Settling in to write the first few lines of a new manuscript can be a harrowing experience. The cursor blinks menacingly on the screen and in your mind -tumbleweeds – reminiscent of Tombstone or some other epic Western flick.
Where do you begin? And more importantly, where should you begin? The answer is to start by selecting the right genre and theme for your book.
Writing an entire book is going to break a sweat any way you take it. So why not make life simple and choose a genre and theme that actually stimulates your creativity while focusing on a very specific target audience?
When you get more specific about what you have to offer it becomes easier for you to come up with the best ideas and direction to move in as you develop your manuscript. The writing process becomes less like a strenuous trek up a steep hill and more like a pleasant stroll along an undulating riverside path.
Choosing the Right Genre for Your Book
If you’ve ever even thought about writing a book, you should already know that every book that has ever been written falls into a specific literary genre. However, have you ever wondered exactly what a genre is?
A genre is the overarching category that your book is placed under based on the tone used throughout the piece, it’s content, literary technique or in some cases, how long the book is.
This means that when you’re selecting the genre for your next book, you always want to focus outward and find out what appeals to the type of audience you want to attract the most.
Popular literary genres include:
Because genres are so broad and encompassing, they’re usually much easier to decide on than a more specific theme for writing a book. However, choosing your genre is still a very important decision that you should always take your time with. Getting it right sets the entire tone for the ultimate success of your book.
The Importance of Thinking Narrow
There is, as always, one important caveat.
As more and more self-published authors appear on physical and virtual bookshelves competition has become very stiff. This means that choosing a very broad genre for your book is probably not the best way to get noticed as a self-published player in the literary world.
So, what to do instead?
Try drilling down into one of the many sub-genres that exist where there is less competition from other writers and more focused interest from a target audience.
As an example, let’s say you are interested in writing a mystery novel that centers on solving a crime of some sort.
If you think about the millions of books available within the “mystery” genre your head would start to spin and you’d probably go crossed-eyed before you got through the first 1000 titles.
However, if you try to find mystery novels that feature extraterrestrial events or characters that possess physic abilities you’d instantly narrow down the pool of competition that you’re up against.
When it comes to finding success with self-published literature, it’s always better to specialize than to be a generalist.
Keep in mind as well that there are other ways to slant your genre to make it even more specific.
One way is to consider the age of your reader. You could write a Sci-Fi mystery that appeals to children, teenagers or middle-aged adults, depending on where you wanted to go with the theme of your book, which brings us to the next topic of discussion.
How to Choose a Theme for Your Self-Published Book
So, you’ve settled on a genre, but what about your book’s theme?
Having a genre and no theme is like deciding that you want to write a Country Music song but don’t have a clue about what that song should be about.
If you aren’t already clear about it, your theme is the main idea or topic that carries throughout your book. It ties everything together, from your introduction, through the middle and all the way to the end.
Popular literary themes include:
- Good vs Evil
- Coming of Age
- Inner Demons
- Overcoming Extreme Odds
- Love of Money
Your book can have a single theme or several integral themes that wrap up into a single story.
Choose a Theme That Ignites a Fire in You
If you’ve been scratching your head wondering where to begin, here are some ideas that can get your creative juices flowing and help you settle on a short list of themes that have the most promise.
Unlike with genre selection, when it comes to theme selection, you should always look inward to find out more about what interests you and gets you the most excited and passionate.
You are the one that has to spend the time writing an awesome book. There’s no way on earth that will happen if you’re just lukewarm about the theme you end up choosing.
If you aren’t completely thrilled and swept away with the theme off your book and all the possibilities it holds for your character and manuscript development, it will come across in your writing and your audience will notice.
When you are genuinely excited about what you’re writing, it easily comes across to your readers as well. Get excited and get contagious if you really want your book to connect with your audience.
Ask the Right Questions to Choose the Best Theme
More often that not, one of the best ways to tap into what really inspires you is by asking yourself the right questions.
On your quest to discover the best theme for your next book, it pays to get into your own head with a goal of finding out what really makes you tick. That way, you can transfer all of that passion into the pages of your manuscript.
If you really want to dig deep, here are some questions to ask yourself:
- What keeps me up at night?
Is there anything that moves you so much that you find yourself struggling to rest once your mind gets occupied with it?
- What moral dilemmas do I struggle with?
Where do you blur the line between what you consider as “acceptable” misbehavior and things that are flat out wrong? This could provide interesting direction for your next book.
- What social injustices irk me the most?
Lack of women’s rights? Economic inequality? Racial discrimination? Any of these could be the basis of the theme for your next book.
Take the time to choose the right genre and theme for your book. It’s success rests on how well you create your manuscript and how your audience receives it.
Already have a responsive audience?
Don’t be shy about reaching out to them for ideas and direction about the kinds of books they want to read. Your fans are your best source of inspiration when it comes to new avenues to take with your work.
On the other hand, if you have no loyal fan base to speak of, fret not. You can still find a mountain of sources of inspiration that will guide you towards the best genre and theme for your new book.
Choose wisely and experience the ease and enjoyment that comes with having a book writing experience that flows effortlessly.
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