Genre smorgasbord

How do I even dare to refer to myself as a writer when I am still figuring out what genre is calling my name? Six years ago I started in my writing group assuming that I’d write contemporary fiction, or chick lit as the worst case scenario, and when I got really good I’d advance to literary fiction. I needed a writing project so I took the easiest route and continued where I had started over twenty years earlier with my novel, “Anne” (genre to be determined). I was able to produce about 140 pages of a draft so rough you could rip the skin off your fingers just turning the pages.

After reading and critiquing the murder mysteries/cozies created by fellow group members, I decided to write murder mysteries, of which I have accumulated a number of first drafts, partial drafts, and rough outlines. I’m beginning to wonder if I haven’t just fallen under the influence of those members who love to write murder mysteries/cozies and are pretty darn good at it. They get excited over how much of a drug it will take to kill a character and whether his weight and how much he just ate should be manipulated to make it work within the allotted time frame.

Am I that same writer? It’s not looking that way.

What my characters are thinking about is more to my liking. My approach in real life (there is such a thing and it’s always getting in the way of my writing time) is to analyze why people around me do what they do. Or don’t do. Psychological thrillers, maybe?

This week at the first writing group meeting I attended in weeks I floated the idea of writing historical fiction. It’s the genre I currently gravitate to for reading pleasure, particularly World War II and the Revolutionary War novels. (I did mention in an earlier post that I was Betsy Ross in a previous life, right?) I already  have a setting for my first attempt at this genre!

Historical fiction requires research and getting the details correct while you’re making up some of the characters, dialogue, and events. Epiphany: that’s control. And I like being in control. Duh. That’s what writing fiction is all about: creating and manipulating characters and action any way your heart desires. And any fiction genre lets you do that. Except with historical fiction you take control of events that have actually taken place. That’s power.

Meanwhile, I’ve committed to submitting an outline of the murder mystery I’ve started recently, “Patsy’s Posse”. Why? To prove I can complete an outline. To give a murder mystery one more try before I move on. (To what?) Also, I’m attending the New England Crime Bake 2016 in November so I might as well hang in there with murder mysteries until then. I signed up for the Agent & Editor roundtable and I need to produce a decent first page of a manuscript. Let’s hope I can get that far in three months.

About Karen Whalen

A contemporary fiction and domestic suspense writer with an accumulation of incomplete novels and short stories, I spend half the year in NH with our youngest daughter and family and the remainder of the year in Arizona with our other two daughters and their families. This arrangement allows my husband to golf year-round. I am fortunate that my daughters live in places I would have retired to all on my own!

Posted on July 23, 2016, in blogging, Karen Whalen, reading, research, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. Or you can write a historical mystery. That’s fun, too. Nice post and I hope you get to finish something. It’s a good feeling.


  2. Eleanor Ingbretson

    You are so good. My rough first drafts might as well have been written in cuneiform on clay tablets, left in the sun to dry out and then used to exfoliate my heels.
    (Otherwise known as SFD’s)
    We only have THREE months to the Crime Bake? And I’m sitting around reading for pleasure? I’d better get moving. Thanks for the reminder.

    I think that what you write when you’re not thinking about genre is the genre for you.


    • Now that’s helpful–a new genre altogether: “what you write when you’re not thinking about genre”. I’ll add that to my list of potential genres!

      And yes, three short months until Crime Bake. I have to admit that when I first wrote this, I called it Clam Bake!! Shows you where my mind is….


  3. My bleeding fingertips send their sympathy to your bleeding fingertips. I’m not sure, though, that the control part occurs until late in the process. Chaos, more like. I just read a great quotation from Somerset Maugham: “There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.”


    • Now I know why I’ve never made it through one of his novels. But I suppose he’s right. Other than just making yourself sit there and write something, there is no one rule that appears to work for every writer. If there were, I’d have about six novels completed by now! Instead, I have chaos….


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