1. Drmoses
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    Drmoses Member

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    Importance of genre and must I write what I read?

    Discussion in 'By the Genre' started by Drmoses, Feb 17, 2015.

    Here's my problem. As I write books, my stories seem to inevitably trend towards my life experiences. Without throwing out too much personal information, my life has been shaped in large part by my interactions with women. Hardships, tribulations, the things that I've regrettably done in the past to hurt people; and then the emotion in overcoming all of that. So because of this, things themes end up involving, heroism and the power of love etc.

    Thing is, I never planned on writing romance. Furthermore, I don't read romance novels and I've always assumed romance readers are very particular about things fitting into the traditional definition of romance.

    So what should I do? Launch myself head first into romance reading/writing? Stay the course, not concern myself with genre and the traditional framework of them?
     
  2. daemon
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    daemon Contributing Member Contributor

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    Both, actually.

    The wrong approach:

    "I want to make money → books can make a lot of money → what book should I write? → romance novels make a lot of money, so I should write one → what kind of novel should I write? → how about writing about my own experience?"

    The right approach:

    "I have some interesting ideas that come from my own experience → how can I express these ideas? → a novel would be a great way to express them → what type of novel would most effectively express these ideas? → maybe a romance novel → I should read romance novels to learn how effective writers write."

    See the difference? In the "right" approach, the "genre" is merely a tool for expressing something you already wanted to express (whether or not you even knew the genre existed).

    And reading books in your target genre is, actually, more than just a way to show you how to write effectively for your intended audience. Although my rhetorical questions do not convey this point, reading books in your target genre is actually a way to enrich yourself as a person, whether or not you have any intent to write.

    So, in conclusion: read a bunch of romance novels. Try to find the best ones you can get your hands on. Read them primarily to expand your taste in literature and secondarily to give yourself ideas for how to express yourself.
     
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  3. Commandante Lemming
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    Commandante Lemming Contributing Member Contributor

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    First off I would take a look at what you're writing and ask yourself whether it's really a "Romance novel". The Romance genre, like all genres, has it's rules and tropes (granted subverting tropes is always good), but not all stories about romance are in the capital-R Romance genre. In fact, romance is a a recurring theme across all genres and frankly a near-necessary element in most stories about adult human beings (even in war stories there's usually a girl back home). I know a guy from writer's group who writes a lot of plots based in romance that exist in worlds largely driven by the confluence of urban drug-use and violence - with a lot of thriller elements. Not a genre-romance at all and generally the romance there is a MOTIVATOR for bang-bang-shooty stuff rather than the end in itself.

    So, look at what your story is and then ask yourself if it's a capital-R Romance or a lower-case-r romance within a more literary story. It sounds to me like you lean more toward the latter, and in that case you should read non-Romance-genre stories with heavy romantic subplots.

    What do you like to read that shares elements with what you're writing?

    My story is about journalists in the near future - but I'm not reading either of those things right now. That said, I also have a large cast and a main character who is loosely based on the Star Trek character Ezri Dax...so right now I'm reading the only Star Trek novel which uses Ezri as it's main character to see how her thoughts read, and taking notes on how the author manages to juggle the viewpoints four starship crews in two different time periods. All useful to my writing despite having nothing to do with my story on the surface.

    That said, if you think reading a classic Romance novel would help you work with the plot you're constructing - then by all means read one. Honestly I probably should do that myself as the one plotline in my own piece that scares me is the romantic one.
     
    Last edited: Feb 17, 2015
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  4. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    What you could do is browse the romance shelves or look up a list on Goodreads for some recommendations and see if there's anything you'd like to read. Give it a try. You might surprise yourself.

    I'm not a huge fan of reading sci-fi or fantasy ( two genres I like to write in ) but I've browsed used book stores and found books and authors I like in the genre - some of which have become my favorite reads.

    Just browse and don't bother with stuff you don't like. I'm not a huge fan of the dark ages, wizards, magic, some space opera, or star trek clones - but I managed to find stuff I like.
     
  5. Gladiatrix
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    Gladiatrix Member

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    I mostly read fantasy books, but write more real life stories so I dont think it matters too much if you read the genre you write
     
  6. Komposten
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    Komposten Insanitary pile of rotten fruit Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Personally I don't think in terms of "genre" at all when I write. When I create a story, I write the story I want to write. I don't try to fit it into a specific theme, genre or category until after I have finished it. That way I have all the freedom my story needs in order to develop its full potential.

    Though, of course, a story will usually tend towards one genre or another and reading books from that genre is a pretty good idea. Just don't force your story to stay in line. Stories like to do their own thing and it's usually a good idea to let them of the leash a bit. ;)
     
  7. Drmoses
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    Drmoses Member

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    That might have answered my question. Based on your description, it sounds more like I write other things with romance subplots.

