Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Definitions in Romance

For some reason, I think I have talked about this before, but hey, sometimes a refresher is always good.

Every few months, I receive a wave of submissions from authors that seem to indicate not understanding the definitions of each sub-genre within the business. What really is historical? Can't something set in the 80's be historical? Why do we even have to have the definitions?

One thing to remember is that with literature, like many other fields out there, we do define genres and sub-genres by common characteristics. This is not a form of discrimination, or a way to keep people from being creative, it is simply a way of communicating through common language. On a more practical level, it is a way for book stores to know how to market a book. Does this book go with the romance section or with the non-fiction?

When I think of sub-genres, I think frequently of the music genre. For something to fall into the "Baroque" genre, it must meet certain criteria. Just because it is written during a time period doesn't quite do it. The same goes for "Classical", "Post Modern" and so forth.

We see the same thing in literature. The Romantic period is defined by certain characteristics as is the Naturalistic period, Renaissance, Reformation and so forth.

With that in mind, let's talk about the romance genre. Each of the sub-genres has specific items we look for. Sure, there might be specific twists that we take differently as agents and editors, but for the most part, the catergories are pretty clear. Romance in general says the romance should be the central storyline and we see that happily ever after at the end. Category has a specific voice (and not just word count). Romantic suspense has specific rules. You get the idea?

It is just the way it is. If you want to write in this genre, then you need to know the guidelines. If this is something you are still uncertain of, then attending writing conferences and/or taking writing courses might be something to consider. I want to see people succeed but one of the things I hate to do is to reject someone because of this lack of information. When writer submits a story to me in the wrong genre, it simply demonstrates a lack of understanding of the business.

I want to see people succeed, but

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