What is your promise? The writer’s manifesto

Reading Time: 3 minutes
Write and share your manifesto
Post your manifesto – on your blog, or literally, using this fantastic hexagonal Victorian pillarbox in Shrewsbury.

I’ve been reading the inspirational and motivational Jeff Goins again lately. Boy, did I need to. I’d got totally off track doing the blogging challenge (because I cannot resist a challenge) and forgotten what my writing is really about. Jeff says you should write a manifesto stating your goals and promises.

At first,  I couldn’t work this out. My goal isn’t to help people write books (although I love doing that) or produce great blog content (though I like doing that too).

That’s when I twigged. No wonder I’ve been feeling so weird lately. I’ve been beavering away towards a thing which is not my goal. It’s helping me in various ways but not with my main thing, the thing I know I can promise people.

So, I thought, what is my promise? What can I guarantee to do, or try my hardest to deliver, every time?

My manifesto is not about helping people write books. This may be where my website is proving a distraction more than a useful tool. Good practice, but not achieving anything towards my goal.

I thought about it. And I wrote it down. And in less than five minutes I had a rough manifesto that matches with what I do and where I want to be. It was easy. I didn’t have to dig too deep to know this thing – after all, I’ve been thinking about it all my life. And it is a promise to myself, as much as to my readers.

Here it is:

Manifesto

  1. My manifesto is to write stories that make people feel good. That’s it. Easy to think up, easy to write down.
  2. I promise a happy ending every time. Not always totally happy – maybe there will be bittersweet sacrifice or poignant absence. But everyone you’ve been rooting for through the book will get their thing. Usually, that thing will be love, but it might be something more material like the object of their quest.
  3. I promise that my characters will be humorous. I can’t help it anyway.
  4. I promise that my stories will make readers go Oh, that’s so true when I make observations about life.
  5. I promise that my characters will be distinct and different from each other.
  6. I promise to make every book an easy read, the kind of book you save up for when you need escape, relaxation, a real treat. I promise not to create deliberately difficult work that you need to brace yourself for.
  7. I promise to entertain.
  8. I promise to write regularly so readers will always have something new to look forward to.
  9. I promise to finish stuff.
  10. I promise to engage with my readers. I love to hear what people think of my stories and I love talking to people. I don’t need an air of mystery.
  11. I promise to have fun doing it. Otherwise, what’s the point?
 So I urge you to do as Jeff says and write your manifesto. It may be for writing, or art, or some other activity. But do it. The moment I wrote this down I felt so much better – clearer, more certain. After all, this is a promise to yourself as much as to your audience. It shows you when you are veering away from your dream, and confirms when you are right on track.
Resources
I linked to it above but just in case, here is where to get a copy of Jeff’s free book, The Writer’s Manifesto.
And just for fun, here is an article about Britain’s oldest pillar box which is still in daily use. Most Victorian pillar boxes are hexagonal – the Penfold design – but this one is octagonal and has been in place since 1853. And of course, pillar boxes were invented by another great writer, Anthony Trollope.
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Show us your subgenre! There’s a niche for every fiction

Reading Time: 3 minutes
subgenre
The mermaid fantasy subgenre is a thing. Subgenres rule when it comes to SF and F.

I found a list today that I didn’t know I needed but now cannot live without. It’s a description of every subgenre of cyberpunk. I’ve given some examples, below, but it’s got me thinking about how detailed our fiction categories have become, and how identifying your exact subgenre can help clarify tone, find the right title for your audience, and position your story among its correct competition. I’ve put together a brief list of links to subgenres of the major genres too.

Blake Snyder advises that we are intimately familiar with our story’s categories and subcategories, because it helps us design a cover, tailor the query letters and compose a thrilling synopsis for our editor and readers. Snyder maintains that all stories fit a very small number of categories – but that’s an idea to explore another day. For now, I just want to revel in the existence of so much specialised fiction.

I now want to create a list of James Scott Bell’s Obligatory scenes for each of these subgenres, but that will have to wait for another time, because I have a 100-day-book deadline to meet. (More on that another time, to0.)

Below are resources for identifying your story’s subgenre. There are lists for romance, so-called women’s fiction (ugh, what a horrid genre name), thriller, mystery and of course SF and fantasy.

I have also listed an article helping you find your Amazon categories – another key way that readers find your story.

So check out these examples and descriptions of cyberpunk subgenres. I totally love clockpunk:

Biopunk
Nanopunk
Postcyberpunk
Steampunk
Dieselpunk
Stonepunk
Clockpunk
Nowpunk
Elfpunk
Mythpunk
Dreampunk
Decopunk
Atompunk

Then again, there are even more subgenres for fantasy. Check out this list of amazingly niche fantasy subgenres, including:

  • Alternate History Fantasy
  • Anthropomorphic Fantasy
  • Arcanepunk Fantasy
  • Court Intrigue Fantasy
  • Crossworlds Fantasy
  • Dying Earth Fantasy
  • Gaslamp Fantasy
  • Sword and Planet Fantasy
  • Weird West Fantasy
  • Wuxia Fantasy
  • Grimdark Fantasy
  • Arabian Fantasy
  • Flintlock Fantasy
  • Gunpowder Fantasy

Each of these subgenres is distinct in what a reader expects. Knowing your niche will help you market the book, and help you be crystal clear on your tone and content. For example, I think my Merlin-genderless-mythic-Norse-reimagining might be in these categories on Amazon*, each of which is pretty specific:

  • Science Fiction & Fantasy > Fantasy > Arthurian
  • Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender eBooks > Science Fiction & Fantasy > Fantasy
  • Science Fiction & Fantasy > Fantasy > Myths & Legends

But there are so many more places it might fit. I find this reassuring. It’s good to know that, however specialised is the fiction that floats your boat, there is a home for it somewhere, and a set of fans just waiting for a new release in their favourite subgenre.

Resources

Romance subgenres This list is fairly high-level but gives good explanations. This list goes into a lot more detail.

Thriller subgenres Plenty to love here, especially in the crossover area.

Women’s fiction subgenres. I have cheated here because I feel it is so wrong that this category exists at all. Here is an article which outlines why. After all, the very existence of ‘women’s fiction’ suggests that all the other fiction types – thriller, fantasy, etc etc – are therefore ‘men’s fiction’, which is patently not true. I don’t see Lee Child or JRR Tolkien listed as ‘men’s authors’ for example – nor should they be. So why are Marian Keyes or Katie Fforde under the ‘womens’ fiction’ umbrella? Grr. However, if you feel that this is where your novel fits best in the current marketing setup, this article gives a good discussion of what constitutes the genre. Meanwhile it seems the only way to avoid being labelled a ‘woman author’ is to be a genre author. Thus Suzanne Collins, Patricia Cornwell etc avoid writing ‘women’s fiction’ by writing SF or murder mystery.

Science fiction subgenres – So many!

Fantasy subgenres – Even more!

Mystery subgenres Plenty here from cosy to caper.

How to find your Amazon category – there are plenty of articles offering advice on this, but this one from BookBaby covers the whole gamut of selling your book via Amazon.

So what are your subgenres? What are you doing to reach out to your readers? I want to know!

-Sef

*By the way, to find those categories I uncovered an absolute ton of other books on Amazon which matched up in theme and content wth my Merlin story. Who knew?

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