Monday, March 26, 2007

Know Thy Genre

I swear, this advice always sends me into a panic. It tends to make me feel like I’m a fraud, trying to write a thriller (or any genre).

But then my better sense kicks in. Then, when I think of someone advising, “know thy genre,” I want to say:

Are you out of your mind???

I write in all genres and one genre. Kinky romance, as you know, but I’ve played with every genre within that one. I literally know that genre. Like, I’ve read everything. Okay, I haven’t read anything in the past three years. But when I started writing it, and for the first five years that I did, I’d read it all.

No, I mean it. I’m not exaggerating. I’d read Every. Single. Thing.

So when someone suggests that I should know my genre, I walk into the three-aisle thriller section and hyperventilate. I seriously feel like I should read Every. Single. One.

My rational mind realizes that the admonition to know thy genre doesn’t really mean every single one. (Even though I do have a list on my computer of every single spy story I could find.) That would be impossible.  But given my history, I’m used to the comfortable feeling of knowing all of it.

It makes it so much easier and so much more fun, because when you know all the rules and conventions, you can break every single one with (embarrassingly enough) a fair bit of cockiness because you KNOW that it will work.

Without that knowledge, you may accidentally break the rules, and by sheer luck it might work, but … you don’t know that.

So I’m sitting and looking at this pile of books that grows incessantly higher on my desk, this pile of books that says, “How dare you think of tackling the Big N before you’ve read me?!”

Do you struggle with the feelings of inadequacy concerning the number of books you’ve read?

8 bonus scribbles:

Aimless Writer 3/27/2007 07:06:00 AM  

I feel more that i don't know enough about the mechanics of writing then anything. Can I find this when I read someone elses book? Or do I need one of those how too books?
Concerning the number of books I've read/haven't read? I don't know...I think I'm either writing all the time and not reading anything and then I stop writing for a few weeks and read everything in site. Multiple books at a time. Of course, there is that guilty pile of books over there staring at me, that I promised I'd read. I'll get to them...someday.

Christa M. Miller 3/27/2007 09:21:00 AM  

Constantly, since I had children - most days I have a choice between reading and writing, and only one pays. :( I miss reading! I estimate I only read one novel about every other month... that's six books a year. Sad and pathetic, no?

Therese 3/27/2007 11:49:00 AM  

Lots to catch up with here...

The turkey!

Stephen King's Haven!

Liars and ungrateful, unbending rule-mongers!

Busy few days for you, Spy!

My answer to this post: yep, especially since we all did that 100-books discussion and I've discovered how much I'm missing!!

spyscribbler 3/27/2007 06:29:00 PM  

Aimless, I know what you mean about all those books calling to you!

The beauty of self-education is that we each can find our own way. Me, I read the entire writing section in the bookstore, over the course of a couple years, while writing daily. And reading often. :-)

Francine Prose's Reading Like a Writer kind of glued it all together for me, though.

spyscribbler 3/27/2007 07:15:00 PM  

LOL, Bernita.

I know exactly what you mean, Christa. Me, I don't write as well if I'm not reading. But it's harder and harder to find the time with a day job and my writing every day.

LOL, Therese! I keep reminding myself if all I did was read for the rest of my life (no eating or sleeping), I still wouldn't read half the books I want to!

Lori G. Armstrong,  3/30/2007 09:24:00 AM  

Did I read that right? You haven't read anything new in three years?

spyscribbler 4/02/2007 10:14:00 PM  

ROFL, Lori. Yes, you did read that right. I, however, wrote it wrong. :-) I have read new books in the last three years (*giggles*), but I haven't read anything new in the genre I write in. Except I did read for a month or two, early this year.

Mostly because I came home one day to read a friend's story, and realized I had almost precisely the same scene, same words ... it was freaky. So I completely stopped reading the genre I write in, because I was afraid of inadvertently copying, and also because it was my way of trying to keep my own writing original and fresh.