I’m a genre writer. I write things like urban fantasy and zombie survival horror. I write those things because I read those things, in fact, I read pretty much any genre except literary fiction or romance.
Literary fiction sells pretty poorly, so if you want to make a living you might want to consider other genre’s. I wish I could do romance, it sells like crazy. Thriller is next. After that, it’s Science Fiction and Fantasy. Horror, one I write in a lot, doesn’t do that well. It’s still well enough to make a decent living at if you work at it and promote. The genre doesn’t really matter for this article, just know that you have to write to a specific genre.
Now, how to write to that genre?
It helps if you read it that genre.
Sorry, I mean you have to read that genre. You have to read it a lot, you have to immerse yourself in it and figure out exactly what the genre looks like.
There are rules for any genre and if you don’t follow them pretty closely you will lose your readers. If you write noir mystery you need your hero to be flawed, damaged, broken, probably with a drinking problem. If you make your noir protagonist who is a squeaky clean preacher and then have him solve a conventional murder with deductive reasoning, well, you’ve written a cozy, not a noir. If you write an epic fantasy but you don’t have big battles nobody is going to want to read your book.
That doesn’t mean you are stuck though. Despite the need to write to genre conventions, there is a huge amount of room within those conventions to create brilliant stories. Game of Thrones is epic fantasy… it follows genre conventions to a T. So does the Wheel of Time series. The two series are almost completely different.
Then there’s subversion. Taking the tropes and doing something completely different with them. That has to be done carefully. If you do it well you end up with Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn. When you discover the subversion involved it is an incredible moment that makes the entire story greater. When you do it carelessly, without proper thought, you end up with Star Wars Episode 8 — The Last Jedi. Subversion should never be used just to use subversion, it should always be deliberate, planned, done with care.