I’ve discussed genres a lot here on Writing to be Read. I’ve done monthly genre themes, with author interviews and reviews of books included in each one. We’ve covered nonfiction, romance, western, fantasy, science fiction, young adult fiction, children’s fiction, horror, crime fiction, mystery, women’s fiction, Christian fiction, comic books and graphic novels, and the list goes on. Some genres were easy to find authors to interview and books to review. Others were a bit harder. Likewise, some attracted more readers than others.
Recently, there hasn’t been so many author interviews. I hit a bump in the road and was unable to fulfill my interview and review commitments. Now, I’m ready to jump back in the saddle and get things rolling again. As I contemplate what 2021 will look like for Writing to be Read, I’m wondering wether to keep the genre themes, or explore different areas in the craft of writing, and I would like your feedback. Chances are, if you’re a reader of this blog, then you are also a writer. Leave a comment and let me know which genre(s) you like to write in. Which genre(s) do you like to read? Which would you like to learn more about? Or should I trash the genre themes and concentrate on some other aspect? Which one? Let me know your thoughts.
I suppose there was a time when genres were more cut and dried, but in this day and age, genres don’t always fall into clear categories. Just take a look at the plethora of categories Amazon has for you to list your book under. When Delilah was published, I got a shock. I had written a western with a female protagonist, who was tough and gritty and made her way in the man’s world of the old west. Her character’s flaw was a lack of trust, and in order to get what she truly needed from the story, she had to have a love interest, so there was a thread of romance woven into the tale. It wasn’t the main story line, but my publisher had picked up on it and listed it as a “Frontier Romance”. Is that what I wrote?
Actually, it may have been a smart choice, even though it wasn’t my original intention. When we re-published the third edition with the new cover, I asked that they list it as a straight western, but it hasn’t helped with sales. Genre has as much to do with marketing as it does with craft. Readers of frontier romanace are a different group from those who read classic westerns.
The first group are mostly female and the second are mostly male, and they are looking for different things out of their stories. The women want romance, the men want rugged adventure, and it seems that maybe they want it to come from a big, burly mountain man or a rowdy cowboy. Men who read westerns don’t have the buy-in for a tough female character, but women who read romance have no problem with a female who is tough and gritty having the adventure, as long as she lets her gentler, feminine side show enough to fall in love.
When I was working toward my M.F.A. in creative writing, I was told it was imperative to know who you are writing for, to form a mental picture of your ideal reader in your mind. But, I take an eclectic approach to most things, and writing is no different. I’ve tried my hand at many genres, some more successfully than others, and it can be seen from the example above that different genres have different readers. For me, I found I need to write what is in my head, and then figure out who to market to.
With the first WordCrafter Short Fiction Contest, in 2019, I chose to make the theme paranormal, because most people love a good ghost story. It got a good response and the Whispers of the Past anthology was born. Each entry had paranormal elements, and they were all the type of stories that would make readers think.
For 2020, my thinking was that the old west has a lot of ghosts, and western was a genre I write in, so a western paranormal would be a natural combination, so that was the theme. But, just as not so many people read westerns, not so many authors write in the western genre, and I think I scared many possible entrants away. I had to convince author friends that they could write in the western genre just to get enough entries to create the Spirits of the West anthology, but it contains some very unique stories. Robbie Cheadle contributed two South African western paranormals, playing off South African history, but with western flavor, and Art Rosch contributed a science fiction western paranormal, of the likes you’ll not find anywhere else.
As with Writing to be Read, I’m looking toward the future for WordCrafter Press, and it’s time to think about the theme for the 2021 contest and anthology, but I’m at a loss. The paranormal theme worked well, and so did the western paranormal after I coerced some entries out of my author friends. But, one purpose for creating the WordCrafter Press contests and anthologies was to open up avenues to get your work published for new and aspiring authors, and another was to motivate established authors to think outside the box, or work outside their usual genres. It shouldn’t be a struggle to get entries, but it should still offer a challenge for the writer. So, I’m going to ask one more question of all of you. Please leave a comment to let me know, what genres of short fiction you would consider entering, were they the theme for a short fiction contest. i.e. “I would enter a short fiction contest if the theme were…”
Writing to be Read wouldn’t be where it is today if it wasn’t for you, my loyal readers. Some of you have stuck with me since the blog began, while others are new sign ons, but I appreciate you all. Please share your own thoughts on genres and help us carry on and move forward together. I’m looking forward to it. 🙂
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I wanted the 2020 WordCrafter Short Fiction Contest to be a challenge, to motivate authors and writers to reach outside their comfort zones and write a short story in a genre they maybe hadn’t tried yet. But, from the low number of entries received thus far, I’m wondering if I didn’t scare a lot of writers off when I named the genre as paranormal western.
