Workin' On It Wednesday #26 - On Genre

Over at the Bookends blog, Jessica has a post about writers being true to themselves and being proud of what they write. I know people who are embarrassed to write what they write--romances or memoir or YA or whatever--but none of those people are actually published, I suppose because someone who is embarrassed to admit what they write is going to be going out there and seeking publication.*

But I guess I'm surprised that it's an issue. I shouldn't be--I was an English major and I'm familiar with the concept of the anxiety of influence**--but the idea that a modern writer would be worried about not being "literary" or not writing a certain genre is...odd to me. I write YA. That's what I do. I don't feel like I should be writing literary fiction, or romance, or mysteries or something.*** And even if I did feel like YA wasn't "worth it" (whatever that means), I don't know that I'd be any good at writing anything else.****

Why would a writer do that? I wonder if it's a whole Groucho Marx phenomenon--these writers don't want to be a part of any genre that would have them as a member. Some people I know (not writers, but others) are of the opinion that if they can do something, then it must not be that hard to do.


My mind boggles. If you can do something, that means it's easy? Give yourself a little more credit. People may slag on romance writers*****, but I have tried to write a straight on romance novel and I can tell you, that sh#t is hard. To do it right (which I haven't), to make your heroine compelling and your hero dynamic, to make the romantic conflict real, and to actually fit a plot in there, too? Jesus.

I suppose this whole post can be boiled down to one thing: give yourself a little credit.


* I could be wrong about this, of course, but the road to publication is fraught with rejection and heartbreak, and if you aren't confident in what you write, I don't know how you'd live on that road.

**for those of you who aren't English majors, the anxiety of influence is a theory that writers have trouble creating great work because of the undue influence of their literary ancestors. There's a lot more to it than that, of course, but that's the basic idea.

***this isn't to say that I don't have bouts of professional jealousy, because I do. I have certainly read books that I thought "f***, I wish I would have written that!" I've certainly hated books that were the literary equivalent of the popular homecoming queen from high school, even as I wanted to have written them. I don't know that there's anything wrong with that.

**** I certainly wouldn't be right away...I've been working at the YA for a while now. To get "up to speed" on a totally new genre would take some work.



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