Monday, October 14, 2013

Question: Category

I've been rewriting a novel I've been working on for quite a while under the genre of paranormal romance. The problem I am facing is that in my attempts to improve my manuscript, I feel my story is drifting out of this genre, possibly into science fiction or fantasy.

You always say to read your genre and know it well, but I am not well versed in the sci-fi world (I have read a good amount of fantasy though).

Do you find books that combine genres to be popular? My main concern is that the genre's I'm crossing may not work together--the paranormal romance scene is quite different, in my opinion, than that of sci-fi.

Also, when it comes to querying, I am not sure how to list my book. (I realize I'm getting a little ahead of my myself, but as I've been working on this for so long I've had an uber long time to think about the next step.)

Finding the right category for a book is a troublesome task for those of us on this side of the slush pile too.

The trick here is to think about who will read your book and love it. That's one of the reasons you have to know a category really well.

If you think about people who read crime novels, they want resolution of a problem, and most definitely want justice to be done. It may be rough justice, vigilante justice, last rites, divine justice or just desserts, but there must be a reckoning of sorts to be a crime novel.

Romance novels must have a romantic relationship that grows, is challenged, breaks and then heals. The plot arc is largely the arc of the relationship rather than outside events.  In a romance, someone must end up happy, and most usually happy with a love interest.

I don't read enough SFF to know what readers must have.  It's more than cyborgs, dragons and space travel though.

And it's not enough to use the tropes of a genre to make a book fit in a genre.

Paranormal romance is shelved in romance, SFF is not.  You're very right to understand these are two very different categories.

And it's very common to have books in one category also contain elements from another.  There's crimesolving in romance, there's romance in crime fiction. There are dragons and crimes and romance in SF.

Finish the novel. Get a couple beta reads. Ask the readers what author it reminds them of. If you've got good beta readers they'll guide you.

And in the end, don't fret. I don't discard queries based solely on the category authors tell me they're writing, cause at least 50% of the time, they're wrong.  I look at what they tell me about the book.


Anonymous said...

I might have mentioned before, but my current WIP is very different than my previous work which included a coming of age novel and historical fiction. I'm currently working on what I believe is literary suspense - maybe that simply means suspense. But maybe it also means thriller/murder mystery, I don't know. And, what has been a challenge is I've read very little of any of these genres (shoots self in foot - I've picked up several books and am reading them as fast as I can.)

All that to say I was happy to read your last sentence, "I look at what they tell me about the book."

Patchi said...

The novel in question might be a sci-fi romance with paranormal elements. These sights might help:

Spacefreighters Lounge:


Patchi said...


I wish I could blame auto-correct, instead I'll blame lack of caffeine.

french sojourn said...

This has been a question that's been bugging me for a while. I wasn't even sure how to form it. Very helpful in so many ways.
Thanks for your insight.

Patchi...thanks for the two sites.


Lance said...

Thank you for this helpful information. I am encouraged to learn that half of the submissions you receive get the genre wrong. And that you don't discard based solely on that basis. Thanks, too, to Patchi for the sites.

John "Ol' Chumbucket" Baur said...

Category or genre are about selling the book. Write it first, and be true to the story. THEN figure out how to sell it.

Steve Stubbs said...

You really helped me with that last response. I went to a Mexican restaurant the other day and ordered a meal with "just desserts" thinking it was something to eat and they brought me a Lee Child novel.

I've been confused about that ever since.

BP said...

Great Q&A. Re: what readers are looking for in SF, as a SF reader I can tell you that what I love about it (not maybe what others, just personally) is the otherworldliness with a touch of science (even pseudoscience!). It's like fantasy for nerds.

On another note, I do not read paranormal at all, although others might, so a SF book that claims paranormal elements would not be on my reading list normally. Unless you're talking about some kind of werewolves in space thing...which at that point is just classified as aliens ;D

Maybe the difference is in paranormal the focus is ON the 'weird creatures/powers' whereas in SF the 'weird-ness' is assumed and pitted against our normal lives to make some statement about humanity. Ehh...something like that. :D

Terri Lynn Coop said...

Awesome Q&A as always. My WIP is firmly in thriller territory with an element of romantic suspense (although the ending is definitely not happily every after.)

BP did a nice job on the difference between SF and paranormal. In SF having 3 arms is normal, in fact, only having 2 may make you the freak, whereas paranormal is more of "I have a power that caused me to grow a third arm."

Glad to know the final sorting is done my the pros.


Anonymous said...

As a writer of fantasy, I'll chime in. The major draw in fantasy is wonder. To a degree, that's true in science fiction, too.

Lois McMaster Bujold (who is an award winner in both categories) has said that science fiction readers are also looking for something political in their stories. Bujold writes character-driven sf. In fact, if you want to see romance (though not of the paranormal type) mixed with either science fiction or fantasy--try her SHARING KNIFE series (fantasy) and SHARDS OF HONOR/BARRAYAR from her Vorkosigan series (science fiction).