How to write genre fiction

Tom Bromley
29 September 2014

Do you know which genre you are writing in? An understanding of genre is increasingly important for pitching a novel to agents, pleasing readers and learning the craft. Our Find Your Writing Voice online course will help you learn the tricks of the trade.

  • 10 books published under own name
  • 12 ghostwritten books published, including several international top ten bestsellers
  • Over 100 books edited, including prize-winners and bestsellers
Tom Bromley

Netflix, the online subscription streaming service offering us easy-access films and TV series, has been a huge success of late. Why? Well it’s not just thanks to the quality of content like House of Cards and Breaking Bad. One of the reasons behind its success is its ability to divide its collection of show and films into a number of sub-genres: a whopping 75,000 of them, which allows them to tailor recommendations for each user to the nth degree. My own listings – thanks to my daughter repeatedly snaffling my iPad when I’m not looking – are currently stuffed full of categories such as ‘Talking Animal Animation Based on Children’s Books’.

How does Netflix do this? It’s a mix of modern day computer algorithms and that old fashioned trick of watching the films. The company has an army of trained reviewers (nice work if you can get it) marking each film on a vast range of categories which then get fed into the mainframe to create targeted viewer recommendations.

It was only a matter of time before someone tried the same thing with books. First off the blocks is Scribd, announcing that their ebook subscription service will use a similar model of micro genres in order to recommend titles. It’s a neat idea, and smarter than the clunky Amazon model of ‘people who bought that bought this’.

It’s proof – if proof be needed – that all fiction writers need to understand the genres they are writing in. Because as book buying continues to expand online (like it or not), this way of browsing titles is going to replace the bookshop way of searching the shelves. Knowing where your own fiction fits in can only improve your chances of finding an agent or publisher. Anyone who claims their book ‘defies categorisation’ or ‘refuses to be labelled’ is going to find their work defying purchase and refusing to be downloaded.

All this is happening at the same time as genre books of all kinds are breaking out into mainstream success. Take two of this year’s biggest books: Matt Haig’s The Humans and The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. The first is a science-fiction book that in many ways doesn’t feel like a science fiction book; the latter is a YA book, but without a vampire or futuristic game show in sight. These authors are not restricted by genre, but are able to build on their tricks of the trade to create something all readers can enjoy. For these books genre feels almost secondary: first and foremost, these are simply great novels that are in turn funny, sad, thoughtful and touching.

The success of these books shows that the old fashioned snobbishness towards genre writing is beginning to look increasingly outdated.

Tom Bromley

The success of such books shows that the old fashioned snobbishness towards genre writing is beginning to look increasingly outdated. That’s good for readers because it makes it easier to discover great writers they might not otherwise have come across. And it’s good for writers, too, because it allows us to feel less inhibited about experimenting with different writing styles.

That is what the Find Your Writing Voice course is all about. Whatever your style of writing, you can read, try and take away the secrets that make different genres tick to use in your own work. This course lifts the lid on seven key genres – historical fiction, romantic fiction, comic fiction, crime fiction, thrillers, YA and science fiction – and introduces you to a host of authors and writing techniques in the process. It is for writers who know the basics and are now ready to expand their range, widening their literary palette and creative possibilities in the process.

Perhaps you’ve done a beginner’s course, but aren’t quite ready to write a novel yet. Perhaps you’re still on that elusive search to find your voice. Perhaps you’re stuck in a writing rut and want to get fired up again. Wherever you’re at with your writing, Find Your Writing Voice might be just what you’re looking for.

Now, has anyone seen my iPad?

Watch these videos of Tom Bromley to learn more.

Tom Bromley is a published author, editor, creative writing tutor, book reviewer and ghost (not the scary kind). He's written ten books under his own name and the pseudonym Thomas Black, which are a mixture of fiction and non-fiction. He's also ghostwritten a dozen more titles, several of which have been international bestsellers.

As a creative writing tutor, Tom teaches novel writing and five further courses for the Faber Academy. He's also Director of Fiction for the Professional Writing Academy, where he runs courses on crime and genre fiction. He's also the books columnist for View Magazine and columnist for the Salisbury Journal.

As a former commissioning editor and publisher, he works, too, as an editorial consultant and mentor for a number of publishers, literary agencies and organisations, and also in a private capacity. Locally, he hosts the Salisbury Writing Circle — a community of new and experienced writers alike.