Categorize my Writing!?

Oh Help!

So I’m nearing the end of my Creative Writing course with the OU. I believe I have found out how I like to write and what I like to write about. I have enjoyed my voyage so much that I have signed up for the advanced course and hopefully by this time next year I will be finishing a Diploma in Creative Writing.
Studying a course has given me the opportunity to say ‘Sorry family – I MUST sit down and write, I have paid for this course, I have to write for assignments, I have deadlines to meet.’ It has been a great discipline. I have written short stories, autobiographical pieces and the first two chapters of a novel. I have a style, a voice and am not confused about that. I even think I know who my reader will be.

which category?
Compartmentalize Yourself!

But what I am confused about is classifying my writing. It feels so personal. I actually feel like I now have to put myself in a box with a label on it and close the lid as if saying, ‘There. This is Rachel Carter’s genre.’ Clunk … And I feel uncomfortable with that.

What’s worse is I’m not even sure what it is.

I write fiction that isn’t particularly about romance, crime, vampires (actually, never vampires), detectives, supernatural happenings, science fiction, history, travel, and may or may not contain families. I write about fictional people, doing real things. I like to make my reader think. I may have romance in one story, family in another, a single man in another, death in another. I like to use lots of expression, depth of character and consider the way we look at ourselves and at others. I may do geographical, medical or historical research for different stories or I may write totally about emotions, grief or love, drawing on my own feelings. Unless someone is tripping out, recovering from an accident or dreaming I don’t have witches, fairies or spacemen. I am not comfortable with pages and pages of romance or violence or suspense. I don’t want to just write for women. It’s just fiction…


In order to ‘find an outlet’ for my work and get useful feedback I have to classify it. Yesterday I looked for hours and hours at different genres and found Amazon very unhelpful. So, by process of elimination, I have decided on the glorious non-specific term ‘Literary Fiction’ . (I am working on some sophisticated philosophical tones to go with that!)

Right – That’s me filed!

18 thoughts on “Categorize my Writing!?

  1. Ah, the curse of the OU creative writing student. We have been encouraged to write using literary fiction techniques. Some people then go on to write genre fiction such as fantasy, but our style is probably too literary to write chick lit.

    I’ve decided to classify my writing as top-end women’s fiction, because I write about emotions and relationships in hopefully an intelligent and stylish manner, yet I don’t feel it is really literary fiction. If Richard and Judy were still running their book club, I would probably be aiming to write for that. Does that make sense?


  2. I’m in the same boat, Rachel.

    Literary Fiction seems like a large genre area, and also – something I’ve been wondering recently – can one categorise onesself as ‘literary fiction’, or is it a genre which people aspire to write for? (This is where the word ‘literary’ throws me a bit).

    Wikipedia says: Literary fiction is a term that has come into common usage since around 1960, principally to distinguish serious fiction (that is, work with claims to literary merit) from the many types of genre fiction and popular fiction (i.e., paraliterature). In broad terms, literary fiction focuses more on style, psychological depth, and character[1][2], the plot may or may not be important. Mainstream commercial fiction (the page-turner) focuses more on narrative and plot.

    I think that covers it for me, does it for you?


  3. Love this post Rachel. And so agree. Perhaps with more self publishing and online publishing this having to fit into a genre might disappear! A good thing, I think!


    • Silly isn’t it?
      I might suddenly decide out-of-the-blue that I actually write horror quite well… In fact…. Yes! – I can do scary 😉


  4. Lovely post! I loathe boxes and have spent my whole life wriggling about and refusing to be squashed into one. Giving my writing a label makes it wriggle about too but I do realise the market is genre led so ‘literary fiction’ will have to do. I cannot guarantee, however, that the writing won’t break out and make a run for another genre entirely!


    • Me too Christine. Very anti-pigeon holes. As soon as someone makes me define myself I don’t want to be that person anymore!
      Constantly evolving is the best way to be!


  5. Hi Rachel. I love that post. I know exactly what you mean. I attended a writing course recently and was asked by one of the authors who was facilitating how would I define my writing. I honestly didn’t know what to say. It’s hard to put ourselves into a pigeon hole because then it feels like we should lock ourselves in there and not come out. And by the way, I’m sorry if I’ve ruined your four ducks/swans, LOL!!

    Maria x


    • Yes, Ally. I think I do have a leaning toward realist fiction. I think if I mature enough I will probably try out that badge. 🙂
      Hope your writing is going well xx


  6. Great post and, as you know, something I have been thinking about for a while. I read all different types of fiction so why not write it? And maybe if I get lucky and get a book published, then I’ll know what genre I write it. I’ll go to Waterstone’s and see where they put me.


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