The genre system – is it good enough any more?

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I’ve been browsing through the ‘Blogs I follow’, trying to keep up with all the discussions, concerns and new releases and I’ve been seeing a lot of posts where authors are grumbling (quite rightly IMHO) about the trouble they’re having with squeezing their novel into a genre category.

And it’s not surprising. For instance, on Wikipedia, there are currently 80 genres and sub-genres listed under fiction alone. Yikes! My own novel,  ‘A Construct of Angels’ would currently fit into the horror, romance, Urban fantasy, religious fantasy, thriller or mystery categories.

There are How-to-Write books on the market that happlily suggest that writers should choose a genre and write within its boundaries if they want to sell. But why should we have to work within such restrictions? We’re not aiming towards library shelves. Some of us aren’t even looking towards bookshops any more. The electronic age has changed all that.

In these days of indie eBook publishing, with sub-genres and even sub-sub-genres sprouting up, the whole idea of ‘genre’ feels overloaded and outdated. Of course, to declare that, an alternative is needed and here’s my (fledgling) idea;

Wouldn’t it benefit both readers and retailers if some sort of ‘tick box’ or a graphic system was introduced where the elements of the book can be highlighted (or illustrated) by a sliding colour scale such as we have with rated domestic applicances (in Europe at least)?

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energy rating

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I experimented with a few variations on this theme and didn’t find them to be flexible enough as I was still having to insert genre labels. It was colourful, but no better in terms of classification. Perhaps you could see a way to make it work.

So I tried a pie chart instead. This is a simple chart, created using ten subjects that are most relevant to my debut novel  ‘A Construct of Angels’;

CoA pie chart

Note that I said the ten most relevant subjects – there are others that I could justify adding in there, but ten is plenty. Perhaps ten is too many and five would suffice. Who knows? This is all hypothetical and open for discussion.

BTW, for you with your magnifying glasses against the screen, there’s only 0.5% sex in the story. 😀

In an ideal world, the catergories would be listed from most relevant to least relevant, top to bottom, thus;

CoA pie chart sort

This arrangement should make it easier for the potential buyer to interpret. They would be free to scan the top two or three subjects and decide if the story is for them or not. They might still be swayed if their favourite genre was listed as number four or five – something which wouldn’t happen if the book had been listed under ‘Thriller’ when they prefer to read about religion- or horror-based stories.

I don’t think it would be too difficult for an algorithmist like Amazon to feed the percentages into their version of Deep Thought deep in the heart of Amazonia and begin to categorise the books in this way.

As I said, this is all hypothetical.

Do you think the time has come for the library shelf-based genre categories to be given a shake-up? Perhaps you have a fledgling idea that leaves my suggestion eating dust.

If so, please share! I would be happy to eat humble pie chart. 🙂

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keep calm plus author inside

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If you are a planner, I imagine that the answer to my next question will be obvious;

What inspires you to write that next post?

If you’re a planner, you’ve probably got a list of ideas to draw from, a sequence of posts that lead from one to the next to the next and so on.  You may have a teaching plan that unfolds week by week to build into an exciting and informative series of articles.

But what if you hail from the Planet Pants?

sachyn planet

What if you happen to be an impetious and spontaneous fly-by-luck scatterbrain like me?

I can often go for weeks without any idea about what I will post next – aside from my regularly irregular and often-late Six Sentence Sundays.

And then, without warning, an idea will strike, coming out of nowhere like a thunderbolt on a clear summer’s day.

Quickly, ere I forget the subject matter, I will fashion a post from old wood and used pieces of string – and as I write, I often realise that I am trying to cover several subjects, several concepts within the same post.  Rather than (as they said in Top Gun) push a bad position, the disparate subjects will split into enough material to suggest several vaguely-related posts;  In other words, the fledgling post will create spin-off ideas; it will have babies.

A half-dozen little pink and hairless posts will suddenly begin to mewl and squeak and demand to be considered as posts in their own right.

rsvstks baby mice

So the fresh flurry of fledgling posts will be nurtured.  They will be a bit like my family – very loosely related and perhaps a little edgy.  There may be very little to connect them to previous or future posts aside from a single word or a faint, shining thread of thought.

That is why, dear reader, you may see groups of related topics appearing from me – sometimes two or three in one week.

Despite my endeavours to hold them back and release them into the wild one at a time, they will often break free.  When that happens, I am forced to watch helplessly as they circle the internet, scaring young women and inspiring modern Hitchcocks into making new movies a la noir.

But I’m interested to know; How does inspiration strike you?  Your system cannot be as haphazard as mine…surely?

Do you have a rolling plan of posts that stretch towards a vanishing point on the distant horizon?  Or is inspiration fired by a song on the radio, a news article or even another blog post?

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Write on!

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