Knowing Your Genre (3rd post about - Nobody Wants to Read Your Sh*t) - Jo-Ann Carson

Knowing Your Genre (3rd post about – Nobody Wants to Read Your Sh*t)

I’m writing a series of posts reviewing parts of Steven Pressfield’s book, Nobody Wants to Read Your Sh*t. Today I’m focusing on the importance of knowing your genre. This topic really hit home with me, because I write cross-genre stories, which can be a bit like transversing no-man’s land. This is what Pressfield says:

“Genre may be the most important single factor, from writer’s point of view, both in crafting the work and in attempting to find a market for it.” (Pressfield, p. 62, Nobody Wants to Read Your Sh*t)

So true. My stories h0ld together, but marketing them has been difficult. I read farther.

“… every genre has its own ironclad, unbreakable rules.”(Ibid)

But I love breaking the rules. Isn’t that what creating is about. I read farther.

“The writer must know what genre he is working and the conventions of that genre, just as the bridge builder must understand the science of foundational integrity and the means of mitigating stress on strung steel.” (Ibid., p. 63)


“Because a story … is experienced by the reader on the level of the soul. And the soul has a universal structure of narrative receptors.
Jug was right. There is a collective unconscious. Joseph Campbell was right. Myths and legends do constitute the fabric of the self.
The soul judges a story’s truth by how closely it comports to the narrative templates that are part of our psyche from birth.”(Ibid.)

My gut hit the ground, when I read this. What about people like me who want to mix things up?

“It’s okay to blend genres (in fact, it’s great if you can pull it off), but before we do that, we the writers must know the rules of th genre as well as a brain surgeon understands the topography of the cerebellum and the synaptic architecture of the neocortex.” (Ibid., p. 64)

Ouch. I mean, “Ouch!” I thought I was just meddling with tropes. I have been writing Romantic Suspense, which crosses two genres and is so popular it has rules of its own. My hope was to draw two audiences (i.e., romance and suspense readers). I also thought the double genre would layer and enrich my concept. But I’m beginning to think I was not only arrogant, or perhaps overly-ambitious would be a nicer term; but I was also stupid. I do not fully understand the “cerebellum” of either genre well enough to pull it off. I do have my fans, but I also have my critics. Some Romance readers wanted more declarations of love and white-picket-fence-nirvana at the end of my stories (particularly mainstream Romance publishers), while some suspense readers I imagine wanted more suspense and fewer tender-eye exchanges.
Back to my writing loft. What I’m working on now is in the realm of speculative fiction, a post-apocalyptic, paranormal romance. The first draft is a “blend” of the two. This time, I plan to take extra care to meet the genre rules of both, or develop and sell it only as only one. Something to think about. Hmm.
Anyway, those are my thoughts on this part of Pressfield’s book, which as I keep saying, is fantastic.

I believe it is still free too: Free Link

Steven-Pressfield_Nobody-Wants-To-Read-Your-ShitWant more?

My Series on Nobody Wants to Read Your Sh*t:
1 – Nobody Wants to Read Your Sh*t -My Review
2 – How Big is Your Concept?
3 – The Second Thing You Need in a Good Story – Theme

0 Replies to “Knowing Your Genre (3rd post about – Nobody Wants to Read Your Sh*t)”

  1. I can’t seem to download the mobi or epub, but the pdf worked. Thanks for the link. It’s a tough one and one I have struggled with myself. I think people want to know what they are buying into before they devote 10 – 20 hours to reading a book. I know I do. But I think the publishing world parameters are a bit too narrow sometimes. Interesting series. I”m interested to read more.

    1. I’m glad you got a copy Judy.
      I agree with you about traditional publishers having a narrow view in terms if genre, but they do know what sells, or what used to sell. I guess time will tell. As more Indie authors put their stories out there, we should get a better idea. I
      Anyway, thanks for stopping by.
      Best Wishes

  2. Jo-Ann, I think you excel in suspense. I thought your CIA premise and story line was extraordinary. Some of the best and most exciting writing I had read for a long time.
    I’ve read another romantic suspense author who I thought would be a wonderful mystery. But I’m more behind closed door with romance, behind the veil, left to the imagination.
    Best wishes on your writing endeavors. I think you’re a wonderful writer and person.

    1. Oh my goodness Susan,
      Your words knocked me over and I’m blushing from ear to ear. Thank you for your praise of my writing, which would mean a lot to me coming from anyone, and means even more coming from you, because you are such a good writer.
      Thank you.
      All the best,

  3. Yes, I understand that in the Regency historical, knowing the conventions is of paramount importance. Fans of the Regency will pick up on every little deviation. I had it pointed out to me that – yes – first cousins could marry, after I made the plot revolve around that being a no-no.Then I had a [different] heroine inherit her father’s coal mine, in a time when most property stayed in male hands. The Regency Writers’ group came to my rescue with the suggestion that that piece of property could have come from her mother’s dowry and been earmarked for her daughter’s dowry. But these are all physical facts and you are also talking about fulfilling the expectations a reader has of your genre on an inner level. If I dwell on the life of the Luddites instead of the aristocracy I have to be very careful to include some of the fantasy expectations of my reader, otherwise I’ll disappoint
    them and likely they’ll choose some other author for their next time-travel adventure.

    1. Helena,
      I’m so glad I don’t write historicals.
      They sound so diffucult to write. I’m really looking forward to reading yours, though. Can’t wait.
      Thanks for stopping by.
      Best wishes,

  4. Jo-Ann:
    You have hit on my own question. I never think of genre when I write. I write what I have to say: what else could I write? Time was, that’s what writers did.
    When did genre become the stranglehold it is today? It hasn’t been that long, in terms of decades.
    I just happened on this site. Look forward to reading your books.

    1. Hi Ellen,
      We are of one mind. I’m not sure when the genres became so rigid and important, but they make things hard. I first noticed them when I wanted to publish.
      Glad to hear you are telling the stories you want to tell. That is awesome.
      Thanks for stopping by.
      Best wishes,

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