Wednesday, February 10, 2016

PSL, Publishing as a Second Language—What is Genre & How Do I Figure Out Mine?

by Linda Gilden @LindaGilden

When I started writing one of the strangest words to both my ear and tongue was the word genre. It is pronounced ʒɑn·rə or ˈʒɑ̃·rə but even knowing that, the pronunciation seemed awkward.

After using it for a few years, I began to get used to using this word. It became easier to say and the more I heard it the more common it seemed. But the mystery still remained as to what a genre really is.

Simply put the genre is the category or style of a literary work. With fiction, length can also determine the genre of a manuscript. Art and music are also divided into genres but we are only talking about literary genres here. Most genres also contain subgenres.

Some lists have an extra classification or two. But most simply list the basic literary genres as poetry, drama, fiction, and nonfiction.

All poetry shares similar rhythm, meter, or form. Poetry genres have expanded to include many forms and are used alone or as a complement to one of the other genres.

Drama is a literary genre that is performed in front of an audience. Plays, skits, monologues fall into this category with subgenres such as tragedy, comedy, and others.

Nonfiction is one of the best-known genres. Most people just think of nonfiction as writing that is true and factual. Within the nonfiction genre there are many subgenres that writers and readers can choose. A simple way to think about subgenres is to ask where you would find the book in a bookstore. In what section or classification would this book be shelved?

Subgenres in nonfiction include essays, biographies/autobiographies, self-help, devotions, memoirs, personal experience, reference, textbooks, and more. Lists vary and new subgenres appear every now and then as trends change.

Fiction is a huge and very popular genre that uses literary techniques to engage and entertain readers. Many readers think of fiction as storytelling on paper. There are many aspects to writing fiction and there are many subgenres in this category. Some of the most popular fiction subgenres are adventure, children, romance, suspense, science fiction, historical, speculative, women’s, thriller, educational, and many more. And, within the fiction genre, you will find that most of these subgenres have subgenres. So the list could be endless.

But once you realize what the main literary genres are and how each one gives way to many subgenres, you will begin to understand how each category is broken down and what the specific characteristics of each is. If you are a visual person, you can compare it somewhat to making an outline. You have a main part (literature) that is divided into a few smaller parts (main genres). Then under each of those could be many subgenres and so on.

So the next time you are talking to other writers and they ask, “What genre do you write?” don’t hesitate. Know the category of your writing and boldly speak your answer!

Publishing as a Second Language - What is Genre? @LindaGilden on @EdieMelson (Click to Tweet)

Publishing as a Second Language - How to Figure Out What Genre We're #Writing - @LindaGilden (Click to Tweet)

Linda Gilden is a wife, mother, and grandmother. She finds great joy (and excellent writing material) in time spent with her family. Helping writers understand PSL is one of the things she also loves to do through her newest book, Called to Write. This month she is excited about having a chance to set new goals for the new year and maybe even do a few more rewrites!

To find out more about Linda, her writing, and her ministry, visit You can also connect with her on Twitter @LindaGilden and Facebook at Author Linda Gilden.


  1. Linda, Thank you for all the great information.

  2. Linda, it was great meeting you at Weekend with the Writers. I hope to see you in March.

  3. Thank you, Cherrilynn And Marjorie. Hope to see you in March as well. Don't miss the early bird deadline next Monday!

  4. Thanks for sharing needed and helpful info, Linda. This is a word/subject many writers struggle with.