How Does One Decide What to Write About?

Part of the allure of being an independent author is the idea that you can write whatever you want, whenever you want. Sounds great, right. But, if I wanted to sit down and write the next 50 Shades of Grey, I’m not sure the result would be very good or, based on my expert knowledge of the subject matter, very long.

At the moment that you declare yourself an author, how are you driven to pick a direction? There are so many genres and sub-genres. There are so many forms of writing. How do you select what direction, or directions, you will take to funnel your creativity.

Here are some of the choices:

  • Mainstream Novels – Contemporary fiction that is geared to a wide variety of readers fall into this category. Love stories, coming of age, dramas and other similar works that seek wide readership and commercial appeal are considered works within this group. The needle moves in this classification of books. Breakout books like the Harry Potter series or the aforementioned 50 shades phenomenon can occur in what would normally be considered a genre.
  • Literary Novels – Books that somehow push the literary envelope or expand the craft fall into this category. They can be avant-garde or experimental in nature.
  • War Novels – This one is pretty self-explanatory. Think some of Tom Clancy’s works or classics like From Here to Eternity.
  • Comic Novels – Books that use humor or satire to poke fun at real life situations fall into this category
  • Philosophical Novels – Think George Orwell or Ayn Rand
  • Message Novels – Books that seek to teach a lesson or make a statement about the social or political climate fall into this category. Think of books like The Grapes of Wrath that dealt with the Dust Bowl era in the United States or todays LGBTQ novels.
  • Religious Novels – Fiction that emerges from religious scriptures or ideas make up this category.
  • Erotic and Pornographic Novels – Thanks to books like 50 Shades of Grey, these books have become more mainstream. If the preponderance of authors in this genre at indie book gatherings are any indication, this trend is going strong.
  • Action/Adventure/Thriller – These books are filled with action and often take place in exotic locations.
  • Romances – The genre of authors like Nicholas Sparks fall into this category. These novels have more plot and less intimacy than the erotic genre.
  • Historical Novels and Family Sagas – These books usually have some root in a historical event or period and tell a plausible story that surrounds that history.
  • Westerns – These books usually take place in the West or Southwestern United States in the post-Civil War period.
  • Science Fiction and Fantasy – These stories are based on a setting and technology that opens up other possibilities allowing the author to use elements of story telling that are heavily or loosely based in science or in fantasy lore.
  • Horror/Occult Novels – These books are usually written with the intent to scare or shock the reader and differ from science fiction and fantasy in the areas of body count and gore.
  • Crime Novels – Books that are mysteries, detective stories or spy/terrorism stories are woven around some criminal event, usually a murder, and the journey through discovering wither who carried out the crime or how the person that carried it out will be caught.
  • Animal Stories – Books where one or more of the main characters are animals make up this genre.
  • Medical and Nurse Novels – Books that take place in a medical setting like Coma or The Clinic fall into this category.
  • New Age Novels – Books that focus on mystical or metaphysical topics are classified in this genre.
  • Juvenile/Young Adult Novels – This is another genre that is leaning toward mainstream thanks to the Harry Potter and Hunger Games series.

So, how did you fall into writing the genre(s) that you’ve selected? Do you have difficulty with any elements of writing in this genre? What did you need to learn or strengthen in your knowledge base to successfully write in your chosen genre?

Let’s have a discussion about it.

6 thoughts on “How Does One Decide What to Write About?

  1. Pingback: Writing Links 7/31/17 – Where Genres Collide

  2. I fell into writing horror/paranormal because I have a dark and twisty soul. I’ve always thought of strange things since I was a child. When I was 11, my parents let me have a video birthday party where I invited friends to watch a movie. I chose to watch The Incredible Melting Man, an old sci-fi about an astronaut who is infected with a space virus and ends up with his skin and muscles melting off. He staggers about with various sticky fluids dripping everywhere, the occasional eyeball dribbling down his cheek. I loved it. Two of my friends rang their parents and asked to go home, one cried. I watched Friday the 13th with my father when I was 10 and was glued to the screen with anticipation. I also like writing archaeological action adventures, probably because I used to be an archaeologist.


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