In S2 Episode 22 Kel and Pam chat about the issue of genre in fiction – why it matters and what you need to know from a writing and marketing perspective. The issue came up as part of a discussion on Pam’s writing journey as she transitions from writing rural romance into the wider world of contemporary women’s fiction. You can read more about Pam’s story here.
And here are the top them takeaways from our Episode 22 discussion.
- What is genre anyway? The term genre in the literary world refers to categories of writing other than literary fiction. Lit Fic novels tend to be highly thematic, character driven novels, sometimes abstract, in which the writing itself is often the feature rather than the story. They are sometimes light on plot (but not always) and are the books that are nominated for awards like the Mann-Booker and Miles Franklin. They often take the author many years to write and publishers like to have a stable of literary authors who may be eligible to win some of the more prestigious awards. Genre novels are commercial fiction novels that often sell in high numbers and keep the wheels of the publishing houses turning.
- Popular Genres include crime fiction, thrillers (closely related to crime), romance (and its various sub-genres like rural romance, erotica, sweet, romantic suspense and others), science fiction, fantasy, historical fiction and contemporary women’s fiction (stories about women and relationships but not necessarily romance). Readers of each of these genres are generally highly devoted and read widely within the genre or have particular authors they follow.
- Genre fiction is sometimes seen as the poor relation of literary fiction. Sad but true. In some publishing circles there is a hierarchy which has literary fiction up on a pedestal and everything else below it in whatever order the particular critic/reader/publisher considers fit. This attitude values one type of writing over another and fails to recognise that there are millions of readers out there and not everyone wants to read the same thing. Many readers want to escape when they read, they want to turn the page and get completely absorbed in the story. Some readers will ONLY read books within a certain genre while others are eclectic and appreciate different types of writing at different times. If you are a genre writer don’t let the snobbery get to you. Be loud and proud of the genre you write in and remember to support writers you love by reviewing their books and sharing their social media posts.
- Knowing the conventions of the genre you write in is crucial if you want to create a readership. Readers of romance novels for example will always expect a happily ever after ending. Fantasy has certain conventions as do crime and thriller novels. Read widely in the genre you are writing in so you can learn the conventions and then subvert them if you wish.
- Genre is a useful marketing tool. If you look on bookstore shelves you’ll see certain categories of covers – grey-black with orange print is currently popular for thrillers, a woman on a horse with an akubra identifies rural romance, intricately wrought letting and mysterious images often adorn the covers of fantasy novels. Using these familiar images is the publisher’s way of helping the reader identify your book and place it within its genre. It’s a win win for reader and author.
- Your branding as an author will be connected to your genre. Take a look at the websites of a few of your favourite authors. The genre they write in will often be reflected in the look of their website – the colours and images used and the overall feel of their online marketplace. Your brand as an author is the perception readers have of who you are and what you write so it’s wise to take some time to think about this and make sure it comes across clearly.
- Publishers often look for trending genres. Remember The Girl On The Train and Fifty Shades Of Grey? Titles like these that fly off the bookstore shelves often send publishers into a frenzy, searching for the next big similar thing. If you write in a genre that is currently popular go for it and put yourself out there but remember trends come and go. This time next year a different type of book will be on the best seller list and it might take you that long to write yours and start submitting it, by which time your once trending title will be old news. This is why it’s a good idea to write what you truly want to write and then try to find a home for it, once it’s been well and truly revised.
- Switching genres can be tricky. When a publisher signs you for a book they’re pretty much signing you to write in that genre, the reason being this is the genre your readers will get to know and – hopefully – love when they see your name on a cover. The problem with this is that as writers we often have a whole lot of different ideas and sometimes we like to write in different genres. Some authors get around this issue by using a pseudonym – Nora Roberts also writes as J.D. Robb, J. K. Rowling also writes as Robert Galbraith. For us mere mortals one way around it is to self publish in a different genre, either under the same name or another.
- Writing in a variety of genres is possible. Many authors find their genre and stick to it but for others there is that desire to branch out and while it is tricky (see above) it’s not impossible. Apart from the above examples a number of Australian authors write in numerous genres. Rachael Johns writes straight romance, rural romance and women’s fiction (or lifelit) and has all of these represented on her website. Fiona Palmer writes rural romance, YA and women’s fiction. Fiona Mcintosh has written fantasy and now writes historical women’s fiction. Kate Forsyth writes fantasy and historical fiction for both adults and children. And these are just a few examples.
