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Genre Clarity and Why It's So Important

genre novel writing screenwriting storytelling tv writing writers writing Feb 03, 2020

Happy Monday to all the writers out there who have come by my new blog. 

I'm so grateful that you are here. 

Today I am talking about GENRE CLARITY and why it's so massively important if you want to be successful as a writer. 

This isn't the same as voice, or even who you are as a writer and I'm not saying that you have to stay in one genre, but you do need clarity-especially when you are starting out. 

First I want to invite you to subscribe to my YouTube channel because this week I will have a new short video on this topic and every week I will have new videos to help all storytellers reach their dreams. 

So, what is genre exactly? The dictionary says this: a category of artistic composition, as in music or literature, characterized by similarities in form, style, or subject matter.

This is true but in books, movies, and television it can mean so much more. 

I once went to a conference and heard an amazing speaker talk about writing "genre fiction" over nongenre and I only went because it was the only session that wasn't something I hadn't already gone to. Well, it was eye-opening because he defined it as something that you can pitch in one sentence, instead of those quiet books and movies that are harder to describe. 

When I hear the word genre I automatically start thinking of where something fits in. To me it means where a story fits--not the medium it is told in but where it fits. 

So.. like horror is a genre. Horror films and horror books, comics, short stories are in the genre of horror. Comedy is a genre. Romance is a genre. 

Get it? 

What do I mean when I say "genre clarity"? Well, I mean that you need to be crystal clear in which genre you are writing

Now, I don't 100% believe that you can't switch genres, but rather, for the story you are working on now, you need to know exactly what genre you are writing. 

I have worked with tons of TV writers and screenwriters who always say but it's a "dramedy" ---let me clear that up for you. No, it's not! 

It's either a comedy with dramatic elements, a dark comedy, a black comedy, a quiet comedy or it's a drama with some comedy sprinkled in. There is no such thing as a dramedy and if you pitch it as such, you will have a hard time unless you are extremely lucky. 

For the purpose of this, I'm asking you to clearly define your genre for your current work in progress, and know that genre before you start writing, or at least in the revision stages. 

This is especially important when pitching but if you start with getting super clear at the beginning your pitching will be super easy. 

The genre is to writing what an ideal customer is to the business person trying to make sales. You NEED to know what genre your story is so you can sell that story--unless you are just writing for fun and don't want to sell it, but if you want to sell your pilot, your novel, your picture book, your screenplay, get clarity. 

Here are some tips on how to do this. 

1. Make a list of stories that are similar--these are called comp titles. Make a long list. 

2. Look at your story and ask yourself if it's funny? Is it serious? 

3. Is there a romantic element or does the story center around the romance? 

4. Write your logline and really get a sense of the emotions around it. Does it make you laugh, or sad, or tense? 

I hope this is helpful and I hope to see you in the STORY CONCIERGE Facebook group and please subscribe to my YouTube channel where I post videos every week (for the most part) and go to the homepage and get on my VIP list and grab a freebie too. 

Genre examples: Horror. Comedy. Romance. Contemporary. Historical. Thriller. Action. 


Happy writing xo 


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