I will thank the Lord with all my heart as I meet with his godly people. How amazing are the deeds of the Lord! All who delight in him should ponder them. Psalm 111:1-2 NLT

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Identity crisis

I’m having an identity crisis. This wasn’t apparent to me until I caught myself listening to a successful author at a book signing talking to a fan. The fan told the author that she planned on writing a novel – and like many, just hadn’t gotten around to it yet.

When the author asked what genre the fan hoped to write, the woman’s lips puckered and she answered, “It’s, well, if I had to characterize it…it’s a historical science fiction mystery with a little bit of romance thrown in. I think.”

The author’s hand swept out across the bookstore’s shelves. “So, where are they going to put it?”

“Put what?”

"Your novel, when you try to sell it.”


Let’s face it, sometimes it feels premature to consider for those of us who haven’t landed that first fiction contract (kudos to our very own Beth...check out Monday’s post!). But it’s a relevant question to be asking yourself as you write and rewrite. Where do you see yourself on a bookshelf?

Some authors are able to successfully cross multiple genres as they publish novels. But most don’t.

Then what’s my identity crisis? I write contemporary romance. I read historicals. If I want to write what I love, love, love to read, as my bookshelf reflects, I might need to rethink what I’m writing.

So have I wasted 70,000 words on a contemporary romance? Of course not. There’s nothing as crummy as your first attempt at a first draft. I have characters wandering aimlessly through scenes. My plot has a terrible case of scoliosis because I’m still learning how to build a straight spine and write a tight story full of tension. But my efforts have not been wasted. I learned how to craft a novel.

But as I start thinking about the next one, the question the author asked her fan has me pondering marketing. Where do I want to be put?

Where do you see your self on the bookshelves? Why did you choose that genre? Do you write what you love to read?

Happy Writing,


CONTEST WINNER: gypmar, who is writing writing the personal essay on the working/stay-at-home mom dilemma, won the red Moleskin journal!! Email Beth at beth@bethvogt.com with your mailing address!


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. I love to read contemporary romance. That's why I chose that genre for my book.
    I also like to read historical.
    Now, mind you, my book at one time was a romantic suspense--until the all-powerful SMW told me that my story wasn't romantic suspense.
    And she was right.
    And I'd wanted to say my book was romantic comedy--but Chip MacGregor, another powerful person of influence, said that's not a CBA genre.
    So much to learn.

    (And I deleted that first comment because of a typo.)

  3. Amy~ Do you remember the very first thing Susie asked us at Storycrafters 2009? She asked us to name the absolute best book (in our opinion) we had read recently. After we shared our various favorites, she told us the genre of our choice was a good hint as to the kind of books we should be writing. Do you remember which title you chose? (If not, I can tell you because I wrote down everyone's favorites and I still have the list, lol!)

    I think one of the reasons I am having so much trouble moving forward is that I really have no idea what genre I should pursue. I am struggling because as you said, very few authors can cross genres. So, whatever I choose, I need to be able to live with. If you go to my MBT Voices profile, I have this listed under genre: "Slightly Speculative and/or Historical Suspense Thriller Comedy" I know. I need to narrow it down a bit. =(

    On a side note, have you ever tried to explain to a non-writer why we have to choose one genre? I usually get "Why can't you just write whatever you want?"

    As always Ames, I love it!!

  4. I'm still such a newbie that I've tried a couple of genres. I think I'm more of a historical gal though. It's what I really love...and have for years. Yes, I read the occasional contemporary, but tend to skim those more than the historical. Little hints into what I should be focusing on, huh? Great post!

  5. I love romance. I'm the happily ever after girl who refuses to read certain well-known authors because their books don't have a happy ending. I need that. So I write contemporary romance because I have the power to create happily ever afters for my characters.

    I watch several crime dramas--NCIS, NCIS: LA, Blue Blood, and read a lot of romantic suspense, but I don't think I could write one.

    Several well-known published authors have crossed genres, but their books in any genre still represent their brands. I believe once you're established and your readers know what to expect from your books, you can cross genres as long as you're staying true to your brand.

  6. Great post, Ames. Our first book tends to have everything but the kitchen sink in it. lol. But that's okay. Get it out of your system.

