by Donna Wichelman @DonnaWichelman
In a November 4, 2020 blog post, Tyndale House Publishers CRAZY4FICTION TEAM asked, “What genre novel should you write?” To help readers hone in on their genre, they had to answer ten multiple-choice questions that narrowed their options to one. Interestingly enough, when I took the test, Tyndale House’s final answer to which genre I should write was right on target. I haven’t always understood what genre fits me the most. I’m the cliché writer. When asked the question, “When did you start writing?” I’ve always said, “I’ve been writing all my life—at least since my first stories appeared in my elementary school newspaper.” I have the ditto-run copies to prove it.
Fast-forward to junior high and high school. My favorite subjects were history, geography, and literature. But my true passion for writing came to light when I attended an international high school in the U.K. where I focused on English Literature and discovered a love for the
classics—Jane Austin, Charles Dickens, Emily Brontë, and Victor Hugo, to name a few. I wanted to emulate them—write stories with moral and spiritual consequences.
I still didn’t know my genre until much later, after I’d already written three books: a contemporary romance set in the English Lake District, a Christian historical set in eighteenth-century New Zealand, and a contemporary suspense set against the faith and valor of the persecuted Waldensians in the French and Italian Alps throughout the second millennium. All three manuscripts gained the attention of publishers, but no one knew who I was as a writer.
Fast-forward to the last five years, when the publishing industry has focused more on marketing. In an interview with author Karin Beery on September 13, 2022, Thomas Umstattd, Jr. asked why genre is important. “Because it’s a promise to the readers. When you say you’re writing in a specific genre, you promise the reader … your book will have certain elements …,” Beery said. “Each genre has … rules … When readers buy a book, they have … expectations for what kind of story they will be reading, and the genre communicates those expectations.”
Regardless of genre—thriller, romance, historical, suspense, mystery, fantasy—you build an audience based upon the conventions of that genre. If you meet their expectations, they come back for more. Violate their expectations, they will drop you like a hot potato.
Genre goes hand-in-hand with branding; it’s who you are as an author. “Essentially, your brand identity is the personality of your business (i.e. writing) and a promise to your customers,” says Kathryn Wheeler, HubSpot.Honing your brand and genre can make all the difference in finding your audience. @DonnaWichelman #writing #brand #ChristianFiction #ACFW Click To Tweet
James Rubart puts it this way: “A brand is not created, it’s discovered. It’s the theme of your life, the sermon you tell over and over.”
“Personal branding isn’t about trying to carve a new identity for yourself; at its core, it’s an exercise in highlighting your true strengths, not just creating ones that you don’t … possess,” say executives at Canva.
But how do you discover your true strengths and the theme of your life?
It starts with prayer, asking God to reveal them to you. Then you dig deep, asking questions, getting at the core of who you are. When I applied this principle, it became crystal clear, and I could answer it with a tagline I developed. Donna Wichelman: Weaving History and Faith into
Tales of Intrigue and Redemption.
My tagline has enabled me to own my genre as historical and slip-time romance. I’m currently pitching my 90,000-word manuscript, A Song of Deliverance, a Gilded Age romance, to agents and publishers. I’m also excited about a new slip-time project underway after traveling to France
to research the years of the Nazi Occupation.
Now, we’ve come full circle back to where I began. How did Tyndale House help writers hone their genre? By asking the questions designed to dig deep into what drives you at your core.
Donna Wichelman’s short stories, essays, and articles have appeared in various inspirational publications, and she has two indie-published books on Amazon.com. She weaves history and faith into tales of intrigue and redemption, reflecting the hunger in all of us for love, forgiveness, and belonging in a world that often withholds second chances. Her current project is a historical romance series.