Spirit of Writing Week 2: Genre

(For the last 12 weeks of 2014, in thanks for my phenomenal year of growth here at Negression and in my overall writing life, I am offering my Spirit of Writing practices here. I have taught these lessons and sessions in schools, libraries and community programs. in Chicago and New York City. I will post new segments each Wednesday. Happy writing!)

Spirit of Writing is a simple, gentle introduction to the identity and professionalism of being a writer, in a format designed to boost confidence and practice.  No matter what level you have written to and no matter how long you have waited or stayed in denial of your true calling, you will finish with new belief in yourself and serious respect for the art of writing.  It would be helpful for you to pick up two practice-driven books, Pencil Dancing: New Ways to Free Your Creative Spirit by Mari Messer and The Complete Handbook of Novel Writing by various authors.

You can expect to boost confidence, clarify goals and determine if writing is something you wish to continue to pursue and a passion you wish to continue to feed. You should expect to give life, care and nourishment to singular ideas that often sprout with group momentum, encouragement, inspiration and guidance. You should expect to turn a solitary endeavor into a worthwhile and encouraging discipline to take you to higher goals. You should also plan to put time into at least 3 writing assignments, for your own self-development and growth.

“Spirit of Writing Week 2: Genre”

As with any art or profession or industry, writers have different categories to choose from and compare yourself to. These categories are by no means all-inclusive, but writers should have some sense of how their work relates to past and current works that have stood the tests of time. Genre simply means style, form, category or distinction. First, you must determine the format of what you like to do: Short, Long, Connected, Free-Standing, Commercial, Literary, Popular, Humorous, New Forms.

A good chapter to read is “Literary or Commercial?” by Nancy Kress, on page 249 in Novel Writing. This is an awkward and uncomfortable question for a lot of writers. We just want to write, not think about “business.” But, whether you like it or not, you are going to have to understand if your work fits with the “artistes” or the New York Times bestsellers. This will make a difference in everything from where (or if) your book is shelved, what conferences and events you will do, and what types of book-buyers and readers will benefit most from hearing about your work.

Think of an example in the following GENRES:

Fiction (one example and definition for all): Literary, Horror, Speculative, Suspense/Thriller, Romance, Historical, Young Adult, Children’s, Illustrative, Sci-Fi/Fantasy and Social/Political, Memoir.

Non-Fiction (one title example and definition for all): Comedy, Self-Help/How-To, Business, Health, Scientific, Technology, Political and Research.

You should be left with 20 different definitions, and one title of a book or work you feel fits each particular genre. That should be enough to help you answer the following question in one paragraph: Where do I fit in, and why?

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