Fictional categories *insert sound of hysterical laughter*

Dear Miss Snark,

I'm about 40,000 words into my first novel.

Here's my problem. I'm really struggling to 'categorise' my novel. Its not romance. Its not detective. Its not fantasy. It could possibly be YA. I'm not too sure. As to commercial and mainstream fiction...call me a nitwit and drown me in gin.....(the cheap kind that strips the varnish from your nails) but I don't know what any of that means. Not really.

I don't read a lot of contemporary fiction. This is partly because I like Faulkner and Twain and, can and have, reread them until I'm blue in the face. But mostly because I spend a lot of time in academia and text books. I just wouldn't know where to start.

I know my novel is about backwood Appalachia (Because it's always odd and curious and good for a character or two...and I know it well). Its funny. Its tragic. Its about children. Its about murder. But its mainly about life and death and the coping. (well, we know it's not about punctuation)

Is this commercial fiction? Mainstream? I don't know. I'm really stuck on how to label it. Any advice?

Oh Miss Snark always has a word or ten thousand of advice. Fear not.

First, you know it's NOT genre cause it's not romance, mystery, western, or sff. After that, all you have to call it is fiction. Let your agent, whomever that lucky sod turns out to be, figure out if it's mainstream or commercial. Who knows, maybe it's a whole new genre!

Commercial is generally how editors describe things that make their P&L statements sing: commercial means they sell a lot of it, or think they're going to sell a lot of it.

Mainstream is more staid. The Lovely Bones is literary ficiton, Sandra Brown is commercial fiction, and Jodi Picoult is mainstream. Oprah tends to pick books that are mainstream. Airport bookstores tend to sell a lot of commercial fiction.

And, don't worry about this right now. Finish the novel. Keep the serial scrubbers from Rabbitania to a minimum and worry about what to label the thing later. Right now your job is to write so well that agents don't care what it is they must sign you instantly.


Anonymous said...

I haven't really been thinking about what category my manuscript is. It's enough work just editing and re-editing. My fingers are begining to hurt.

Anonymous said...

MS- Right now your job is to write so well that agents don't care what it is they must sign you instantly.

That's the best advice I've heard yet! It's so easy to focus on all of the extras and lose sight of the vision!

This whole business gets quite overwhelming sometimes when all I really want to do is write!


Alex said...

Miss Audrey I couldn't agree iwth you more. Being just about done with my novel and having the unbelievable luck to have a serious writer who believes in my book and is eager to give it to his agent when its done has caused my head to swim in the clouds when I should be focusing on writing. When I write I remember why I love it and why I do but when my head gets carried away with lofty thoughts, its hard to keep my eyes on the real prize, writing my story the best I can.

Sha'el, Princess of Pixies said...

Actually, Bill E. Goat and I were discussing this very thing. My completed manuscript and my "work in progress" are about Pixies. The completed mss has a romance going between a regular sorta human guy (all men are only sorta-human) and a pixie princess. But the story is really about their first child. So this is fantasy? Paranormal romance? Stupid?

Ok, so I've just resorted to calling it "fantasy with romance elements." I figure that some agent will decide my book is irresistibly cool about the time I hit 80. So, it doesn't matter much. But I have thought about it. sorta.

The Beautiful Schoolmarm said...

Anything that stars pixies will inevitably fall into the fantasy category. Billing it as fantasy with romantic elements (or subplot) sounds like the most accurate description.

magz said...

Hi Miss Snark, (and Yo Killah)

Silly subject, eh? I know two kinds of Readers;
genre or author oriented ("Must have every Harlequin ever created", or "I own every first edition Grisholm"
and the rest of us. Who read everything, and dont care what ya wish to classify it as. Just entertain me or console me or make me think, and tell me a STORY fore I go to sleep!

Anonymous said...

Ah, mainstream...so that's what I'm writing. Wasn't sure about that. (And point taken about not worrying too much about the commercial vs. mainstream vs. literary question in a query).

Thank you to the person asking the question and to Miss Snark for answering!

Anonymous said...

Sha'el, becca (and, of course, William E. Goat):

Yeah, anything with pixies is liable to be shunted off to the fantasy ghetto. But sometimes things shift a bit. For a long time, anything with Time Travel was clearly sci-fi--like it or lump it. But then, time-travel romances came along, and, despite the time-travel element, planted their roots firmly in the Romance genre.

And now, Niffenneger's "Time Traveler's Wife," which certainly is focused on romantic matters, and certainly involves time travel, has somehow managed folks to to consider it as mainstream, or even lit fic.

So, for all I know, someone may be able to convince the pub empire that a book with pixies falls into mainstream, or some wholly new category, like "Tinkerbell noir." This could be your big break (and a break for pixies everywhere).

Sha'el, Princess of Pixies said...

Hey! Pixies aren't Tinerbellish! We're humans with wings. (Haven't I explained this before?) We average about four feet in height. Are a bit earthy. Don't wear clothes much. ... Nest ... make pixie babies. Talk to the animals. And are perfectly normal in all respects. ... Honest we are. Oh, and other then two exceptions, all Pixies are female. So, we have a matriarchal society. Stands to reason, huh?

It's you larger sized humans that are different.

I have a background in ancient cultures. I had almost as much fun putting together Pixie Culture as I did actually writing the book. Now, if only some nice agent would actually read it. ....


Phew, got that off my chest!

Anonymous said...

what are serial scrubbers?

Also, there are defintely more types of readers than just author/genre readers & people who read anything or everything else or whatever the other category was. That second category is actually multifractional.