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Writing Advice & Discussion > I need help with beta readers and identifying my genre

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message 1: by John (new)

John Davis | 25 comments Can somebody help me? I'm Irish and I've written a novel about a girl growing up in 1970s Dublin during the reign of the Catholic Church while also living with a psychotically dysfunctional family, whose only humanitarian efforts involve caring for parrot named MacBride.

But I'm in the midst of doing another draft and I cannot seem to label the genre? I can't say YA, because although most of the focus is on the main character who goes from 13 to 19, its tone contains a mixture of outright horror, dark comedy and satire (occasionally all at once), every single swear word on the planet mixed with a sex scene, plenty of domestic abuse and other anti-social behaviour. In the latter chapters they deal with rape and homelessness, the former of which is the only moment in the story where the tone is completely straight faced. To top it off, it ends with a graphically violent murder over said parrot. What could this genre be labelled?


message 2: by L.C. (new)

L.C. Perry | 45 comments Honestly, this sounds like Adult Historical Fiction to me. The themes sound way too mature/graphic to be YA. I know some people simplify and say if a character is a teen, it's YA and if they're an adult, it's Adult, but that's simplifying too much. There are definitely exceptions and this is one of those where it would be Adult Fiction with a young protagonist.


message 3: by John (new)

John Davis | 25 comments Thank you! Because at first I was slightly nerve wracked writing it until I remembered Stephen Kings, IT. I'm a 90s fella, so I had people who didn't understand fiction but lived in the 70s read it to ensure historical accuracy. They could give nada about the story but once the setting was okay that was one problem somewhat resolved. So Adult Historical Fiction then.


message 4: by L.C. (new)

L.C. Perry | 45 comments Glad I could help! :)


message 5: by Dienekes (new)

Dienekes | 14 comments It sounds to me more like a single-generation family saga.

What aspect of the novel is most prominent? Who is your target reader? Who would enjoy a book like this? What other books would they enjoy? Before labeling something as historical fiction (or any other kind of genre fiction), do some research. Read some books in that genre and make sure your novel will fit in terms of tone, content, tropes, etc.


message 6: by John (new)

John Davis | 25 comments Well the novel is non-linear in the sense that the present day aspect is set in 1980 where somebody has been murdered, over what you're not meant to know but more wonder how bad it got to even get to that point because the manner in which the victim is killed is absolutely savage. (To clarify it is NOT a murder mystery in the slightest)

The majority of the story takes place from 1974 up to 1980, with a few scenarios going back to 1965 to 69. It's mostly the protagonist experiencing the highs and lows of living in this society with a family that essentially has mostly rejected the Church but occasionally use it as leverage when they want to (getting sent away to the Magdalene Laundaries back then was a threat unlike no other). It shows how the church has affected certain members of the family, one member of the family is lesbian which was essentially severely frowned upon along with the best friend of the protagonist being molested by her own brother and cannot report due to the fact that she would be the one punished. Rape victims were punished, fathers could send their daughters away to institutions if they felt they were a bit wild. There are also minor subplots and extremely short chapters about other members of the family, one example being the father doing a night shift in a tile factory and seeing a ghost, but it's business as usual and he simply ignores it (it's just a way of setting up a showing Dublin's haunted side, and it adds to the element I wanted to instill of every page having a sense of dread).

The writers I would compare it to or who inspired me are Irvine Welsh (Trainspotting, Skagboys, Glue, Filth) n fact one short paragraph in his novel Dead Mens Trousers literally inspired me to write this), Patrick McCabe (The Butcher Boy, Breakfast on Pluto) and Roddy Doyle (The Van, Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha). These novels are the ones that inspired my tone and my tropes.


message 7: by J.R. (last edited Sep 16, 2020 09:39AM) (new)

J.R. Alcyone | 281 comments Not to muddy the water further, but I'd be inclined to categorize this as literary fiction. You're describing what sounds like a more challenging book which mixes styles and genres and that delves into some dark, deep, and challenging themes. Your comps also lean toward the literary end of the spectrum.


message 8: by John (new)

John Davis | 25 comments Literary Fiction sounds more like it, but you see its readers I think about. I never thought about that until recently as I was edging to tell a story I wanted to tell and it's hard to distinguish the audiences of any of the novels I would normally read


message 9: by J.R. (last edited Sep 16, 2020 10:27AM) (new)

J.R. Alcyone | 281 comments My first novel had that problem. It was (and is, I guess) a story set in 1974 and 1987 about a young doctor who tries to cope with his father's death by suicide. My book does not have a well-defined audience or market ....

... Which tends to be the problem with literary fiction. Although there are definitely readers out there who seek out books that are more challenging or that cut across genres, the audience is not easily defined and small, making it very difficult to market the book, whether you decide to publish yourself or query with it.

Are you trying to define your audience right now in terms of querying or self-publishing? Or, are you trying to get a better hold of genre in order to revise your book into something more genre-specific?

(In terms of marketing the book to agents, your comps should give the agent an idea of what your book is like and where it would slot. In terms of marketing the book on your own as an indie author, you can target your ads to certain titles, which helps find readers.)


message 10: by John (new)

John Davis | 25 comments Well that could be classified as literary fiction too could it not? I would assume there are many other novels that tackle the same issues as yours?

I'm trying to figure it out for querying but I'm not finished as of yet, I did my first full read through by putting it on a kindle and reading it allowed while taking notes. Still a long way to go before it's even close to finished.


message 11: by J.R. (new)

J.R. Alcyone | 281 comments You edit the same way I do. I convert my drafts into something I can read on my iPad and takes notes as I read.

My first book is solidly literary fiction, although I tend to call it "general fiction" because I don't think my prose measures up to the literary badge. But the themes of the book definitely are at home with other literary fiction novels. (It's a dark and challenging book, as one would expect a book on suicide to be.)

Not all agents require comps, but in your case, I would definitely give comps in your query letter because I think it'll help agents define your book. Nearly all literary fiction novels will cross into other genres, so I don't think that's an issue. Right now, based on what you've said, I would call your novel, "a literary novel with elements of satire, dark comedy, and horror." I wouldn't bother hitting on historical as the date the story takes place will presumably be part of your blurb, as will the fact that this story surrounds a family.

(You can also wait until you have a draft ready to show readers and ask them where they think your book slots best or what they think you should emphasize in looking for an agent. Sometimes we get too close to our work and it's hard to see it through a reader's eyes.)


message 12: by Dienekes (new)

Dienekes | 14 comments I would say based on your comparable titles, which include some Man Booker Prize listers, I'd go with literary fiction.


message 13: by John (new)

John Davis | 25 comments Literary Fiction it is so guys! And yes I find converting drafts onto something else makes it far easier to read, printing is far too expensive and also awful for the environment but that said converting does speaking wonders!


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