    I've always known where my books would sit on a store shelf: the suspense section.

    Only recently have I realized I want romance in it as well--I used to say I could kill my characters, but I couldn't get them together. Well, thanks to Susie, I can now do that!

  7. I write romantic suspense, but I also have several manuscripts that are contemporary romance with suspenseful elements. Can I still say romantic supsense overall? (Because that's what's on my blog lol) Good question.

  8. Oh Beth...perhaps you can create the genre romantic comedy for the Christian market. You are such a fun writer to read, I think you could pull it off!

    Always the editor, TEE, deleting comments due to typos. :)

  9. Thanks Heidi! I think you and I should have a pow wow about what we write. You are an amazing writer, and will be whatever you choose (but can you do a hair stylist story, please!)

    And if you can dig it up without too much trouble, I'd love the insight into my past psyche...what did I say back at that first Storycrafters retreat? Wink!

  10. Thanks for sharing, Sherrinda! What era do you write in? How do you do your research? I think that's the daunting part to me...getting all the little details right.

    So glad you are going to write great historicals for me to read!

  11. And LJ, you DO always deliver a poignant and sweet happily ever after. Don't ever change, okday?

    And good point too, LJ, about being able to cross genres once your target audience knows the type of book you are going to deliver, regardless ofthe genre. Besides our own Susan May Warren (who pulls it off effortlessly!)I love Nancy Moser's historicals, as well as her contemporary big cast novels. Both of these ladies have done it successfully, so there is hope for the rest of us!

  12. Pat, thanks for ensuring I'm completely normal! I know you write killer suspense, so I'm glad you've been able to grow and give your characters a little bit of love, too!

  13. Jessica, thank you for sharing! I'm always incredibly impressed by suspense writers, I know there is NO way I could pull that off. I think you can still say romantic suspense. And you're already blogging about it, wow, good marketing!

  14. I often walk into B&N and head to where I want my books to be someday. I stare at that section for a while. It's a great motivator.
    ~ Wendy

  15. Amy, loved this post! :) Your fun voice brought a couple of chuckles to my lips. :) I had to ask SMW about my genre. She said my story is a married romance. I'm thinking possibly women's fiction, but it WILL have an HEA ending too. :) Since it's my first effort, I guess I can expect to see a lot of meandering and maybe even a kitchen sink in my first draft, eh?

    Thanks for the reminder of knowing my genre. I also never considered walking into a bookstore and picturing where my book would be shelved! Thanks for the idea, ladies. :)

  16. Ohhh, great idea, Wendy! What a fun thing to think about!

  17. Thanks Jeanne! I think I asked SMW about my genre when I first started, too. I did NOT want to be romance. I fought it. I really wanted to be women's fiction.
    But, thankfully, they coaxed me to the light. My novel just wasn't WF, it's romance. And I'm finally okay with that!
    Don't worry about having a kitchen sink in your draft...you can dump it out later, and you have a great start with the retreats you've been to!

  18. Great post!
    I most certainly write what I read. But I read so many things! Honestly I could see myself alot of places!

  19. Thanks Faye! I'm glad you are diverse reader. So am I. Maybe that's contributing to my identity crisis! Happy Writing!

  20. I'm with Lisa, I MUST have a Happily Ever After. I like to read and write romance best. One of my friends says she writes historicals because she has a historical voice.

  21. I got a phone call and hit "send" too soon. Anyway, great post, Amy!

  22. Thanks Rocky. I never considered if I have a historical voice. Hm...another thing to "ponder".


  23. Amy, I'm with you - I fought so much to admit that what I'd written was a romance...:) Love your post!

    Also, random note - I'm in Chicago today and took a boat ride...when we passed Sears (Willis) Tower, I totally thought of you and your "surrender" photo!!

  24. Funny, M-Tagg, that you fought the romance too! You have such a fun voice, though, I can't wait to read your romance, Melissa.

    Glad you had fun in Chicago and thought of me! I think the Ps should go tour the Willis Tower together, wouldn't that be FUN!

  25. So...did the inspiration for this post come from recently hanging out with me--the epitome of genre identity crises? :-)

  26. Good post, Amy, & keep it up. I KNOW I'll see your name on book store shelves soon!