Reviews And What The Hell Do I Actually Write?


The author, reflecting on the ain’t-easiness of being green.

The other day sometime between now and a thousand days ago, I got a review for a number of stars I won’t reveal, from a person whose identity or online alias I won’t reveal, on one of my stories which I also won’t reveal.

Because writers who call out reviewers, both I and most of the internet believe, are assholes. And I have quite enough assholishness without adding any more, thankyouverymuch.

But that’s not my point. My point is this: the reviewer referred to my story, which I had not written with the intent of making it YA, as YA.

And that made me think.

What exactly do I write?

I’ve already put out some stories that don’t fit neatly into commercial genre lines. Mainstream with a taste of science fiction, science fiction with a taste of mainstream, fantasy that didn’t turn into fantasy until the story was almost over, the ever-popular horror-science-fiction mashup… well, sort of. Not quite.

But I had never given a thought to writing YA, even when I wrote Kitty Itty And The Seawall Broke, which has a preteen protagonist, a family-centric storyline, a sympathetic cat character, and a title that sounds like YA. I didn’t think of pitching it as YA until my wife read it and said, “you should sell it as YA because it’s YA.”

I tend to favor straightforward storylines, which are not a requirement for YA, but which are common in YA. While some of my work is undeniably adult, much of it is in that gray area that can be enjoyed by the teen reader and the adult reader equally.

So I’ve concluded that I write stories, and some of them can be enjoyed as and thought of as YA because I’m pretty sure they’re all-ages-friendly. Most of them are science fiction, probably because most of my reading, for all of my literate life, has been science fiction.

I sort of wish I could throw them out uncategorized and let the readers decide what pigeonholes they fit in. That would be easiest, if there was any practical way to do that. But there isn’t. So I’ll try to fit the round stories in the round holes and the square ones in the square holes, and when a story is both round and square, I’ll just pick one.

The way the market works, we have to worry about genre. Especially when we’re self-published, and have to face the publisher’s jumbo menu of categories your story must fit in — please pick one already and stop stalling! But the way I write, the way most of us write, I think, we tend to write our stories and then worry about what genre it can be called part of.

So keep writing, and keep pigeonholing as needed. And let the reviews and the puzzled comments about what you’ve written fall where they may.


3 thoughts on “Reviews And What The Hell Do I Actually Write?

Add yours

  1. Once it’s left you, it’s down to the reader to interpret it. I kind of go through a phase where I ask myself what I’m writing, then I usually go for a walk and come back, write the damn book and get it finished. You can go mad with it, so don’t. Write about and for the kind of people who will get you for you.

      1. I don’t think you can or should second guess the marketplace. William Goldman said that, in Hollywood, ‘no one knows anything’. I just write the book that is in me at the time then finish that, edit it and send it to the agent. Bad reviews only have the power of your attention if you give it. At least you can hope they’ve read it. Best of luck with it all

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