Youngblood Blog

Writing weblog, local, topical, personal, spiritual

Genre-Bender or just Plain Naïve?


NaNo keeps one at it, leaving little room for impromptu extras

You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you
~ Ray Bradbury

It’s no surprise to anyone reading this blog — and coincidentally involved with Alex J Cavanaugh’s Insecure Writers’ Group — that November is a heads-down month for writers, authors, part-time-bloggers and scribes of every description. This covers those aspiring authors who blog in the bath, motived teenagers desperate to show they can break away from their school curriculum, to seasoned veterans like the icon quoted above (which, after February’s launch of his second book, CassaFire, will include our host, Alex). Hope he doesn’t mind being called a veteran, but I’m sure he won’t mind being thrown in with Ray Bradbury, 90!

This means that I, newbie NaNo-er only three years in, will make this particular blog shorter than my usual efforts — more inkeeping with my prolific (and self-disciplined) blogging buddies who seem capable of blogging day and night seven days a week for 365 days at a stretch. My headscarf is doffed to them, but I am the first to admit I usually only write when the Muse directs and, under normal circumstances — unless I’m NaNo-ing — I tend to wait for her signal.

This is probably naïve of me. But I admit to being naïve. There’s no point in pretending — particularly when it comes to writing and allowing the word to flow through the mind, down the arms, via hands and fingertips on to the blank page.

I am first to admit I still find the process miraculous. Almost like subconsciously intending to bathe, and five minutes later finding oneself soaking deep in the luxurious warm waters, without any recollection of having undressed, lit candles, found towel, shampoo and soap and turned on the taps to fill the bath. But I digress.

The same goes for knowing how to describe what I write. Naïve. On Twitter — which, as you know, requires a brief description in fewer than 140 characters to describe oneself and one’s tweets — I say I write New Age fiction. But, as far as I know, that isn’t a genuine genre. This was brought succinctly home to me when preparing my new profile and studying the genres suggested in this year’s NaNo — which, as you probably know, has put together a whole new user-friendly novel-conducive webpage, just to get us all fired up to CREATE for the next 30 days.

In case you hadn’t noticed, the genres in question — which have to be mentioned in query letters, and are important concerns to agents and publishers, the serious dramatis personae of the Publishing Industry — are not exactly well-defined. You are supposed to know. And sometimes trial and error is not an option open to you. If you have been writing query letters for the last six years and you’ve been describing your work as Sci-Fi and somebody *in the know* says they like your ‘Fantasy’ work, you swallow hard and start all over — with the knowledge that you’ve probably wasted a lot of time that could have been salvaged if you’d done your homework. Problem is, however much homework you do, it is still difficult to know the difference between ‘magical realism’ and ‘paranormal romance’. Well, maybe some of you experienced authors do know the difference. But, as I said at the beginning, I’m naïve. And it takes time — and loads of errors — to get it right.

So what do you think?

The genres which NaNo lists as ‘standard’ in this year’s contest are:

Adventure, Chicklit, Erotic Fiction, Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Horror & Supernatural, Literary Fiction, Mainstream Fiction, Mystery Thriller & Suspense, Religious Spiritual & New Age, Romance, Satire Humor & Parody, Sci-Fi, Young Adult & Youth, and Other.

No Magical Realism, you’ll note.

When I first started out submitting queries, I was paralyzed by my inability to decide which genre my MS fit into. Being a Brit, it was, for me, even more daunting to read young American beginner writers (on Facebook and elsewhere) bandying about their knowledge of genres with fluent ease — as if I ought to KNOW. It has taken me a decade or two to calm down and use a couple of standards when querying.

Mt.Shasta's presence is awesome, even from a distance of 80miles, photo ©2008MCYoungblood

This quandary is purely self-inflicted, because I wrote historical non-fiction for years, before finding my voice in novels. Since the switch I have written not only historical romance, (Phantom’s Child, pictured below right) but also am blessed that my supernatural novella, Cockatrice is to be published early in 2012 by NetBound Publishing; and my New Age tome, SHASTA: Critical Mass, (sidebar-2, right, and pictured above) has been picked up by AllThingsthatMatterPress, also for publication in 2012. Two of my recent NaNo novels in the Green Turtle Cay series fall under the banner of fantasy, although they are borderline Sci-Fi.

