Hi, wonderful people!
Welcome back to another episode of Write On In!
My name is Andrew J. Stillman, and I am currently guiding us through something of a novel writing journey.
If this is your first time here, we’ve just started and so far we’ve covered where ideas come from and how to develop your characters.
If you did watch that character building video, you’ll notice your boy over here is not drunk like he was over there.
The whole “My Drunk Writing” thing was an idea I had, one I might still explore, but now that I’ve done it, I’m just not sure.
I had a great time with that video, but even though I’d love for these videos to be fun and upbeat and all that, I also don’t want to sacrifice the integrity of the things I have to say by being schwasted.
However, I won’t have any opinions on that video until after this whole month has been recorded, so once I start to get some feedback, I’ll know if it was a hit or miss.
Today, instead of wine, we’re going to pour ourselves a cup or two of coffee and go over another topic that kind of makes people groan a lot sometimes:
Understanding Your Genre of Choice
All of you non-writers out there or first time novelists who don’t understand why this can be such a headache, stay tuned.
We’ll all want to bash our heads through the window together by the end of this.
Nah, I’m just kidding, it’s not that bad.
Or is it?
I suppose we’re going to have to find out, aren’t we?
So, Let’s Get Write On In!
Okay, so, you have an idea for a book.
You’ve spent some time developing the people who are going to lead the story.
And you have to pick a genre.
First of all, what is a genre?
Great question, and in case you didn’t know, the literal definition is “a class or category of artistic endeavor having a particular form, content, technique, or the like.”
And thus, Nicholas Sparks writes “Romance Books.”
J.R.R. Tolkien wrote “Adult Fantasy Books.”
Stephen King writes “Horror Books.”
You get the gist.
Genre, to the non writer, sounds simple when I say it like that, but trust me:
Especially when you consider that I, for the purpose of these tutorials, am working on a “dark fantasy” book, and then that is when we open up the idea of “sub-genres.”
Before we get too far into the sub-genres, let’s break down a couple of the standard genres I just mentioned.
If you have a romance novel, which, I don’t even know why I chose that category, because I’ve literally never read a romance novel in my life, but that’s what I went with, so *shrug*.
Anyway, if you have a romance novel, you have to ask yourself a couple of questions first:
Is it contemporary romance or fantasy?
Time Travel or Western?
Paranormal or Historic?
For your fantasy buffs out there like me,
Do you have an Arthurian setting or a Superhero?
Epic tale or a humorous?
Is this a fairy tale or a sword and sorcery type deal?
And if you’re in the horror section, goodness gracious, where do you even start?
Do we got ghouls and demons?
Something based on real life, like a first person tale of 2020?
Everything I just mentioned in those questions, like what I said about my upcoming “dark fantasy” draft, delves further into the idea of a “subgenre.”
Any search through something as simple as the Amazon kindle store will show you the breakdown of how each subgenre fits into its parent category.
Are you stressed out yet?
It’s okay, we haven’t even gotten started.
To figure out your sub-genre — which is really something to focus on for self-published authors especially — you need to think of the target audience, competitive titles, similar authors, what’s hot on the market, which trend has come and gone, if you’re dealing with a tired trope or a mind-boggling cliché, which we’ll touch on in just a few minutes.
It’s a mess.
And you thought all you had to do was say,“I’m writing the story of my life.”
Well, that’s great, but is your life humorous or scary?
Are you gay or straight?
Are these travelogues or self help narratives?
You giving me cooking advice or teaching me about health and wellness?
These are things that need to be addressed when you’re choosing a sub-genre. To simply say, “I’m writing a nonfiction piece about my life” discredits both you and the category your book fits into, when you could just as easily say something like, “I’m writing a business book about how I became a self-made millionaire in six months.”
Both of those sentences might equally be true, but which book would you gravitate toward?
If this has stressed you out at all, first of all, don’t.
This is why we’re going through all of this together.
It’s really just information you need to know, more than something to get too stressed out about at this point.
For now, simply determining the “overall” genre of whichever category your book falls into — like instead of “dark fantasy” just saying “fantasy” — is just fine.
You can figure it all out now if it doesn’t stress you out, but it’s also something you can put a lot more focuses on during the editing stage of the game.
We’re obviously super far away from that, because we haven’t even written the first draft yet.
That first draft, however, is supposed to be awful, especially if you’re just trying to write a book for the first time, so that’s why I don’t want us to get too worried about it today.
This is just something to keep in the back of your mind if you’re wanting to write a book that you currently may want to try and sell.
The good news is, your book can fit into multiple genres and subgenres, and if you successfully dabble in multiple genres then you get a “genre-bending” type of accolade, which makes you at least sound like a pretty cool author, I think.
I don’t have any “genre-bending” books, I don’t think, so that’s just my personal opinion, but I think it’s cool when authors can successfully blend two or more genres together.
Think “historical fiction” for the most basic example of genre-bending.
But for this month of October and National Novel Writing Month November in 2020, just pick the category that best fits whatever work in progress you’re choosing to pursue.
Even if you’re only writing this book for fun or as a hobby, it’s still good to at least categorize it into something so it can help you stay focused on things that can or can not happen in the book.
Like, if you’re writing a non fiction book offering parenting advice, you’re not going to write a chapter about a baby getting attacked by dragons.
Although, hey, you could, and that would sure as hell be a story worth sharing, but I don’t know how it would fit into the parenting advice.
Unless you were saving your child from the dragon.
But then are we really still in the nonfiction territory?
Hey, if we are, I am all here for that story, and I’m sure the rest of world would be, too, because we’d all know it already happened.
You could take a stab at genre-bending, though, you do you.
Parental advice via fantasy novels.
There you go.
