Write genre!

“Write genre! Write romance!”

That’s the unanimous advice of all my writerly friends as I whine that no publisher loves my novel (The Yearning) enough to want to commit it to their list.

Sigh.

They may as well tell me to wear a suit, heels and make-up to work because looking like a corporate clone is a good career move. The truth is I can’t do it. I can’t pretend I’m something I’m not, as a worker or a writer.

You would think that writing romance genre would be the easiest thing in the world. It’s not like there’s no template for it. It’s a pretty simple formula: boy meets girl, tensions rise, misunderstandings happen, they fight and it looks like all is lost, they eventually get over themselves and make up so they can live happily ever after – or something along those lines. So, if it’s so simple, why the hell can’t I write it?

(I’ll do the insane thing here and answer my own question– bear with me).

Because good genre is hard to write. Ha, hear that? It’s the sound of some black-skivvied literary types scoffing at me over their 1999 Shiraz and turning their small, refined noses up at the very idea that writing genre is anywhere near as challenging as literary fiction. Ahem, I beg to differ. I’ve tried it and all I pump out is trite, predictable trash – which isn’t good genre.

Good genre is the retelling of a known story in a fresh and new way. Good genre  takes familiar tales and dresses them up with original characters, inventive settings, interesting conflicts and goals. This is why good genre sells. People already know the story, they’ve heard it before somewhere – the people, places and problems were all different – but, hell, they enjoyed it when they last read it, so why wouldn’t they enjoy another turn around the block in a new model?

It’s a sad fact that the bum has fallen out of the literary fiction market in Australia. It seems to have gone the same way as current affairs and live television, and I don’t dare speculate what that means for us culturally. In the meantime genre, especially romance and true crime, is keeping the whole fiction industry afloat.

While The Yearning isn’t literary, it doesn’t cut it as genre either, so it should come as no surprise to me that I can’t raise more than a publisher’s eyebrow with it. While it has oodles of tension, some great sex scenes (if only by my own judgement), and an antagonist you’ll all love to hate, it doesn’t have the reliable boy-gets-girl happy ending. And therein lies the problem.

You see, I’m no fan of happy endings. In short, they shit me and I can’t write ‘em. When I hit a happy ending I just feel resentful because it reminds me of the vast inadequacies of my own life. Why is it always the big dumb bloke with the 6-pack ab’s, manly-but-understanding-persona, and the million-dollar-inheritance who gets the girl who’s gonna love him good till he dies? Where are these perfect men? Not in Australia that’s for sure, and if I met one he’d look straight past me to the smart young thing behind me in red lippy and heels and there’s my happy ending – right there!

No, I prefer my endings bitter-sweet, and that’s how I write them. I like endings that are happy with a bitey edge to them, the ones where things are good, but not perfect. Their normalising effect make me feel okay about being hopelessly human.

However, when all’s said and done, my friends are right. If I want to be published then I must jump on the genre band wagon and find a way to write to a category that the public, and publishers, will want to read and sell. Publishers will forgive my myriad of writing sins and work with me until my fingers are weak from rewrites, so they can publish my saleable story.

That said, I reckon it might be awhile before you see a genre book by Kate Rizzetti on the Booktopia best-seller list. Perhaps a better place to look for it would be the 3-for-$10 bargain bin at the newsagents. But be quick. It won’t be long before it’s on its way for pulping.

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5 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. shelleyrae @ Book'd Out
    Mar 06, 2012 @ 10:49:21

    Romance has always kept the publishing world afloat, that said there is a place for something differnt, you just have to find the right place 🙂 Self publishing is always an option

    Reply

  2. snowtravelsandwrites
    Mar 02, 2012 @ 18:42:47

    Or you publish on Amazon Kindle and Smashwords and somehow do your own publicity. That’s the conclusion I’m coming to with my spy thriller. If don’t hear back form the last batch of publishers I sent stuff too in February by June. .

    Reply

  3. Diane Simonelli
    Mar 02, 2012 @ 13:16:33

    Interestingly Kate, tweeps were asking for “bitter-sweet” books on twitter Valentines week. There IS a place for hybrid writing. Not all your friends are going to ask you to write ‘romance’. Some will want your books to reflect your tastes and passions.

    Reply

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