Monday, April 04, 2011

Left Coast Crime: Pigeonholes

What I'm reading: Daphne contest entries and The Next Best Thing, by Kristan

First – Welcome to April. New for this month: Another contest (click the Contest tab for details). Also, in the spirit of Tax Relief, I'm offering discounts on two of my books (click the "Deals & Steals" tab to see those.)

Next, I filed an overview report on Left Coast Crime which is at Barbara Vey's Publishers Weekly "Beyond Her Book" blog today. Author Rosemary Harris also gave her take.

And on to the 'meat': another Left Coast Crime panel recap.

David Morrell moderated a panel about rule breaking. (Actually, the panel was entitled "Breaking Barricades and Opening Doors" so I went in expecting something more like SWAT techniques, but more on that in another post.)

Takeaways from the panel.
Mysteries and Thrillers are starting to sound the same. Don't be afraid to write your own book. One author on the panel, Johnny Boggs, has twenty-three 1st person narrators in one of his books. Didn't keep it from being published.

Pigeonholes for books isn't necessarily a good thing. Michael McGarrity said, "Don't write a "type" of story, write the story.

Panelist Zoe Sharp spoke about two kinds of books: good books and bad books. Everything else is just a "flavor." Voice is what matters.

Other advice: Don't write to become rich and famous, because you'll likely be disappointed. One doesn't write for money, one writes because it's a destiny. You can't chase the market. Strive to be a 1st rate version of yourself, not a 2nd rate version of some other author.

Michael McGarrity spoke about being at a book signing/talk event, where aspiring authors called him on changing POV five times in a single scene. They said, "You can't do that." But after some thought, they said, "But it worked."

And I think that's the answer. Know the "rules" but remember that it's about the writing.

A personal opinion here, after McGarrity's statement about not worrying about pigeonholes:

I write books I want to write, and they do follow some of the most basic "rules." In a romance, there has to be a hero and a heroine who get together at the end. In a mystery, there has to be a solution to the crime.

BUT: I wrote a mystery that steps outside the box, or straddles sub-genres, or whatever you want to call it. The feedback from the rejection letters: "It's excellent writing, but it won't work because we can't tell if it's a cozy or a police procedural." I think, until you're a better known commodity, there are some pigeonholes that you're going to have to deal with. Or, with the upsurge in indie-publishing, this might end up being a book that bypasses the traditional print market altogether.

Tomorrow, my guest is author Sherry Gloag, and she's talking about "The Elusive Muse." Be sure to come back.

Photo from


Carol Kilgore said...

I've been reading a lot lately about some of the genre barriers coming down. I hope it's true, because most of my work straddles a couple of genres, too.

Terry Odell said...

It would be nice if the print publishers recognized it. Maybe after enough people indie-publish their genre-straddling books, they'll broaden their horizons.

Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

Good point about not writing for money! Not much of that in this business...

Terry Odell said...

Elizabeth - I think there are a few who put the money up front, and are lucky to be able to do so, but when it's all about the money, I think that shows in their writing.

Kari - I'll answer up here, since your comment in the post below is really about this post. I think like everything else in life, there are good things and not-so-good things, and the same holds for the panels at LCC.

Misty Dietz said...

Hi Terry, I've always been interested in pigeon-holing. It's an easy, but dangerous frame of mind to fall into...not only in how we think of our stories and where they might fit, but also how we think of our selves. Pigeon holing is so limiting. Nice post!