Writing for Genre

By: Jordan Ardoin


If you want to be a writer, you probably have an idea of the kind of stories you want to tell. While you are creating those stories, you should let them flow freely from your imagination without trying to force them neatly into a category. However, when the time comes to submit your manuscript and publish your book, it becomes important that your story fits into a genre.

The genres of writing are numerous and diverse. Some of the most common are commercial, literary, sci-fi/fantasy, non-fiction, romance, thriller, and young adult. You should have some awareness of which of these your book falls under, if not when you start writing, at least by the time you start editing. Knowing your genre enables you to write something that follows the rules of that genre (to an extent), which is something publishers will look for in your manuscript. So, how do you write for a specific genre? Research! Once you know your genre, learn as much as you can about it.

One simple yet imperative parameter of genre that you should research is word count. Publishers expect manuscripts of certain genres to be a certain length. For instance, most young adult novels are expected to fall somewhere between 50,000 and 80,000 words, but a sci-fi/fantasy novel can be as long as 150,000 words without falling outside the genre norm. Usually, you can find several articles about the expected word count of your genre with a Google search.

Another important step in writing for genre is following genre conventions. A genre convention is a plot or structure element that nearly every work in the genre has in common. Publishers and readers alike look for these conventions. For example, readers of romance novels expect the lead couple to live happily ever after. Happy endings are a convention of the romance genre. Of course, breaking conventions is sometimes accepted and even encouraged, but they should be broken with a compelling purpose, not out of ignorance.

While searching the internet for information about your genre can be helpful, the most effective way to learn how to write for a genre is to read books from that genre. Read books by a variety of authors, with a variety of subject matter, from a variety of eras. Reading widely within your genre will give you a familiarity with the material you could never gain from reading articles. Once you are experienced and comfortable with stories from your genre, reproducing its conventions in your own work becomes second nature.

Writing for Genre