Steam what. . . ? Some fiction genre terms defined

I’ve learned (and am still learning) a lot of stuff about publishing and categorizing books from my so far brief query/self-publishing journey. While I feel my first novel is squarely in the “women’s fiction” category, I have looked into romance agents and publishers because of the novel’s romantic elements. I’m finding a lot of different categories of romance I didn’t know existed or were popular. Here are a couple of things I’ve learned.

  • New adult romance (or new adult fiction): The focus here is on the audience. New adult fiction / romance’s audience  is between ages 18 through 30.  It’s between a YA novel and a full-on adult novel. So if your characters have just graduated high school or college and are trying to find their way in the world, you’re probably writing a new adult novel.
  • Contemporary v. Historical: 1950 is the transition year here. If a novel is set after 1950, it’s contemporary. If it’s set before 1950, it’s historical.
  • Levels: There are various levels of romance from the cozy to the erotic. From what I’ve seen, a lot of the determination on the level depends on how much sex is shown in the writing.
  • Affinities: Romance is something that can happen no matter who you are. Romance readers (just like anyone else) want to see themselves in a character/story, so that’s why there are many different affinities based on categories like sexual orientation (LGBTQ romance is in demand right now), lifestyle (inspirational, Christian, and the increasingly popular BDSM), point in life (YA, new adult, senior), surrealistic  (gothic, paranormal, fantasy), and others.

The sci-fi/superhero nerd side of me in also interested in Sci-fi genre categories as well. I’ve learned a lot about speculative fiction (first off, what it is) and how popular it is.

  • Speculative fiction: Any type of fiction that creates a new world (so this could apply to sci – fi, superhero, horror, supernatural, apocalyptic/dystopian or fantasy) or a world that is significantly different from our own reality in which we live (or have lived). So every vampire novel or dystopian (think Hunger Games) novel and most comic books  you’ve read are speculative fiction. It’s an umbrella term that combines all of these genres.
  • Steampunk: So this doesn’t just apply to a genre of book, it applies to a culture/lifestyle as well; the biggest representation most people have seen is in fashion. Steampunk combines the Victorian Era (usually England) with elements of science fiction or speculative fiction elements.  Some of these novels seem to happen in the past and the future, because of elements presented. (But no, don’t think time travel.)
  • Gothic fiction: Anything that delights the darker side of humanity (or inhumanity). This could be paranormal/ghost, horror, vampires, monsters, etc. Gothic can be combined with other genres (gothic romance, for instance), or can be broken down into its own subgenres (like Southern Gothic, American Gothic)

Some other trends: flash fiction: With people’s shortened attention spans , and  readers reading on mobile devices there’s a growing demand for flash fiction.  Flash fiction focuses on length /word count of your writing. The requirements for word counts of flash fiction vary, but where a short story is usually 2, 000 – 10,000 words, flash fiction is 1500 words or less.

Indie v. self-published v. traditional authors: From what I can tell, these terms focus on the level of involvement a writer has with the publishing side of her work.  An indie author is most of the time author and publisher.  She plans out how the book will go from manuscript to published, sometimes enlisting help, sometimes doing certain things on her own. A self-published author is very similar to an indie author (most of the time, these are used interchangeably), but in the case of print books, the author may enlist a company for POD (print-on-demand) and regular print runs and distribution. Traditional authors have sold their manuscripts (usually through an agent) to a publisher who handles everything from editing to formatting to marketing.

So what am I writing? Currently, I’m writing a women’s fiction series (although one of my novels may really end up being a cozy mystery–mystery without heavy violence and graphic sex). What’s women’s fiction? Here’s a great quote from Author Chuck Sambuchino’s Writer’s Digest blog about women’s fiction.

“If you’re confused as to what women’s fiction is (and its differences to romance), agent Scott Eagan says this ‘I have always tried to define [women’s fiction] as a story that shows the female journey. The goal and the intent of this genre is to be able to relate to the character and understand her own life. We want to know what it is to be a woman. Like romance, this can occur in any time period, but the goal is still the same – to understand the female psyche. The story can be multicultural, like Amy Tan, or historical, like Philippa Gregory. It really doesn’t matter other than making the heroine the central focus of the story. Many stories are contemporary’.” (Click here for post).

My first published story, however, will be a romance and it’s coming VERY soon (February 2017)! Preorders for “Twenty-Four Hours of Freedom” will start this week; check back here for details!

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