Do you know your genre?

“To attract readers, agents, and editors, writers need to understand where their book project fits.”

Do You Know Your Genre?

Genre is the category where our book shares similar characteristics with other literary works. To make the definition a little more confusing, some genres can overlap. But not all. The basics of genre is either nonfiction or fiction.


Writers have creativity etched in their DNA. Our minds whirl with our writing projects, but to attract readers, agents, and editors, writers need to understand where their book project fits.



Nonfiction books are based on facts, actual people, true events, and accurate information.

The range covers how-tos, memoirs, textbooks, history, biographies, travel literature, and various scientific disciplines.



Fiction uses imaginary characters, plot, setting, dialogue, emotion, and symbolism to create a story. Not every novel contains all of these traits, but the majority incorporates techniques to entertain readers.


The basic fiction genres provide guidelines for writers to pen and plan their novels.


Contemporary or General Fiction stories are standalone. They are full-length, set in a contemporary world, and do not fit into any of the other categories. The time period is basically after 1960. Literary fiction can be categorized here.


Historical Fiction is a wide range of books that generally occur before 1960. Some publishers break down the time periods. Actual events can occur with fictitious characters or real people in which the events could have happened. Western fiction is generally set in the American Old West with lots of action.


Mystery stories use a lead character to solve a crime. These are often referred to as a puzzle to solve. Writers incorporate who-done-it methods. A cozy mystery eliminates the gore of a violent crime.


Novellas are those shorter works of fiction from approximately 10,000 to 40,000 words in all fiction genres.


Romance stories focus on two people finding lasting love in a drama-driven plot. However, some romance incorporates humor.


Suspense and Thrillers create a sense of danger. In a suspense novel, the protagonist is in peril, and at times he/she doesn’t recognize it. A thriller incorporates more action, and the antagonist can be psychological or physical. Often a thriller involves the safety of a larger group of people.


Speculative Fiction embraces a setting or culture that is imaginary. Within this category is fantasy, science fiction, supernatural, allegory, dystopian, and others.


Women’s Fiction is sometimes listed under Contemporary Fiction. These stories contain plot lines that are unique to women.


Many genres use romance as a sub-category or weave a romantic thread throughout the plot, such as historical romance, romantic suspense, women’s fiction, and speculative. Romance can be used with most genres.


Into what genre does your book fit?

DiAnn Mills is a bestselling author who believes her readers should expect an adventure. She is a founding board member of the American Christian Fiction Writers, director of the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference, and a member of Advanced Writers and Speakers Association, Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, and International Thriller Writers.


DiAnn is passionate about helping other writers be successful and speaks to various groups and teaches writing workshops around the country. She and her husband live in sunny Houston. DiAnn is very active online and loves to connect with readers on social media and at