- The bottom line is write what you love. This has already been said but can’t be said enough. If you write from the heart and write what you love, if you work hard and continue to learn and improve your craft, and if your make time time and effort to learn about the ins and outs of the publishing industry you have a good chance of one day being published. It’s not easy but if it’s your passion you need to pursue it because it’s what you love. Connect with other writers, keep writing and enjoy the journey – on one genre or many.
That’s it for the wrap up. We’d love to hear your thoughts on genre writing either in the comments or on our Facebook page.
In episode 16 of Writes4Women Kel and I chat about characters in fiction and as always we like to support our conversation with a post summarising the main points. So here, in no particular order and are ten tips for creating memorable characters. I’ll refer to the protagonist as she because mine invariably are.
- Character creates plot. Put your character in a difficult situation or give her a problem to deal with and your plot will begin to reveal itself.
- Glean ideas for characters from stories you read in the media, people you meet, friends, family and acquaintances. Try blending a few characteristics from different people to create a whole new character.
- Your characters should be as real to you as your friends and family or they should become that way by the time you’ve finished revising.
- Pinterest and google images are great sources of visual inspiration for characters. Here’s a link to my pinterest page for my latest manuscript, Cross My Heart, where you can see how I’ve collected images for various characters.
- Consider what your character has to learn. How does she learn this during the course of the story? Who are her ‘teachers’ and who are the people who stand in the way of her learning?
- Character arc: your character should develop during the narrative and should be, at least in some way, a different person at the end of the story. This is closely linked to what she has to learn. Some characters are dynamic (your protagonist definitely should be) and others are static (they help the protagonist on her journey).
- Character bio’s can be very useful but you don’t need to have a hugely detailed one before you start to write. Begin with a few basics on the character – age, family relationships, work, initial problem and then start writing. When you get to a point where you need to know more about the character you can stop and nut out some details. Go deeper than ‘what is her favourite colour’. Think about things like ‘what is her greatest fear’, ‘what does she think about just before she goes to sleep’ – the tough stuff.
- One question it’s important to ask from the start is ‘What is the character’s wound?’ The wound is something that happened to them in childhood or adolescence that had a huge impact on who they became and what they believe about themselves and about others. For instance a character whose father walked out when they were a kid may then believe they aren’t lovable. This can then manifest itself in any number of behaviours, ranging from pushing others away to being overly clingy, depending on other personality traits. There’s a heap more detail on this over at onestopforwriters.com and I highly recommend you checking out their range of Thesaurus’s including The Emotion Thesaurus and The Wound Thesaurus.
- As well as the story arc consider the emotional arc for your protagonist (and others). In any given situation we have a range of emotions and your character’s are no different. As you write, and certainly when you revise, think about the primary emotions happening in each scene but also consider the underlying emotions going on and how these influence your character’s behavior.
- As always try and show not tell. Show us your character being angry through her actions, internal dialogue and dialogue. This will create a much deeper emotional connection between your character and your reader.
We’d love to hear your tips on creating characters readers will want to hang out with. You can share them in the comments section here or on our Facebook page.
In Episode 13 we gave listeners a round up of some of the major and regional writing festivals taking place in Australia in 2018. Our list is by no means exhaustive but here are some of the festivals we thought looked interesting.
We would like to thank the writers of The Pilot Diary for listing many of these festivals and saving us all the hard work!
We’ll be at All About Women, Sydney, Mudgee, West Coast Fiction the Young Writers Festival, the date of which is yet to be announced. And we hope to get to a few more!
In Episode 10, So This Is Christmas Part 1, we chatted about our favourite books on writing. Here they are, in no particular order. Turns out there are exactly 10. We could add to it but ten is a nice round number so here we go …
Writing Down The Bones by Natalie Goldberg
All about writing practice, letting go of fear and freewriting. Natalie is a buddhist and has some great writing exercises here for beginning writers and for experiences writers wanting to get back to basics. One of the first books I bought on writing and still well loved.
