Thursday, January 14, 2010

Do You Know Why We... Research Genres before Writing

I know, I told all of you that this would be on Professional Organizations, but I think I will save that one for later.

O.K. all of you writers out there that "follow trends" this one is for you.

Why should we research our genre?

Too often, writers will dive on the latest writing band-wagon, thinking they can be part of the next great wave. Now, I will have to say, I am also very sure these writers have a ton of half-finished stories sitting on their computers right now. If the stories are finished, I am betting these little beauties are far from beautiful? Why? The answer is simple. The writer has no clue what makes that specific genre work.

Each genre has specific little characteristics out there that make it stand out among the rest. It may be in structure. It may be in word choice and paragraphing, but there are indeed differences. You can not simply read a random genre and then turn around and say, "Hey, I can write that." Nope, it takes more than that. Here are a couple of great examples.

- Steam punk is more than simply a historical with mechanics.
- Regency is more than simply the time period and a lot of "la's"
- Sci-fi is not simply about interplanetary trips with names we can't pronounce.

As a writer, it is your responsibility and obligation to do your research in that genre. Dissect the heck out of it and really learn the twists and turns before you even put pen to paper. Please note I did say dissect. I am not saying that you have simply read a lot of these stories. I mean to pull it apart and figure out what makes it tick.

Now, I know there are many of you out there that believe if you do this, you will start to "copy" another writer and "not come up with something original." Sure, this could happen if you intend it to. So make sure you don't.

The key is to learn the genre well enough to demonstrate to the agent (who likes the genre enough to represent it and therefore knows the nuances) and the editor (who knows the genre better than anyone else) that you know it well enough. We really don't want to see this great story premise and then see the person has no clue what they are doing.

Think of it like cooking. You may have this wonderful meal idea. I'm talking complete 7 course dinner here. But if you are not able to execute the meal well, not only is the kitchen a disaster, you have wasted time and money in the kitchen burning the meal, you have also ruined the dinner for everyone sitting there in excitement waiting for it.

Maybe there is another twist to this as well. You don't need to rush your writing career. Learn it first before submitting. If it takes you 5 years just to learn the business and learn the craft then take the time.

Tomorrow - Not sure right now. I need another cup of coffee.



  1. Scott - this is another great post. I can't tell you the times my husband has come up behind me and said something to the effect of "I thought you wanted to write a book!" He sees that I am spending a lot of time reading agent and editor blogs and thinks that must mean I'm not serious about writing. :O

    There's just SO MUCH to learn and publishing is changing every day so you can't stop learning! Not only genres and the craft itself, but writing queries and marketing and perhaps even starting your own least making some kind of web's all time consuming, that's for sure!

    Thanks once again Scott. Much appreciated.

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