Editing Rant: Know Your Genre

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If you want to write, you must read. If you want to write, read your genre. Many published authors remind writers to read outside their genre, but they are assuming people have immersed themselves in genre they write in.

First, you need to know your genre. Get to know its tropes; what are things people ignore in the genre and things which must be explained. What are the shorthand terms. Read recent books in the genre to know what is trending both in the brick-and-mortar industry and the self-published. Read classic books to know the history the genre is built on.

If you write superhero prose, do not have all the battles “off-screen”. If you have a romance, all affection cannot remain behind “closed doors”. In the science-fiction world, faster-than-light travel can be hand-waved but space stations nearly always are explained in detailed from how the gravity works and where spaceships dock to planetary connections for food and how many levels are within the structure.

If you can’t stand to read the genre long enough to understand the tropes and rules, don’t write it. Three manuscripts I reviewed this year – three fails: superhero prose with fights described after the fact in conversation – not a single “on-screen” battle, a “romance” where the couple never hugs or kisses, and sci-fi where the space station had less personality than an office building.

Read your genre – and outside of it (because, yeah, that is important too). Know the must-haves and the have-nots.

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