    The reason I kind of stopped myself and pondered this whole genre question is that, as the previous poster pointed out; Romance novels seem to have an established framework in place. I worried that, if what I wrote fell into that genre accidentally or otherwise and if I didn't follow that framework; I would find myself and my work dismissed because of it. Thanks for the input. It has reassured me to an extent!
     
  8. Drmoses
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    Drmoses Member

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    I should probably do exactly what you say and let the thing grow organically so to speak. I have a bad habit of over analyzing things to death!
     
  9. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    I write genre romance, for all of daemon's "wrong" reasons. The main one? It sells.

    I never read romance before I started writing it, and I still don't enjoy most of the romance I read. I've found a few authors I like, though, so I try to keep up with them.

    I think you have to look at your goals. I think most of the advice on this thread is great if you're writing for self-expression, or because you want to create "art" or whatever. But that's not the only reason to write. Money is nice, too! Selling books is fun!

    And of course you don't have to go to the extreme in either direction. I was just re-reading that article about the self-pubbed author who 'deconstructed' a popular romance in a niche sub-genre, wrote her own following the same structure, and got good sales despite her lack of passion for the project. I think that's one extreme. Writing a 1.2 million word epic haiku about your imaginary friend Fluffy the Worm is another extreme. Most of us are somewhere in the middle...
     
  10. Shadowfax
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    Shadowfax Contributing Member Contributor

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    Haiku (俳句, [​IMG] listen (help·info),, haikai verse?) (plural: same or haikus) is a very short form of Japanese poetry typically characterised by three qualities:
    • The essence of haiku is "cutting" (kiru).[1] This is often represented by the juxtaposition of two images or ideas and a kireji ("cutting word") between them,[2] a kind of verbal punctuation mark which signals the moment of separation and colors the manner in which the juxtaposed elements are related.
    • Traditional haiku consist of 17 on (also known as morae), in three phrases of 5, 7 and 5 on respectively.[3]
    • A kigo (seasonal reference), usually drawn from a saijiki, an extensive but defined list of such words.
     
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  11. United
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    United Member

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    I agree with you 100%. Sadly, life is such a pain in the butt; nothing is free, so you have to make a living to support yourself. The question is: do you want to work a 9-5 job to support yourself while still being able to write progressively, hoping to 'break through into the industry'? Or would you rather go to college, get a degree and get a decent paying job, and write on the side?

    The problem with Option 1 is that you may never "break through" ---> stuck with 9-5 job. You may still love writing, but would you, as a person, be satisfied with a 9-5 job for XX amount of years (or even your whole life...)???

    The problem with Option 2 is the fact that you literally have no time in college for hobbies/passions. You think you do, but you don't....or maybe I'm just bad with time management. :(
    I'm always doing homework, researching, studying, sleeping....etc. I have no time to write/read/revise. It's such a sad, sad life.
    *I'm still in college by the way...*

    God, if only I could win the lottery or inherit some large unknown inheritance from some unknown great-aunt or grandmother, then I would focus on writing. *I would probably drop out of school and place it on hold for the time being.
     
  12. Shadowfax
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    Shadowfax Contributing Member Contributor

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    And then you leave college and find out how easy college was...
     
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  13. United
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    United Member

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    I know right? That's exactly how I felt about high school. Oh God, why does life have to to be so hard? :(
     
  14. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    It's my understanding that the genre called Romance is very formulaic, because that's what the readers who pick up a Mills and Boon or some other Romance publisher expect. If you're the sort of person who can more or less write-to-order, and write quickly, then this might be a good moneyspinner. I read an article from an editor who deals with this (sorry, it was years ago, can't quote it) who did say that she can usually 'tell' if the writer actually enjoys reading the genre or not. She said it's one of those genres that folks say 'oh, I can write one of those with one hand tied behind me.' She said if that's the attitude the writer had, it shows. The best genre writers are, apparently, also fans.

    However, never say never. But do be prepared for a very exacting set of requirements.

    But there are broader genres with the word Romance in the name. Supernatural Romance. Teen Romance. Historical Romance. Etc. So there is lots of leeway to choose a genre you might enjoy writing more than just the straight Romance we've come to know.

    However ...'love story' as opposed to romance? That's a subject that's dealt with in most books, to some extent or another, and you can more or less do what you like. I know that appeals to me, where Romance does not.
     
  15. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    Romance is a pretty broad genre - Harlequin/Mills and Boons is one publisher that has pretty tight formulas, but lots of other publishers are more open. (This obviously correlates to the tastes of the readers - when someone reads a Harlequin, s/he is looking for something pretty specific; when s/he reads a romance from somewhere else, s/he is open to other ideas.)