It’s one of those combination genres that have risen up in recent times, also called weird westerns, that has both elements of western and elements of paranormal. I presented it as western ghost stories, because the old west has plenty of potential for ghosts. (Mark and Kym Todd’s Wild West Ghosts is filled with the stories of many real life characters whose ghosts are said to haunt the west today, if you’re looking for inspiration.) However, I fear our friends abroad may be shying away because they just don’t know a whole lot about the American western frontiers.
While westerns usually take place in the American west, they don’t have to. The movie Quiggly Down Under, with Tom Sellak comes to mind, taking place in the Australian Outback, but with plenty of western elements. Every country has its own frontier history that helped to shape it, some may be still developing their frontiers. So, let me re-itterate, a western does not need to be set on the American frontier, but it does need to have some of the elements of the western genre. Man (or woman) against the elements, man (or woman) fighting for justice in an untamed landscape where the only law may be what he (or she) can manage to dole out. Western characters lead nomadic lifestyles, carry guns, ride horses, drink whiskey and face their own mortality, sometimes on a daily basis.
Weird westerns tend to use these elements, but they add elements of the paranormal or speculative fiction. I’ve reviewed a few and found their authors to be quite creative in combining the two genres. Chris Barili’s Hell’s Butcherseries features a gun toting Marshall who is tasked with keeping all the outlaws in hell and tracking down any who happen to escape into the realm of the living. In DeAnna Knippling’sChance Damnation is a paranormal western fantasy, where hell breaks through and wreaks havoc on the western frontier. And a book that I’m reviewing this month is Death Wind, by Travis Heerman and Jim Pinto, tells a tale of ancient Indian legends come to life. (You can catch my review of this book on Friday, March 20th).
So, with this in mind, I’m asking each of you to re-consider entering your own paranormal western short in the 2020 WordCrafter Short Fiction Contest. It’s only $5 to enter, and the winner will be featured in the resulting anthology and receive a $25 Amazon gift card. Other entries may also be included in the anthology by invitation, so get those entries in to me by April 30. There’s still time, and you can find the complete submission guidelines here: https://wp.me/pVw40-49e
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The 2019 WordCrafter Paranormal Short Fiction Contest was a success. We had several entries and most are now featured in “Whispers of the Past”, the first anthology to be published by WordCrafter, along with the winning story, “A Peaceful Life I’ve Never Known” by Jeff Bowles. I anticipate seeing entries from some of these same authors for the 2020 WordCrafter Short Fiction Contest and I hope you all will enter as well.
With that in mind, I’m excited to tell you about next year’s contest. The theme for The 2020 WordCrafter Short Fiction Contest is paranormal western. That’s right. WordCrafter Press is looking for western ghost stories! This is going to be a fun contest, so get writing. Each entry must contain elements of the western genre and elements of the paranormal genre, but beyond that, your imaginations are the only limits. All submissions must be original works which cannot be found online for free. (Amazon is quite a stickler on this one.) Like last year, there will be a $5 entry fee. In addition to publication the 2020 anthology, the winner will receive a $25 Amazon gift card.
Submit paranormal, speculative fiction, or horror with a western flare. I want to read your story!
Stories should be less than 10,000 words and have paranormal and western elements.
Flash fiction is accepted as long as it is a complete story, with beginning, middle and end.
Submit stories in a word doc, double spaced with legible 12 pt font, in standard manuscript format.
Submit stories to firstname.lastname@example.org with Submission: [Your Title] in the subject line. You will receive instructions to submit your $5 entry fee with confirmation of receipt.
If you receive an invitation for the anthology, you will also be asked to submit a short author bio and photo.
No simultaneous submissions. You should receive a reply within 45 – 60 days.
Multiple submissions are accepted with appropriate entry fee for each individual story.
I’m hoping to release the anthology around Halloween again, so get your submissions in by April 30th. Above is the draft for the cover, title yet to be announced and suggestions are welcomed. I was pleased with the results of last year’s contest and the resulting anthology, and I’m anticipating the one for 2020 will be even better. So, send me your stories and let the contest begin!
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