Wednesday, October 27, 2010

A Little Genre Problem

I like genres. I like to know in which genre my book is, or in which genre the book I'll read is. It gives me something familiar to work with, some kind of common ground I can refer to. It's reassuring.

Hence why being unable to properly categorize White Echoes freaks me out a bit. This story draws from three different genres while not fully being in either of them. When I'm asked, I answer "steampunk-ish", and indeed when I spoke about this novel, Susan commented it "sounded steampunk". It does! My problem is that I am still uncomfortable defining it as steampunk.

Perhaps it's because I don't know the genre well (yes, I know, writing in a genre you don't know! Tsk!) I intend to get more familiar as I approach revisions, but for the moment, I am gearing up for NaNoWriMo. And until the end of November, I will have a novel that is:

Steampunk because of the airships, the old-style guns, but without anything victorian to go along with it.
Fantasy without the magic, but there's a certain feel to the story that belongs to that genre, in good part because I write a lot of fantasy (*cough* always fantasy *cough*)
Science-fiction because of a few more advanced technologies, and 'science' explaining some of the out-of-the-ordinary elements.

My only hope is that as I write the novel, everything will become clearer. Am I alone with this problem? Have any of you written a crossgenre novel before?


  1. A crossgenre novel? Last year I couldn't really decide whether my book would be fantasy or religious (cause of the angels mainly) but I ended up figuring it was young adult, and it was really :P

    From those little tidbits up there your book does sound more steampunk than anything else but I haven't really read anything about it so. . . I don't know.

    Anyways I'm a bit confused. Is 'White Echos' a different story from the one you were talking about in you post with the stoneshapers? Probably is cause you just said 'White Echos' has no magic. . . How many ideas are you working on?

  2. My current WIP would currently best be described as a speculative science fantasy mainstream commercial novel, that might or might not be YA. I think I'm in a similar boat. >_>

    Normally I write pure fantasy (dragons, gryphons, elves, magic, etc), but this one's a bit different, and I really have no idea what to call it. It's really been bugging me.

    Good luck with NaNo! (and with finding the right genre)

  3. @BookOwl: Yep, it's a different story. I'm one of those NaNo Overachievers. I'll need two stories to get to my wordcount. If you want to de-confuse them, just hit the tabs in the navigation bar. I put up blurbs for the two (although White Echoes' could be better). Thankfully, Edingher is easy to identify as a political fantasy.

    @Amorena: That is one LONG description for a novel! XD Hopefully you and I will find other somewhat similar novels and manage to find where we best fit. :)

  4. I always have a problem. Well, not always. The one I just finished is a crime novel. But, most of the time, I think it's mostly women's fiction. But women's fiction can be so many different things, you know? If there's a murder, does that make it crime? Or would it still be women's fiction? No idea. I feel your pain.

  5. I've never done cross-genre. I'm still trying to get *one* right. Anyway, yes, it does sound like the novel is steampunk, which is a subgenre of fantasy with sci-fi elements, or vice versa, depending on who you ask. Cherie Priest is supposed to be reallllly good. Perhaps read her steampunk novels, to help assuage your anxiety about being fuzzy on the genre and for enjoyment. They're on my TO READ list even though I don't write steampunk.

  6. @mdal: Yeah, they are already on mine. I'm desperate to finish my current novel before NaNo, though, and probably won't read anything else before mid-December (post NaNo and post University finals). I'm rather hoping reading steampunk will convince me it's the right genre.

    @April: It makes you wish there was a subgenre called "women's crime fiction" or something, doesn't it? :)

  7. Welcome to mot of the stories I have ever written. ;)

    I've had quite a few projects where I really couldn't put my finger on the genre.

    For instance, one project set in a world with near-future earth technology, but also a great deal of tech based on magic and "science". It wasn't UF, or near-future sci-fi, or epic fantasy, or anything I could readily define. Maybe if I stretched the definition, I could have called it YA.

  8. I always have trouble shoe-horning my books into one particular category, because I usually pull from several categories that interest me. For example, this year's (and last) were a futuristic sci-fi thriller mystery, and the other 2 years were steampunkish fantasy sci-fi with magic like yours. Maybe we can all define our own genre together, NaNoist?

  9. atsiko, Logan: It's kind of reassuring to know I am not the only one with this problem. To be honest, though, I'd rather find a way to settle my novels in one or two genres than to always flounder when trying to explain it quickly.

    Another solution would be to write the perfect one-sentence pitch. :) *has to work on pitches, someday*