The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron
The book that, along with the one above, got me started me writing. This is a must for any ‘artist’ (and aren’t we all?) and deals with all those issues that come up when we decide to spend time on our creative pursuits – fear, guilt, family, time, work … and more. Julia’s two must-do’s are ‘morning pages’ (three hand written pages as soon as you wake up) and a weekly ‘artist’s date’. Both are designed to fill the creative well and tap into the ideas and emotions lurking in our subconscious.This is one I come back to again and again. There’s also a website with an online course and a range of other books full of the author’s wisdom on creativity and writing.
The Emotional Craft of Fiction by Donald Maass
In fact, anything by Donald Maass! A Literary Agent who has turned his hand to books on writing, Maass passes on his knowledge of how to connect with readers on an emotional level in his latest how-to. I wouldn’t recommend this one to beginning authors as the concepts are quite tricky but if you’d like to tap into some of Maass’ wisdom try Writing The Breakout Novel, Fire In The Fiction or 21st Century Fiction. I’m a huge Maass fan and turn to his books each time I’m writing one of my own.
Revision and Editing by James Scott Bell
Easy to use, full of great tips on editing and all the craft elements of writing. JSB has a whole range of books which are all wonderful! Write Your Novel From The Middle is another one i=of his I found really helpful.
How To Be A Writer: Who Smashes Deadlines, Crushes Editors And Lives In A Solid Gold Hovercraft
by John Birmingham
Written in his usual wry, punchy style this one is a practical guide on how to get your book written and published. Chapter headings include Find Your Voice, Kick Self Doubt In The Dick, Write 10,000 Words A Day and Pimp Your Book. The week I bought this book i read it from cover to cover and wrote 14,000 words in 6 days. Maybe I should read it again!
On Writing by Stephen King
An oldie but a goodie and a must-have for any writer’s shelf. King details how he became a writer and shares his wisdom on becoming one. His ‘writer’s toolbox’ gives writers a fantastic run-down on what you need in your metaphorical toolbox. This is one you will come back to again and again. Pam loves it too!
Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert
The best book on writing by anyone in recent years .Liz tackles all the big questions around fear and doubt, weaves in stories about her own experiences as a writer and generally inspires. Her theory on how stories are out there in the universe waiting to be told is truly magical. Another double choice!
Story Genius by Lisa Crohn
The subtitle “How to use brain science to go beyond outlining and write a riveting novel (before you waste 3 years writing 327 pages that go nowhere)” really says it all. Cron uses brain science to navigate to abyss between panting and plotting and leads you through the steps from idea to finished novel.
The Emotion Thesaurus by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi
These authors have struck gold with their range of thesaurus’ for writers which can all be found at https://onestopforwriters.com along with a heap of other writing resources. The Emotion Thesaurus is a huge help in the quest to show not tell and along with the others, (including the brand new A Writer’s Guide To Psychological Trauma) will help you create characters and writing readers want to devour.
Hope you find something to add to your bookshelf.
We’d love to hear about your favourite books on writing. Let us know in the comments or on our Facebook page
In Episode 6 we had a great chat about writing retreats and why you should consider going on one. If you missed our discussion you can pop over and listen here or on iTunes here
Here’s a quick re-hash of why you should treat yourself to a writing retreat in 2018:
- Spoil yourself with some time out to do what you love. You deserve it!
- Spend time with like-minded people.
- Make connections and friendships that could last a life-time.
- Find a potential support network for your writing.
- Immerse yourself in your craft and learn new writing techniques.
- Give your writing brain some space and a fresh perspective.
- Return home totally inspired and ready to write/revise that book.
That pretty much covers it but if you can think of any others do let us know!
So now we’ve convinced you, here’s out Top Five Picks For Writing Retreats in 2018.
- Revise To Publish Masterclass at Russley Rural Retreat, Segenhoe, NSW. April 20-22nd. Spend a weekend with your Writes4Women Co-Host Pamela Cook, author of five completed manuscripts. Pamela will be sharing what she’s learnt about writing, revising and the publishing industry in this not to be missed Masterclass at beautiful Russley. Places are strictly limited so be quick. Click the link for more information or email Pamela direct: firstname.lastname@example.org
2. A Writing Retreat In Tuscany with Vanessa Carnevale
A week-long stay in an idyllic Tuscan setting. A 17th century villa with stunning views of Florentine hills, providing the perfect backdrop for a week of peaceful relaxation, writing and dining. Relax by the poolside with an intimate group of like-minded writers and a glass of Chianti or Prosecco and allow the inspiration to unfold.
