Genre Unknown

I have a genre problem.

Let me start by saying I know that genre is important in marketing. I try to use it when I can. I have Thank You for Ten: Short Fiction About a Little Theater listed as “general fiction.” But I use that for several of my stories because I don’t know what else they would fit into.

I posted a short story called Linger on Wattpad the other day. Due to some of the imagery, I listed it as “horror,” though the more I researched the technical requirements of that genre, the more I determined my story probably didn’t belong there. Yet it is not general fiction either, and it is hardly literary.

Sometimes I think I am writing literary fiction, though. That, I realize, is a rather loose definition these days, but whenever I write something that “feels” literary, some article comes along to explain to me how what I’ve written isn’t experimental enough or socially relevant enough or controversial enough to be literary.

So I have a hard time assigning a genre to my stories.

That’s only part of the issue, however. It is also wise from a marketing standpoint to only write in a certain genre. At least, that’s what they tell me. But whatever genre Linger is in, I can safely say it is not the same genre as Amateurs in the Distance is. Or perhaps it is, if everything I write can be shoved into “general fiction”, but if you read both you will see right away that the tone is quite different between them.

So not only am I bad at choosing what genre a story is, I don’t even stick to one genre.

Am I shooting myself in the marketing foot by being this way? Truth be told, I might be. Especially with my upcoming novel. I will pick a genre and market to it, as I have for most of my short stories. But a story comes to me for reasons that transcend genre. When the time is ripe for a story that I’m pondering, I have to write it. That’s what happened with Linger. I had been working on something else for a few weeks, and Linger kept interrupting my thoughts, and the story I was working on was going nowhere. So I switched to finishing Linger. I still haven’t gone back to the story I was working on. I’m calling that one “adventure,” but it might be fantasy. But which kind of fantasy??

Some aspects of promotion are just beyond my skill set and personality. Some can be improved upon and some cannot. Is my genre ambiguity one that can be work on or not? I’m not sure. I will say that if there is an answer to it that will allow me to pay attention to the stories I feel drawn to write, I can see myself improving in promotion. But if the only way to get better is to choose a genre, understand its every nuance, and refuse to write any story that doesn’t fit into same, than I don’t think I can improve in this regard. Having a story speak to you enough to write a draft, and then to revise and share it with the world is a rare enough process as it is. The last thing I need to do is limit the stories I can work on because they don’t fit into “my genre.”

Whatever “my” genre is.

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