Holiday Writing…or Not Writing: Choosing a Genre

2014-12-08 09.13.19With the holidays approaching, I’ve been seeing loads of posts and promos for Christmas books. I was even a part of one promo for #ChickLit4Xmas, which was lots of fun. I’ve never been particularly into reading Christmas themed stories. I have nothing against them. I’ve simply never been drawn to them.

As I’ve been seeing all the holiday books being promoted, I realized I’ve never even written a single Christmas scene is any of my books. At least I don’t think so. It’s been a while since I’ve reread some of my early books. I’m pretty sure all I have are some birthday parties and a brief mention of Christmas in Shark Out Of Water.

One might start to think I have an aversion to writing holiday scenes. It’s kind of funny actually. I really don’t know why I haven’t written a holiday scene before, but it got me thinking. How do writers choose what genre they’re going to write? Obviously, I can’t speak for all authors, and I didn’t think about this early enough to take a poll, but here’s why I write what I write along with a few tips on how to choose your genre.

I write in several genres and subgenres ranging from YA paranormal/sci-fi/dystopian/urban fantasy, to straight up romance, to new adult (a rather new venture), to some unpublished projects that are just plain YA drama no otherworldly twists and turns at all. So what genre for what story?

Basically, the way I decide how to choose a genre depends on three things.

1: What is the main conflict of the story?

Is it personal or situational? Personal implies a lot more internal struggles while situational may be more event-driven. Figuring out what you want the driving force behind the conflict to be can be a challenge, but this question helps you narrow down whether you’re going to be thinking along the lines of faster paced/question driven writing or deeper emotional trials that won’t need bam-bam-bam events to pull the reader through the story.

2. What type of stumbling blocks will your characters face? 

This question in particular helps me chose the age range of my characters. With YA, parents are an issue, as are friends (more so than in other genres usually), limits on what they can and can’t do, firsts (big decisions, relationships, sex, drugs, alcohol, etc.), and self-discovery.

2014-12-08 09.22.48With New Adult, some of the YA issues still apply, but you add in facing the grownup world with jobs, bills, being on their own, dealing with consequences without parental backup, failure, and so much more. There’s more freedom for the characters in some ways, but a new set of responsibilities can limit them as well.

With fiction for adults, you’re facing day-to-day life with work and family, dealing with past mistakes, reality of the life they’ve chosen/ended up with, wanting more or something different, having to grow up and actually be an adult, serious relationship issues, etc. Asking yourself these question can help point you in the right direction for ages of your characters, which will help you narrow down your genre choices.

3. To paranormal or not to paranormal? 

Maybe this isn’t a question every writer asks, but I do. So far, all of my published YA books have some sort of paranormal/sci-fi/urban fantasy element, but I have other projects, finished and unfinished, that just didn’t work as anything but straight drama. Why? Because the source of their main problems are real problems, not imaginary ones. My adult romance series, Date Shark Series, doesn’t have a single ghost, demon, curse, or magic power anywhere. I wanted to focus on actual relationship problems we’ve all faced at one point or another and I didn’t need anything outside reality to do that.

Figuring out the driving force behind your conflict will help you decide whether or not your story needs something paranormal.

So, these are the questions I ask myself when I start a new project. Sometimes I already have these worked out when the idea hits me, but sometimes I don’t. If you’re uncertain about what direction to take your story, try asking yourself these questions. If you have questions you ask yourself to help you decide, I’d love to hear them! 

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