but a small brick and mortar store like ours has limited ability to sort things out like the chains do. As a result all romance, for instance, is shelved in literature (though we have very little to represent that genre) and generally they end up needing to ask someone where to find a mystery book --which could be in mystery or literature. We are seriously limited by our size versus the sheer number of books published each year. So we could never provide the grocery experience from the get go :P

      I think the rise of such "genre bending" titles means something. Something about the relationship between our online experiences and our actions IRL. I also think that genre definitions are subjective marketing categories, that relate to the big guys' characterization of reading and audience. I am looking for the pattern and--perhaps--the significance of these categories, not in the sense of choice but in the sense of identity. How we see ourselves as readers, our communities, what we think about our choices and why we make them. I think understanding these things would help to identify audience and illuminate the changing reader behavior.

      Delete
  2. It sounds like you have a busy 2014 ahead of you. Genre is an interesting concept to study, but worthwhile. The lines are blurring more and more everyday.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, they are, and I'd love to know why! :)

      Delete
  3. I think you would like the book Writing 21st Century Fiction by Donald Maas. I'm only a few chapters in but its wonderful and has a chapter on genre that really helped me a lot. Happy writing!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks! I'll be sure to check it out.

      Delete
  4. This was so interesting. It seems like lots of books get shelved under literature that could be in fantasy or mystery. B&N sometimes has books from the same series in two different sections.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yep! When we have multiple copies of these sorts of titles, i try to spread them out and watch to see if, in our store, the books move more successfully in one section or another. It's really very interesting. Sanderson's "Steelheart" did better in the SF section than the YA section, even though it's supposed to be YA... proving you never know...

      Delete
  5. Reading a lot, across genres, is an excellent plan and will only improve your writing. A fact many writers mistakenly dismiss so they have more writing time.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you Linda! I definitely think I will learn from this self-determined project and I hope it will help me with revising my WIPs this year.

      Delete
  6. I think genres are a good idea, but sometimes a book doesn't pigeonhole neatly into just one genre or age-based category. A lot of books published a few generations ago would probably have a hard time fitting into just one category these days, beyond the vague "literary fiction."

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. So agreed, Carrie! I was speaking to a coworker about 'Catcher in the Rye," for instance. Despite the teenaged protagonist, my colleague was certain if it were written today, it would have a hard time getting published as it doesn't fit nicely with the YA model. It was an interesting idea... how the emergence lof the "Young Adult" category has altered the publishing/reading landscape.

      Delete
  7. Congratulations on the NaNo wins (It feels good, doesn't it?).

    Reading a lot sounds like a great way to improve your writing. Good luck with your stories!
    Leanne ( http://readfaced.wordpress.com/ )

    ReplyDelete