So, you can see my dilemma. It might seem I have not yet honed myself — as any sensible person might — to fit one genre. It certainly makes for intrigue and change of pace. And it keeps me on my toes. But the question remains. How does one decide on one label, when so many strands and possibilities exist within a single manuscript which might make it more suitable under another?

In order to maintain my sanity — and because NaNo calls, which means I shall have to wind this up 🙂 — I blame the system that insists on labels. Bureaucracy in the microcosm. I may not like having to live with it, but live with it I must, if I wish to continue to write and be published.

Your opinions and personal experiences in this thorny field, dear Reader, are most welcome because, at this stage, I suspect I am not alone in this duel with the Publishing Powers-that-Be. Thanks for listening. And thank you, Alex, for allowing me another shot at these insecure blues…
©2011 Marian Youngblood

November 2, 2011 - Posted by | authors, blogging, culture, novel, popular, publishing, writing | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


  1. The “mystery, thriller, and suspense” label just kind of jumped out at me when I dropped the box down and that’s what I went with. I wasn’t even thinking labels when I started concocting my idea for this NaNo-go-round, but I guess labels make it easier to find a shelf to put the books on.

    Tossing It Out

    Comment by Arlee Bird | November 2, 2011 | Reply

  2. Absolutely love the Bradbury quote! Groovy blog:)

    Comment by Mark | November 2, 2011 | Reply

    • thanks Mark for checking out the Master! At 90 he can show the rest of us a thing or two, I believe. And bless you Lee for your return visit – you do great work yourself ❤

      Comment by siderealview | November 2, 2011 | Reply

  3. You have books coming out soon? That is awesome!!!
    I just called mine science fiction, although my publisher slotted it into two sub-categories from there. I never knew they existed.
    I don’t feel like a veteran, but I can fake it for you!
    Awesome post as always, Youngblood!

    Comment by Alex J. Cavanaugh | November 3, 2011 | Reply

  4. Genre labels are always difficult because they are such an organic thing, changing over the years. Some gain in popularity while others disappear altogether because the label, not the story, changes.

    Comment by Lynda R Young | November 3, 2011 | Reply

  5. I am all for Magic Realism … Browsing through the thousands of books my dad left me I found the Joachim Stiller series by Belgian writer Hubert Lampo. He wrote in Dutch … But I believe some of his books were translated into English.
    I often feel insecure as a writer and I hate pigeonholing and being pigeonholed … It often makes me … an insecure writer …

    Comment by littlebelgianwriter | November 3, 2011 | Reply

  6. Thanks so much Alex (blushes): you realize in the supra-dimensional context of the space-time continuum, you already ARE a veteran… so no faking needed! Don’t know how you get the time to check ALL our blogs, here. Bless.
    Lynda: glad you blamed it on the label; or pigeonholing, as Denise calls it. Like that. You sound as if you already know the nuances, but that may be because you are a ‘grown-up’ in the genre business.
    Denise: nice to see you again – thanks for your visit. I did once see an English copy of H.Lampo’s ‘The Coming of Joachim Stiller’ (don’t even know the title in Flemish), which was actually described as ‘New Age fiction’ beFORE the time that that category existed… so miracles are possible.

    Comment by siderealview | November 3, 2011 | Reply

  7. In case you hadn’t noticed, the genres in question — which have to be mentioned in query letters, and are important concerns to agents and publishers, the serious dramatis personae of the Publishing Industry — are not exactly well-defined. You are su pposed to know.
    The quote is one of my favorites! I’m new to your blog. Nice to meet you. 🙂

    Comment by Margo Kelly | November 28, 2011 | Reply

    • thanks Margo – you too. And sometimes it’s hard not to believe we are the blind leading the blind!! are you, like me, gearing up to another Alex bloghop in just under a week? ~~~

      Comment by siderealview | November 29, 2011 | Reply

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