Writing Genre Fiction– 5 Tips to Enhance Your Craft

This post gives some of the important points to consider when setting out to write genre fiction.

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Just before we get into my tips , I want to give some background on the term ‘genre fiction’.

The writing website Masterclass describes genre fiction as ‘a type of novel that has a more mainstream populist appeal than literary fiction.’

In some circles, this has led to the conclusion that the quality of writing in literary fiction is superior to that in popular genres. Similarly, there is a view that literary fiction doesn’t sell.

In my opinion, both of these statements are false and if you want to read more on that argument, you could try reading https://writers.com/literary-fiction-vs-genre-fiction

Anyway, moving on.

According to Masterclass, there are 14 main genres of fiction. It lists these as:

Literary fiction, mystery, thriller, horror, historical, romance, western, Bildungsroman (a story that follows the character’s journey from childhood to adulthood) speculative fiction, science fiction, fantasy, dystopian, magical realism, realist literature.

Some would argue there are more, but this is a good start.

Photo by Gülfer ERGİN on Unsplash

So now to the tips.

1. Read widely in the genre you wish to write in

This may seem obvious, but it’s worth repeating. If you don’t read widely in the genre you want to write in, you won’t be familiar with the common elements of it.

2. Write in the genre you enjoy

Again, this may seem obvious but it makes sense to write in a genre you have read widely in. The years you’ve spent reading Nordic noir or high fantasy will give you an understanding at a subconscious level that will translate into your writing. It’s the ‘write what you know’ advice we often hear.

3. Understand the genre conventions

All writers want to be original. And that’s great. But readers have expectations and if your writing doesn’t live up to these,  your book will be tossed aside for one that is satisfying. Think about your own experiences. If you’re a romance reader and you’re reading a book where the romantic lead dies or goes off with someone else, you will almost certainly feel cheated. Romance readers choose romance books because they want the happy ever after. If they didn’t, they would read something else.

That’s not to say you can’t push at the boundaries of the conventions and even break through them, but at its heart, your story should retain the authenticity of the genre you’re writing in.

As a side note, having a good in-depth knowledge of your genre will help if you want to pitch your book to an agent. You will be able to explain where you see your work fitting in with other works.

4. Concentrate on one book at a time

You may have an idea for a series of 6 books, but if you don’t make the first book a complete story, you’re likely to risk your reader feeling cheated and not inclined to read the other 5. It’s OK to leave some unanswered questions, but you must resolve your main plot.  These unanswered questions could be what power the narrative in the sequel(s).

5. Don’t forget your craft

Genre writing should be approached with the same attention to the elements of fiction writing as literary fiction so don’t forget to study your craft. There are many great books out there focusing on genre writing. I’ve linked to a few below in my further resources.

Some thoughts about writing cross-genre fiction

Cross-genre writing needs more consideration. To expand on my tips above,

– Think carefully about your reasons for wanting to mix two (or more) genres together. The combination should enhance your characters and your story setting. If not done properly, your work could come across as gimmicky.

– As per Tip 1, seek out successful cross-genre books –there are many out there. Some examples are Laura Shepherd-Robinson’s historical mystery Daughters of Night and Sarah J Maas’ A Court of Thorn and Roses fantasy romance series. Studying cross-genre books can show you how a successful author has handled the crossover and give you a blueprint for your own work.

– Focus on one main genre as a base for your story and then weave in the additional genre(s) (although I wouldn’t advise making it too complicated) to create layers. It’s important the additional genre(s) play an equal part in the story. If they don’t, there is a risk the narrative will become unbalanced. Again, reading strong examples of cross-genre novels will help show how this is achieved.

– Consider how well the genres blend. Some genres seem naturally to go together such as in historical romance or historical mystery. But others could create a tension that may be too much to deal with, especially for the beginner writer. They may also come across as a bit too weird for a lot of readers.

More Resources


How to Write a Mystery

Wonderbook : The Illustrated Guide to Creating Imaginative Fiction

Writing in the Dark


6 Principles for Writing Historical Fiction

How to Write a Western

7 Tips for Writing Gripping Thrillers

Being a Better Writer: Blending Different Genres

Tracey Chick is a line and copyeditor specialising in historical fiction and narrative nonfiction.

She is a member of the Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading.

Visit her website at Tracey Chick , connect on Twitter at @WriterTjcLinkedIn and Facebook

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