When I get an idea for a story, genre never enters my thought process. Opinions vary as to whether or not it should. As un realiste, I recognize the value of genres, but as un artiste, I resent the limitations. Conforming to genre conventions is so… conformiste.

Initially, I was on a crusade to change the m-m genre. Lots of gay male authors go through this phase. Finding out the genre is dominated by straight female writers and readers is a WTF? moment. Battles about whether this is a good/bad/right/wrong have raged on Facebook, Twitter, and via countless blog posts. <SHRUGS> It is what it is. I’ve moved on.

Genre matters because readers want some idea of what kind of story to expect. Whether m-m romance, mystery, thriller, or paranormal, an author must adhere to the conventions or find another genre. We’ll save discussion of the literary genre for another post. If the story doesn’t fit the genre, trouble lies ahead.

My first book was a 110,00-word all-tell memoir. The manuscript is riddled with technical problems, and the market for memoirs of anyone who isn’t already rich and famous is nonexistent. Still, the story is pretty good. Since 2010, I’ve taken several stabs at a fictionalized version, but never quite figured out how to make it work.

I’ve chatted with some of my writer pals about ways to approach the project. Each new discussion changes my plans a bit. The result is what I believe to be a great idea to make the story more interesting that also solves a whole lot of problems I’ve had with earlier drafts.

Tales of a Slow Learner will be a trilogy loosely based on Glass Houses, the memoir I wrote five years ago. Into the Deep End is a coming out story, Adventures in Trauma Car revolves around the fall of our hero, and If a Frog Had Wings is the story of his redemption.  All I have to do is write them.

I pitched the project to the editor I work with at Dreamspinner’s new imprint to get a spot in the publication queue. Not a fit for them, try the Young Adult imprint. It’s not a good fit for them, either. I did nothing for several days as I pondered my options.

Self-publishing is too much work. Shopping the trilogy with other publishers is an option, but I just got everything with Dreamspinner. Going with another publisher is the last thing I want to do right now.

The folks at Dreamspinner Press are more than just email addresses to me. I’ve met them in person, and had conversations about my books and my writing career with the owner, editors in chief, senior editors, and others. Everyone is really nice, and they want me (and all their authors) to be successful.

So I emailed the owner, just to make sure the trilogy didn’t fit anywhere at Dreamspinner. In her lovely reply, she confirmed the lack of fit and mentioned the need to meet reader expectations for the genre. Publishing books that aren’t what readers expect generally doesn’t go well for them or the author.

Consequently, I’m abandoning the trilogy…again, and I’m not the least bit upset. The story will be there, and the longer I wait to write it, the more experience I bring to a project I want to be my best work. Besides, the current draft contains a brief mention of an idea that’s really caught my imagination.

I’ll give you two clues. It’s a series revolving around the same main character, and the genre will be mystery. The rest is still up in the air. Stay tuned for details.


4 responses to “Genre-Fication”

  1. Michael this is wonderful. I don’t think any of us think about genre or the expectations of the genre when we begin to tell a story but we do have to fit into the reader and publisher’s expectations somehow. But I still think we can talk about issues that matter to us as LGBT folks and also deal with diversity within the genre, speaking mainly about M/M and a lot of gay romance where the characters are young and seem, at least to me, disconnected to our history and to contemporary issues. You did a wonderful job with Happy Independence Day along these lines. Why can’t we do both? Hmmm. I’m emailing you as I just reread your post had an idea.

    Great thoughtful post.