Thursday, September 29, 2016

Write What You Can Relate To

During most panel discussions at conferences, editors and agents are often asked what we think is the current trend, or what will be the current trend. Now, in almost all of these cases, we laugh because we simply cannot predict the future. We wish we could, but we can't. But there is another reason we often will not answer this question. Too often, writers attempt to write these stories, even if this is not something they are familiar with. We also see this happen when agents put out on social media their Manuscript Wish List (#MSWL). As soon as I post something like that online, I suddenly get a rush of projects in that genre.

I do believe that far too many authors attempt to write what the current "hot" genre is, and, unfortunately, most of these authors fail horribly. The reason is simple. These authors are not in a genre they can relate to.

We have all heard the phrase, "write what you know." That is so true. When we write in a genre we are familiar with, we can tap into all of the nuances of that style of writing. As you know, every genre out there has a unique style and voice. As authors, it is important to fully understand that voice to write that story successfully.

Let's take New Adult writing. Unless you are someone who reads this genre, you may fall into the trap of just using plot devices that you think make that genre. For example, authors may simply think this genre is about teens having sex, or it is always written in first person. While these might be some elements that are seen in this genre, this is not what makes a New Adult genre.

I see this also with a lot of male authors thinking they are writing a romance novel. For many, they have never even ventured into the romance section of their local bookstore. Instead, they write a story that might have characters with a love interest, or they simply insert sex scenes into the story. What they are missing is the unique voice and style of the genre.

To truly be successful, authors should stick to the things they know. Don't obsess over the fact that the genre might not be "the hot" genre for the moment. It might be that way simply because no one is writing anything good. If, however, you know that voice well, you are increasing your chances of writing that dang good story we are all begging for.

So, how do you know what you should be writing? Start first with what you read. Look to your bookshelves and see what your "go to" genre is. You can even take this a step further by looking to see if there is a common publisher you tend to go to.  Even if you are someone who claims you read everything, approach this exercise from this angle. If you go to a bookstore and you can only buy one book, what genre would you get.

If you have been someone struggling with your writing, you may want to examine if you are writing outside of your knowledge level. That might be all you need to get that career moving again.

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