Let’s start at the very beginning: you have a story to tell, but no idea where or how to start, what your theme will be, how to come up with the story so it makes sense, how long it should be… and so many more questions!

I’m here for that. (I so wanted to say, ‘There’s an app for that!’ lol!) Authors come in all shapes, sizes, ages, and the same applies to their stories. As a publisher since 2007, and a scriptwriter and editor and production manager for 25 years before that, I do feel I have a little wisdom to impart on the topic.

At this stage you probably have an idea in your head for your story; that’s why you’re looking for help and support to get going. Or you may already have written your manuscript but aren’t sure it’s good enough yet for publication. Or you’re just here because of general ennui. 😉 Whatever your situation, you’re looking to take the next step. So let’s have a quick look at genres, to help clarify in your mind where your book will be categorised in a book store.

Memoir

I start with this because it’s a wide umbrella in its own right, with so many child-genres. If you want to write a memoir, the framework is already in your head, because you’ve lived it, but the best tip I can give you is – think like a novel writer. Take your memories and write as though you’re writing a novel. Follow the general rules of fiction writing and you’ll be on your way. There are many reasons for people wanting to write a memoir; maybe you went through something traumatic and need a catharsis (like my own post-bush-war book, Dance of Eagles). Maybe you’ve had a wildly exciting life riding your motorbike across Africa and feel the world should know about it. Or you sailed round the world. Or you went to prison for a crime you didn’t commit. Or you went through hell with a narcissistic spouse. Or…. so many possibilities! In this brief blog, I will say this, though – ‘misery books’ are rarely picked up by publishers, unless there is a huge over-coming story with an uplifting path. So whatever you choose to write, misery or otherwise – remember this is a large niche market, but readers always want the outcome to be good, even if there is tragedy along the way. Fill your book with challenges, but ensure those challenges are met with victory, whatever that may be.

Fiction

‘Where do I begin, to tell the story of how great a love can be?’ (Love Story)

There are so many genres in fiction, each with their own sub-genres spiralling down the rabbit-hole… First rule of thumb is: what do you enjoy reading? Because that’s usually what you should write. You are accustomed to the swirl and surge, the glide and drift, so it will come more naturally to you; you are accustomed to the structuring, the ebb and flow that makes books you love stay with you.

A few examples of mainstream genre:

Crime? (Cozy, gritty, political, gangs, mafia, etc)

Romance? (Sweet or erotic; small town or big city; cowboy or race driver; billionaire or guy/girl-next-door; suspense; Navy SEALs; Christian or Amish; Western; Regency; historic; time travel; Black or other ethnicity; LGBTQ-etc… you get the idea)

Literary? ie books that tell great stories outside of categorisations, like A Thousand Splendid Suns; The Murmur of Bees; The Handmaid’s Tale… And sooooo many more! What’s in your heart? What excites you? The same story can be written in so many different ways!

Children’s? Teen and Young Adult? Fantasy (eg Game of Thrones, Lord of the Rings)? Science Fiction (Star Wars, The Time Machine)? Dystopian (Hunger Games, Brave New World)? Prehistoric (eg Clan of the Cave Bear, New Shores)?

Soooo many out there; choose to write what you know! Meaning, what you read.

Non-fiction

Again, a huge variety of genres and styles. Documentary, religious, scientific, travel, archaeology, cultures, world wonders, coffee-table books….

Even non-fiction writing should give you joy, hope, delight, fascination, aspiration…

Write what inspires you.

More next time! Read something! 🙂

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