Fear in Writing: Know Your Genre

Today in Literary History

Today in Literary History...December 14, 1907: Rudyard Kipling receives the Nobel prize for literature, the first English-language writer to do so.ud

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Know Your Genre

Jill Edmondson blogs to us today from Toronto, ON, where she is a Communications Professor at George Brown College.  Her first novel, 'Blood and Groom' is out now!  Here she goes...
When I was first starting to write, I went to a Crime Fiction seminar where Rosemary Aubert (the Ellis Portal series) was the guest speaker. She spoke for about two hours and answered questions from the audience after her talk. The whole evening was informative and interesting, but what stuck with me was one sentence: Know your Genre.

How helpful and how true!

Before you sit down and start to write, learn all you can about the genre. This will benefit you in untold ways.
1. You’ll know what’s out there and what works and what doesn’t.
2. You’ll learn what’s NOT out there and then you can perhaps fill a void.
3. You’ll know where and how to pitch your book to potential publishers.

Long before I started writing Blood and Groom: A Sasha Jackson Mystery I was already involved in the mystery genre. I had taken a mystery writing course. I was an associate member (fan member) of Crime Writers of Canada, and of Sisters in Crime (Toronto Chapter). I read mystery related magazines/websites. I belonged to (actually I founded) two mystery fiction book clubs. Through Crime Writers of Canada, I was once a judge in a book award/competition (the Arthur Ellis awards given by CWC). Talk about having a solid foundation in mystery fiction!

I was also working on my Master’s Degree at the time, and I did some independent studies on... you guessed it: Mystery fiction. As part of the MA work and research (and ultimately thesis work, essays and so on), I read a lot of scholarly papers on Crime Fiction. I learned the history of the genre. I learned the sub-genres (police procedurals, cozies, etcetera). I learned about characters in crime fiction (roles of women, sidekicks, lovers/relationships, and the like).

It took me six months to write Blood and Groom. It took about three months to land a publishing contract. Enough said? Knowing the genre made the whole process faster, smoother, less frustrating and certainly much more enjoyable than if I’d done things differently.

Cheers, Jill Edmondson
“Blood and groom” is available on Amazon or via your favourite bookseller!
Trailer for “Blood and Groom”
I’m also on Twitter: @JillEdmondson
Thank you, Jill, for guest blogging for me today.  I don't know if I'll do it in six months, but I certainly will write my book faster for your help!

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  1. Six months! I'm am speechless. When I grow up I want to be that good.

    Great interview ladies, knowing our genre makes all the sense in the world. Certainly a foundation that we cannot afford to establish.

  2. Lack of coffee has slurred my words!

    We cannot afford not to have strong genre knowledge as our foundation- phew!

    Coffee here I come...

  3. Interesting post. Can't image writing a novel in six years, much less six months. WOW. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Wow! You are definitely an expert on the subject I would guess. That's very good advice.

  5. Hi Folks,

    Thanks for the comments. I can't stresss enough how familiarity with the genre boosted my comfort level. I can't say the writing was exactly easy, but I felt more confident right from the outset.

    Cheers, Jill

  6. Jill- Are you working on your second novel now? Have you considered moving into a sub-genre?

  7. Excellent advice, I am currently working on knowing more about the genre I am in! The more you know the better you will be! Amazing 6 months!

    Glad I stopped by! Look forward to future posts!

  8. Great post. However, I would advise not to restrict yourself in genre. Some genre's may overlap, and if done well, could lead to a great story.

  9. Your writing speed astounds me. But of course, being from Toronto, you'd be very used to a fast pace!

  10. Wise words! I know I didn't study my genre enough before embarking on my writing.

  11. Interesting point by Jm, and I would agree as well. Not to discount Jill's advice--true, true, true...But I have learned a lot from the writing styles across genre's and I hope to gain readership across genres as well.

    But in the end, marketability means finding a hook. And that hook will be in your genre.


  12. I love this post. Thank you so very much Michele and Jill it was an education.
    Warm regards,

  13. I've read sci-fi all my life!
    She's got some good tips to continue expanding one's knowledge, though.

  14. I am blushing at the replies - thanks for commenting. At the risk of sounding cocky, the second book was done in a bit less time: 5 months. It was easier to work on it once I finished book #1.

    I am relatively new to writing. I have only completed two manuscripts - the two I've mentioned. There were only two others that I'd ever even tried to work on (neither is finished, and I doubt either one of them will ever be done). Both of my abandoned manuscripts are from early days, before I knew what I was doing in the genre and both are pretty bad.

    Something else that a Wise Old Owl once said (I forget the owl's name): when you know the genre, you will have an easier time WRITING THE BOOK THAT YOU'D WANT TO READ!

    Cheers, Jill Edmondson

  15. Great post! What an interesting thesis topic - I would have enjoyed doing that.

    Super advice - thanks :)