Genre, Audience, and Length

Hello, Write Owls! Welcome to Day 3 of Storytelling 101. Today we’re going to talk about genre, audience, and length. When you’re starting a new writing project, it’s a good idea to know what you’re writing and who you’re writing for. This will help guide you as you make decisions for your story.

Genre can be interpreted in several different ways. First, you have genres like poetry, fiction, creative non-fiction, and non-fiction. If you want to break down fiction even further, you have short stories, novellas, and novels. I want to focus more on genres like fantasy, science fiction, mystery, romance, and contemporary. Stories typically have one primary genre, and the subplot(s) can be another genre(s). For example, you can have a fantasy story with a romantic subplot; or you can have a mystery set in a science fiction universe. Some genres have subgenres as well like fantasy can be divided into high fantasy, low fantasy, epic fantasy, and urban fantasy. You can also have a book that’s in more than one genre.

It’s important to read lots of books in your genre and to have an understanding of it. Readers of particular genres are used to books being written a certain way and seeing certain tropes. While there are no rules saying you have to follow those norms, you can run into trouble when you deviate from an audience’s expectations.

You also want to understand your audience. The different audience categories I’m most familiar with are Middle Grade, Young Adult, New Adult, and Adult. New Adult is an incredibly hard genre to do anything with in terms of publishing and marketing. I don’t recommend writing New Adult as a debut author. Middle Grade is ages 8-12. Young Adult is 13-19. Adult is anything above that. Audience influences things like content, word choice, and writing style. Keep in mind what age group you’re writing for because each one has different expectations.

The genre and audience you choose will influence how long your story is. Short stories typically cap at 7,500 words. Novellas are typically 20,000-50,000 words. Novels are anything above 50,000 words. Some Middle Grade books can be as short as 40,000 words. It’s really easy to search word count ranges on the internet. Choose your audience and genre and search the word count for it. Young Adult fantasy novels are usually 60-90,000 words. They are typically a little longer than YA contemporary. Do your research. Like I said, it typically takes a quick internet search to find the right word count range for you. Don’t panic if you’re a little off, but that’s the range you want to aim for.

Those are the basics of genre, audience, and length. If you have any questions about these topics, please leave them in the comments; and I’ll try to answer them either as a reply or in my Q&A on Saturday.

Discussion Questions:

Feel free to answer these in the comments if you want to chime in!

1) What genre(s) do you enjoy writing?

2) What audience(s) do you enjoy writing for?

3) If you’ve written stories before, do you hit the right word count range? Or do you under- or overwrite it?

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