Let me declare an interest first: The limitations, (self-imposed or inflicted by big publishers,) that writing within a genre inflicts on my creative process, was one of the principal reasons I went Indie.
Genre is a thing most writers grapple with either during the creative process, or more usually after – when they are trying to wedge their work into one of the strictly enforced genre groups dictated first by agents, then publishers and finally by retailers.
My writing has always been defiant of an easy fit within in one or even three genres. I choose to avoid thinking about genre at all during the creative process. I follow the plot and the characters in a process of imaginative living and visualising that takes many twists and turns and does not conform to any genre specific rules. That results in, thriller like scenes, physiological drama, free-flow internal dialogue, poetic literary description of places and people, sexual and sensual frankness and challenging perspectives on politics, history and society. There may be themes in each novel and subtexts that explore a given idea, but usually when I begin a new novel – I’ve no idea where it will go and certainly no idea what genre slot it might be crammed uncomfortably into.
Please don’t get the idea I’m complaining here. I think the advent of Indie publishing and the freedom afforded to writers by the explosion of eBooks and the possibilities offered by Createspace and other on-demand publishers, is the greatest liberation ever offered to those of us compelled to follow the uniquely human impulse to tell stories. However; even here in the brave new publishing world, we must face the task of ticking the menu-buttons to indicate what genre our efforts must be labelled with. I tried the catch all: Literary fiction. I tried: Thriller and it’s sub headings. I tried: Family Saga. I tried: Historical Fiction. I even included: Lesbian romance. All this after the novel was completed, never during the writing.
Here I come to the argument of this essay: How much should we as writers allow concerns about genre to dictate how we write and what we write? There are obvious exceptions. Those who describe what they write as: Science Fiction, or perhaps: Erotica, or: Crime – might think those genres present no impediment to them as writers. I would argue that even within these fairly clear genres, too, much concern about staying within prescribed boundaries limits the creative process and results in work that is less satisfying for reader and writer than it could be – if genre were not considered during the writing.
I am therefore suggesting, that we as writers, need to be braver about stepping outside the traditional boundaries of genre, at least during the creative process. I’d love to see these genre categories destroyed completely but I can see how that revolution might have downsides too.
Perhaps a compromise might be a whole new genre: Outside Genre or No Genre. Come on Amazon, let’s have that on your listings.