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Genre language: Editor's Notes #403
November 01, 2023

All the world is a store....
Everyone of us is trying to transfer an idea from his own head into some other brain.

—Arthur Brisbane

In this issue:

1. Genre language
2. Tickled my funny bone
3. Interesting Web site
4. Writing prompt
5. Letters to the editor

1.Genre language
What happens when you find yourself in a place where you not only do not speak the language, but you also do not even share a common alphabet? A great deal of confusion, that’s what happens. I know because in 1994-95, I lived in Ukraine under those exact circumstances facing a steep learning curve.

Similarly some writers find themselves confused and confusing to publishers because they do not have enough genre-specific knowledge to make a coherent submission package. Some do not even know where to submit their particular book.

Knowing which genre you are writing allows you to stay within the boundaries of the genre as you write and guides you as you move to publication.

Usually, writers write in a genre they enjoy reading, so the "language" of the genre is not a complete mystery. But even if you are immersed in a genre, some personal study of what makes one genre different from another (what I’m calling the language of the genre) can only help both your writing and your marketing.

Here are some questions to guide you as you study the genre you are writing.
  • Why do people read your genre? Knowing that allows you to give them what they want.
  • What is the world view of your genre? An American Western highlights different values from Horror.
  • What details of the setting are important in your genre? Historical fiction breaks down into even more specifics. What, for example, were the differences between The Commonwealth of England, Scotland, and Ireland under Cromwell, and the Restoration under Charles II?
  • Who are the heroes and heroines in your genre? What are their most important characteristics?
  • How does the plot unfold in your genre? Where do the main complications arise, and how are they resolved?
  • How do setting, characters, and plot relate to each other in your genre?
  • What are the traits of language in your genre? What is the voice of the narrator? How do the characters speak? How closely can you replicate them?
  • What is missing from your genre? I once asked a group of children in a living historical museum which tv show was most popular in 1876. They all gave me a guess because they could not imagine a world without tv even as they moved around in a town with no modern conveniences. Cultural norms, items, even ideas may be missing from the genre you are writing.
  • Notice any deviations from the language of your genre in published books. Analyze why those deviations occur. Consider whether they help or hinder.

The more you know about the genre you write, the more intentional you can be in aiming for your target market and the more successful your submissions will be.

2.Tickled my funny bone
Why was the dating coach jealous of the writer?
They found someone even more knowledgeable about rejection.

3. Interesting Web site
Not sure which genre you are writing? Here is a list with brief descriptions of each.

4. Writing prompt
Rewrite this passage from Middlemarch by George Eliot in a different genre. American Western perhaps? Your choice.

"Let me hope that you will rescind that resolution about the horse, Miss Brooke," said the persevering admirer. "I assure you, riding is the most healthy of exercises."

"I am aware of it," said Dorothea coldly. "I think it would do Celia good— if she would take to it."

"But you are such a perfect horsewoman."

"Excuse me; I have had very little practice, and I should be easily thrown."

"Then that is a reason for more practice. Every lady ought to be a perfect horsewoman, that she may accompany her husband."

"You see how widely we differ, Sir James. I have made up my mind that I ought not to be a perfect horsewoman, and so I should never correspond to your pattern of a lady."

I would love to see what you do with this challenge.

5. Letters to the editor

Thank you for the writing prompt. Here’s my attempt.
John Alexander


I wipe the sweat beads from my brow.
I force my hands back towards the keys.
I’ll wait a bit, just pause for now.
I’m not quite sure just why I freeze.

The screen stares back while I just wait.
I’m sure that soon I’ll hit the send.
Why do I pause and hesitate?
Will this dilemma ever end?

I’ve worked so hard to get it done,
Why hesitate to send it out?
It’s growing dim the setting sun.
I’m proud of it, I have no doubt.

Yet here it sits, my hands won’t work,
I must proceed or go berserk.

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