    The only requirement for something to be a romance is that the relationship be the focus of the book (usual test is "if you took the romance out, would the story still make sense?") and that there be an optimistic ending (Happily Ever After or Happy For Now). Otherwise? The book can take place in space or a in a fantasy kingdom, it can be historical or contemporary, involve gay or straight characters, etc.

    Romance gets called formulaic pretty often, but I think this is mostly by people who don't know much about it. It's a genre, so it has genre rules, but there's a LOT of room within those rules for exploration and creativity.
     
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  16. Sipsik
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    Sipsik Member

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    I think, that people write best about the things, they know about, have experienced, what bothers them and wants to get out. I would not worry too much about the genre. I also don´t believe that the target audience of romance would not be open to new perspectives. Do what you have to do ;)
     
  17. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Here is a link to a very comprehensive guide to Romance, as published by Harlequin. I just had a look at it, and was stunned by the variety of genres-within-genres that there are within this publishing group. If you're interested in getting started writing Romance, you could do worse than have a look through this list of types, and general requirements. Wow.

    http://www.harlequin.com/articlepage.html?articleId=538&chapter=0
     
  18. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    Those are the "category" romances that most people are referring to when they say romance is formulaic. There are also lots of "single title" romances (romances that don't fit into one of those categories) that are quite popular.

    I'm honestly not sure what the proportions are within the genre, whether there are more category or single-title romances being sold. Most of the authors I know write single title, but that's mostly what I write myself so possibly there's a bit of a selection bias.
     
  19. Ivana
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    Ivana Contributing Member

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    I disagree. I think people write best about the things they enjoy reading, daydreaming and fantasizing about. Write about the ideas that excite you, because both passion and a great discipline are necessary to finish writing a novel. :) Don't try to squeeze it into a specific genre. Who knows where it'll take you. ;)
     
  20. Commandante Lemming
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    Commandante Lemming Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think you have to do a bit of both. I have to write what I've experienced at some level - but I apply what I know to people and situations that I haven't experienced. For instance - the one character who's most distant from my experience is that one who I've actually written the MOST of my own experience into - because it helps me find ways of relating to her which I other wise couldn't . I'm male, she's female. I'm white, she's Indian American. I practice Messianic Judaism, she's a practicing Jain. I'm a politico, she's a fashion blogger and part-time DJ. I'm not sure we'd get along if I ever met her.

    BUT I can write her reaction to Jainism because I do have personal experience with a religion that has strict dietary and cleanliness standards - her Jainism is really my Judaism. I like political trendspotting, and she watches fashion and music the same way I process politics. She geeks out over new albums the way I geek out over polling data. Plus she's the one character I've handed all my little ticks and insecurities, so she's the one person whose head I can jump into and really get how she feels.

    So - "write what you know" doesn't mean being boring or just writing people like yourself. It means leveraging your own reactions and emotions to give realism to whatever crazy cast of characters you're working with.
     
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  21. Ivana
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    Ivana Contributing Member

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    This is true. I wasn't thinking as much about characters as about the setting and plot development. When it comes to characters, of course you need to build some piece of you into them. :) My MC is, for example, young male (I'm female) being enslaved to a system which is a tribal matriarchal society. :p I believe that I gave him a lot of my personal flaws and insecurities.
     
  22. Commandante Lemming
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    Commandante Lemming Contributing Member Contributor

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    Yeah there you have a point - if people only wrote setting they'd directly experienced, Fantasy and Sci-Fi wouldn't exist.
     
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  23. Shadowfax
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    Shadowfax Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm doing a FutureLearn course on moons at the moment ... have you seen what a methane storm on Titan would look like?
     
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  24. MattyDean
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    MattyDean Active Member

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    If you write, and novel that fits the romance genre comes out, so be it. If you write and a novel with romantic subplot comes out, then fine. Trying to nail a genre from the outside-in as opposed to the other way around is a great way to write a contrived novel that'll seem rigid to anyone with an even remedial reading level.

    Note:
    To draw a comparison to a different artform, I listen to aggressive punk music. I don't mean to, but I write folk-indy music and barely ever touch on the genre I actually pay attention to. I do not listen to folk-indy songs to try to learn how to write one, hell, I already write then on accident. I just keep churning out whatever art I've got in me that day, and whatever it turns out as will determine which genre it'll fit into, not vice versa.
     
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  25. cutecat22
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    cutecat22 The Strange One Contributor

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    Here's my two-pennies worth.

    "Write what you know. If you don't know it, research it ..."
     

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