Who Governs your Genre?

When you first tell somebody you’re a writer, the first question you almost always receive is, “What do you write?” Then, you answer, and depending on the person’s tastes, you either get a kind smile from him/her or a cringe-worthy frown. In a subjective field like this, very few people can keep a poker face.

On a personal note, I’ve had to deal with the even more annoying response of people assuming what I write based on my Cerebral Palsy. Many times, others have drawn the immediate conclusion that I’m a children’s book author. I’d like to say it’s because I did have that inclination as a kid and even penned a few stories back then, but the majority of people don’t know that. Instead, it seems they don’t see me having the potential to create something that doesn’t include farm animals and is longer than fifteen pages.

But I digress. Whatever your situation, that initial response doesn’t end after you first get started. Once you get a book published, some of those same people ask you again what it’s about and will likely react the same way they did before. From my experience, it continues to the next book, too. You quickly learn a person doesn’t have to read your work to pass judgement on it, and the genre is often the defining factor in that.

In truth, though, can we blame them? Of course not. After all, don’t we head straight for our favorite genre when we step into a bookstore and/or library?

However, we also can’t let someone else dictate what genre we write. I faced this from the very start of my writing journey. I decided I wanted to write when my mom took me to meet an author at our local library. During that visit, the author related that it’s easier to find a publisher for a nonfiction book at the beginning of one’s career. Hence, I pondered that for years, trying to come up with a topic that I could write about. Though I toyed around with a few ideas, in the end, I had to go with what I was passionate about and what I would thrive in—which was not nonfiction.

More than a decade later, I came up against this pressure again. When my first mystery novel, Husband in Hiding, came out, several friends repeatedly suggested I put out a love story. Last year, I followed through on that with the release of Forgetting My Way Back to You, which pacified them but seemed to disappoint many of my other readers.

My point is, people’s preferences and opinions vary, and as the saying goes, “You can’t please everyone.” Sure, it’s disheartening when someone doesn’t share your enthusiasm for your plotline, but you can’t let that dampen your zeal or try to cater to their tastes. Stick with what suits you, and your success may just change their minds.

On the other hand, you also shouldn’t turn aside from a genre just because someone assumes that’s all you can do or because of a common stigma. Since so many assumed I’d write children’s books, I was adamant I never would. Now, I still have no immediate plans to, but I would if the right story took hold of my imagination.

Regardless of your choice of genre, the most important thing is to put your heart into it. Don’t be ashamed of it. Quite possibly, someone somewhere wants the story you’re writing today, so why let anybody talk you out of it?


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