Monday, July 22, 2013

Dead Genres Will Rise Again!

Say a capricious dictator banned your corner of the genre (or even – gasp – the mystery genre altogether). What would you be writing instead?

by Meredith Cole

So--what would I write if someone said that no one was buying mysteries anymore? Very interesting question, since I don't happen to be writing what someone would call a mystery right now. It's actually a crime novel, which is in the same genre, but definitely not a traditional mystery. From the beginning, you know who has committed the crime. And although there is a PI trying to solve the crime, the central question is not whodunnit.

I also, like many writers, wrote other things besides mysteries. I started out as a screenwriter, and every once in awhile I write a screenplay just for fun. Without all those descriptors and internal monologues, it feels like a breezy vacation! So I don't think I would be totally sunk.

I also love to read in lots of other genres.  I could give non-fiction or literary fiction or romance a shot. I probably wouldn't be able to help injecting a little crime and mystery into the books, but that wouldn't matter (since most of the best books have a little of both).

Every once in awhile, the word will go around that certain genres or sub-genres are "dead." You'll hear that mysteries featuring private eyes or vampires or "Chick-lit" or traditional mysteries just aren't selling, for instance... Everyone will tell you to give it up and write something else. And then--low and behold! Someone will write something in one of those sub-genres that catches everyone's attention--and then the agents and editors (AKA capricious dictators) are looking for those genres again.

So to anyone who despairs that their genre (Georgian Romances? Locked Room mysteries?) is dead and they'll never sell their amazing book, I say put it in a drawer and wait. Sooner or later someone will be begging for it again when they get tired of the latest trends and think it's time for something new and original again. And you'll be ready. And your readers will be waiting.


Sue Ann Jaffarian said...

I also just finished a crime novel that isn't a whodunit. When it was done, I was worried my publisher would cast if off, but so far so good!

And I totally agree about not giving up but waiting out the trends. It all comes back around eventually and, who knows, maybe YOUR book is the one to breath life back into that sub-genre.

Meredith Cole said...

Great point, Sue Ann! I really love how genres are constantly changing, while at the same time echoing ideas and themes from the past. It definitely keeps the readers (and the writers) engaged.

Reece said...

Sometimes a genre is dead to publishers before it's dead to readers. At Thrillerfest someone told me that the YA dystopian genre was dead. That was a surprise to me because those books are everywhere. Apparently, every publisher now has a stack of YA dystopian manuscripts and no one wants to see another one for a while.