What’s not to love?
Sunset over the winding road with cypresses in Tuscany.
3. Peak Collaboration: Writing Group Fiction with Alice Campion
Alice Campion is four writers in one – the only group writing commercially-published fiction in the world.
Using the Alice Campions’ successful techniques, you will work within a small team to create a finished short work of collaborative fiction.
The vibrant natural and cultural world of the Himalayas should provide inspiring shared sights, sounds, experiences and characters that will resonate in your writing. The Alice process includes periods of both solitary and shared work, and whether you’re hiking, meditating or shopping in a bustling market, your mind will be collecting gems to bring back to the group. The process also includes lots of laughter and you may well forge deep creative bonds.
This is my dream retreat. How about you?
4. WA Writing Retreat with Natasha Lester
Natasha is one of our faves and a fantastic facilitator. If you live in the west of Australia this is one you should check out.
‘Would you like to go away for a long weekend and concentrate solely on your writing? Would it make that time even better if you had the help of a published writer to guide and teach you, as well as a group of like-minded souls to talk to about the ups and downs of the writing journey? If that sounds like your idea of heaven, then keep reading!’
5. Commercial Fiction Signature Masterclass with Fiona McIntosh
Fiona McIntosh is one of Australia’s best selling authors. Her Masterclasses are highly sought after and ‘designed to propel writers from simply talking about the novel they want to write, to confronting the task, doing the hard yards and finding the courage to submit their manuscript for consideration of publication. The aim is to offer participants much more than just creative advice.’
Places are filling fast for Fiona’s 2018 classes.
Hope you get yourself on a retreat in 2018. If you do, be sure to let us know how it goes!
What’s Cool With Women is a new segment in the Writes4Women podcast, shining a spotlight on positive people, campaigns and organisations making a great impact on women and women’s issues around the globe. What’s Cool With Women this month is a campaign by Sony Music and the Queensland Music Festival called “You’re the Voice for Domestic Violence” and it couldn’t be cooler. A bunch of brilliant Aussie artists have remade the iconic John Farnham song “You’re the Voice”, using the power of music to raise money for young people in Queensland fleeing domestic violence.
Domestic violence is an epidemic in Australia and many countries around the world. Who can forget the horrific story of Tara Brown who was run off the road in Queensland and beaten to death in broad daylight by a violent partner she had been desperately trying to escape. A snapshot of the shocking figures from the our watch website
prove just how far we are from facing this situation head on and protecting women and children from the devastating effects of physical, emotional and mental abuse…and if you happen to be indigenous the figures are even more terrifying.
The following basic statistics help demonstrate the prevalence and severity of violence against women:
- – On average, at least one woman a week is killed by a partner or former partner in Australia.1
- – One in three Australian women has experienced physical violence, since the age of 15.2
- – One in five Australian women has experienced sexual violence.2
- – One in four Australian women has experienced physical or sexual violence by an intimate partner.2
- – One in four Australian women has experienced emotional abuse by a current or former partner.3
- – Women are at least three times more likely than men to experience violence from an intimate partner.4
Having been one of these statistics and spent the last 2 decades overcoming the resulting trauma, I know how important it is to bring this issue right out in the open and dangerous it is if we continue to shut up and turn a blind eye. Which is exactly why th “You’re the Voice for Domestic Violence” campaign caught our attention.
SONY FOUNDATION CHARITY SINGLE
Iconic Australian artists Archie Roach, Troy Cassar-Daley and Montaigne have joined forces with Katie Noonan, Kate Ceberano and Isaiah to sing ‘You’re the Voice’ on a charity single to raise funds to support young people who are victims of domestic violence. The single is available on iTunes with all profits received by the Sony Foundation being donated to DVConnect who provide 24/7 crisis response in Queensland for those living with domestic or family violence. You can help turn the tide on domestic violence and buy the single.
You can buy the single at http://smarturl.it/YTV
for the teeny tiny price of $2.19 and it is ROCKIN!!! I honestly prefer it to the original and you can try before you buy by checking out the video clip below.
So for the cost of a half a cup of coffee you can help prevent another horrific domestic violence statistic from happening AND grab yourself a funky new tune to add to your playlist.