The Taxonomy of Art

So I've hit a bit of a tangle, not surprising given all my progress feels like flailing in the dark. It seems such a tiny issue, or maybe it only seems that way to me, which is why it's an issue to begin with: I can't tell when my issues are issues, or me just over-thinking. The trouble is genre. Specifically, what genre is my story? You'd think I would know by now. It's been a year since I finished writing the stupid thing, and I've revised once already, so where exactly is the grey area? Where is there possibly an unturned stone? In any case this has become a concern now that I have to turn my mind from writing and editing and focus instead on writing and editing and marketing. At least I'm never bored.

Because that's what everyone wants to know. Whether you're getting published through one of the Big 6 or just getting some sage advice on building a reader base for your self-published novel, at some point someone will ask, "So what kind of story is it?" Not, "what is your story about?", though they'll want to know that, too. It's your originality that will intrigue readers, but it's your conformity that will cinch sales. That's not to say experimental writing can't make it, but in order to be marketable you have to (apparently) straddle an arbitrary line between the unfamiliar and the recognizable. You must be singular and fresh and different while still fitting certain guidelines to turn a profit. It's a very awkward pill to swallow, as a writer.

So my book. What kind of book is it? I made a list of the different genres I thought it could be and checked it against the glossary in the back of my Writer's Market and promptly found that my book doesn't fit any of them 100%. I'm sure plenty of writers find this to be the case, odd angles of narrative flopping out over the edges of their genre shoebox. The question on my mind is: "What do I do about this? If anything?" Is this a big deal? Is this, in fact, a problem? I mean my book does fit one of the Sci Fi subgenres pretty close, and if ever asked that's what I'd call it. But do I tweak the parts that don't fit? Do I trim and prune them until it all fits in the box as it ought? Or do I just let the story hang all out, embrace its abnormalities, scoff in the face of type and expectations? Tough call, considering no on knows who I am and bucking tradition is traditionally sort of isolating. And I'm not really a rebel, unless 'rebel' here means "wanting to do what I want to do." I'm pretty sure I need more in the way of social commentary or moral debate in my work to be a rebel. I just want to tell the story that came to me when I was half-asleep and it seemed reasonable to have a society based entirely on aphrodisiacs and perpetual imprisonment, because my mind is evidently a terrifying place. Yes, there are some very objectionable things that happen, but they aren't discussed in terms of "right" and "wrong." It's more like: you did something to me I didn't like so now I will wreck your everything. It's like Brave New World if instead of John the Savage as the protagonist it was The Bride from Kill Bill. It's basically a revenge story that accidentally topples an unscrupulous regime only no one else knew it existed, no one welcomes them as heroes, and they go about it in a frankly un-heroic way (which is putting it lightly). It survives mostly on character-study, cursing, and a dark sense of humor in the face of a very bleak reality. So, you know, a family favorite in the making.

I just need someone to talk to, is what this all boils down to. I need someone with some amount of experience to say hey, you're focusing too much on this thing, over here is where your energy should be spent. And not another author. Other authors have great advice, and more than that they make this whole getting published thing seem attainable, in a they-did-it-so-can-I sort of way. I still always, always want to hear from authors about how they managed to succeed. But what I need, at the moment, is someone who doesn't have a personal anecdote for me, but a bullet-point presentation complete with swooping graphic designs and artful dissolving techniques, something tangible I can put a benchmark on or cross off a list so I can gauge progress. I need something more concrete than people telling me "well I just did this that and the other thing and BAM, Best Seller's List." That's great, but the big drawback for any author's success story is just that: it's a story. It's the way in which it worked out for them, but it doesn't necessarily follow that it will work for me. Sure, I appreciate being given new ideas for what to try, but at the end of the day it still feels like I'm in this alone. They can shower me with all the names and listings and how-to's until I suffocate in it, but I still have to go home and plod this all out by myself, like a desperate attempt to throw everything plus the kitchen sink at the wall and see what sticks around. It's a tightrope walk between endless possibilities and a paralysis of indecision. I could do everything, which means I'll end up doing nothing. And I don't want that to be how this endeavor goes. In the end, though, I think it's pretty clear what sort of person I have to talk to.

Guys, I need an editor.

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