Story Grid Genre Clover
My Craft On Writing Process

The Importance of Knowing Genre Before You Dive into NaNoWriMo

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The mark of a professional writer, is they know the genre of their story and the arc it will take. At least that is what Shawn Coyne says in his book “The Story Grid.” Coyne probably knows something about this because as an editor he has looked at enough fiction to determine if it is a finished and publishable novel. He created the Story Grid as a way to weed out the scenes that just didn’t meet the expecations of the genre.

Now, as a mere amateur, I had it in my head there were roughly five main genres you can choose from: Mystery, Crime, Thriller, Western, and Romance. Oh, no, there are many different genres and they all have their absolutes, needs, and conventions.

Silly me, I thought you just got the hero in a predicament and through him to the wolves.

Which explains why my latest attempt at winning NaNoWriMo failed: despite efforts to plan, I just didn’t know what came next.

I decided to try writing a Nicholas Sparks-type of story, which contained less romance and more Hero’s Journey stuff with a possible girlfriend thrown in for good measure. The fact I was calling it a “Nicholas Sparks-type of story” should have been a clue that I didn’t understand my genre.

But, unlike past times, when I just pants away, I honestly felt pretty smug for plotting it out and knowing there should be plot, pivot, and danger points. I knew my hook, my turning point, and my end. I give myself credit for doing a whole lot more than the last time.

Still, I didn’t understand my genre, and this was my downfall.

So, back to the drawing board after 6,000 words. And a little research.

Turns out I was attempting to write a Performance genre story with an inner Wordview genre theme. This genre requires certain things to happen and certain characters to make the story work. And after understanding some of this, I now know why I hit the wall when I got to the mid-point. I had left out key parts of the genre.

I’m working out some of those points and already seeing how this story can commence. It is important to understand the nuts-and-bolts of the story. You can rely on instinct to get started, but you really need to plot, plan, and take the story apart before you write.

I’m just glad I stopped NaNoWriMo before I failed. Now, I can get back to work and have something I can be proud of to edit next spring.

© 2018, Michael Shawn Sommermeyer. All rights reserved.


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