There’s a few more things I’m going to want you all to think about when you’re writing whatever type of story you’re writing:
TROPES and CLICHES
These two actually sound very similar by definition, but I’m going to break them down a little bit more after that to go over what makes them different.
A “trope” is essentially a figure of speech, or a commonly used theme or device used within a literary genre, like “fantasy.”
A “cliché” is an overused piece of writing that’s just been seen so many times we’re just tired of seeing it.
Think “waiting for the results lasted an eternity.”
I, straight up, used “for an eternity” maybe 200 times in the first book I ever completed.
It’s okay to get them out during the writing stage, but make sure you get them out during the edits.
As I said before, these two kind of sound one in the same, but they’re not.
For one, a trope can be used, especially if it’s executed correctly.
A cliché marks you as a lazy writer.
Examples of tropes in fantasy include:
- A Dark Lord
- A Chosen One
- Orphaned People who Go on to Be the Great One
And, one that I’ve fallen into in one book and I’m keeping it for that one book: Medieval landscapes.
That’s only a few examples of literally hundreds, but again, if they’re executed well, tropes, for the most part, are passable.
I can and probably will make an entire video comparing tropes and clichés in more detail, but again, I’m trying to avoid some of that as of now because I don’t want you to get too focused on all of that before we actually get there.
Since I know, or assume, at least, that not everybody out there is going to write a fantasy book, here are a couple of commonly seen tropes examined throughout multiple genres:
- Love Triangles
- Good guy falling for bad guy they’re supposed to “destroy” in some way
- Rags to riches stories
- Conspiracy theories
And again, these are just a few of many examples, but I do encourage you to look up common tropes that are seen in your specific genre as much as you can, if for nothing better than to start brainstorming ways in which you can tackle these tropes with a fresh, original, and unique voice.
Outside of literally just Googling tropes in your genre, you should also be reading books in your genre as much as you possibly can.
I get it, I hear you, not everybody has time to read, and not everybody is a fast reader.
One, writing is reading, and reading is writing. If you want to be a better writer, you’re going to have to read whenever you can.
It just is what it is.
Treat reading like you treat writing: Even if you only read a couple hundred words a day, that’s still a couple hundred words more than you would’ve had if you’d just complained about it the whole time.
Two, consider audiobooks.
Personally, I have a hard time with audiobooks, because I usually put on “audio” as background noise, and I find my mind wandering all over the place and not actually listening to the story.
Since audiobooks sell, and sell well, there’s obviously plenty of other people out there who disagree with me.
And that’s great, especially if you don’t have too much time to read, but you’re totally fine putting on a book while you clean or drive or cook or anything.
So, make sure you read!
And if you really do wish you could read more, but you’re reading speed just isn’t there, I am actually going to share a couple of reading tips in an upcoming tutorial, so I got you.
I’m actually going through the top-selling books in the dark fantasy genre today and picking out one of the top sellers to read for this book.
Even though “dark fantasy” is in my general arena, I usually gravitate more toward “high fantasy” or “sword and sorcery” type stuff.
“Dark fantasy,” as you might see if you scroll through something like the Amazon store, has a lot of “romance” involved, because fantastical type romances are really in right now, which is funny since, as I said at the beginning of this video, I’ve never even read a “romance”.
Think “Twilight,” as my friend told me to do when she gave me these sub-genres.
I don’t yet know if I’m going to write a “dark fantasy romance,” but I’ve also never read one, and seeing as how the top seller in the category is currently the 34th book in the series, I don’t know where I’m gonna go with this yet.
Back to the last thing before I let you go:
As I mentioned before, clichés and tropes are very similar, in that we basically see them all the time.
As a reader, you inherently know what I’ve just told you, whether you knew them by definition or not.
You know how it feels to see the same story over and over.
You know how it feels to read the same phrases over and over.
When you become the writer, do not forget what it is like to be a reader, and keep your inner reader handy during the writing process.
Ask yourself if it’s something you would read.
Did you write it because you’ve seen it a gajillion times?
Or are you consciously trying to write something different?
Again, don’t get too crazy about the clichés at this point.
The rough draft is the best place to cliché it up, but it’s an equally great time to familiarize yourself with the clichés you’re using, so when you hit them in the editing stage, you’ve already subconsciously begun to think of ways to get them gone.
I suppose that’s up to you to find out, but since you’re not supposed to share the first draft of any story you write, this isn’t something you need to worry too much about at this point.
Just keep this advice with you for now as you pursue the exploration of your story.
This is all stuff you’ll have to figure out eventually, yes.
Since we’re on the October/November time crunch as of the publication of these videos, that’s just why I ask you to try out the exercises so you can start to get comfortable with these topics.
And please, share with me any questions you have in the comments, or let me know what subgenres you’re exploring, or if there’s any tropes or clichés or anything you know you’re consciously trying to tackle.
Hopefully this hasn’t scared you too much, but if it has, always remember it’s good to be nervous before the big game. Being nervous means you care, so ride out and embrace the tingles.
Plus, if you’ve been with me and done these little exercises over the last couple of videos, you’re already on your way to writing a book!
Like, holy crap.
Isn’t that awesome?
If you haven’t been doing these exercises, there’s still time to get write on in before we get write on overwhelmed.
Before we go, if you haven’t already, please hit that subscribe button so you can follow along with the rest of this journey, and make sure to hit that little bell so you can be here on the Tuesday and Thursday uploads.
If you liked this video and you’re enjoying these little classes, please give it a little thumbs up, and if you don’t, please give it a thumbs down because… engagement is engagement. *Shrug*
This Thursday, we’re going to focus on developing our plots!
We’re going over plot arcs, character arcs, act summaries, pacing, the whole nine!
And I won’t be drunk for it.
Although I may still have a glass or two of wine.
Just not the entire bottle of a 16% wine aged in whiskey. *Shrug*
See you in a few days!