My Plea: Let’s End the Book/Genre Shaming!

WARNING: This post might venture into rant-territory. I try to keep my official rants few and far between, but I’m fired up!

So… I’ve now been to a few writers’ conferences and I’m noticing an irritating theme. In a community where we each struggle with the process of writing our books, screenplays, poems, etc. there is still judgement.

I’ll sit across from a new face and ask them what they write. “Sci-fi,” I hear, or “fantasy,” from another. I think cool. It must be incredibly challenging, but equally rewarding, to build a world from scratch or to imagine how technology could affect us in the future. I admire their efforts. In turn, I am asked what I write. I vary between saying “chick lit” (if I think they’ll understand what that means) or romantic comedies.

I get a look. A raised eyebrow. Not always, but often enough. I even hear comments like “chick lit is delightful but silly.” Those people drive me up the wall. They’re dismissive of my genre either because they are familiar with it and dislike it, or are not familiar at all and are making a snap judgement.

Now, I know that I’m not alone with this. Romance writers experience it. Sci-fi, fantasy, spec-fic, literary writers, etc. WE ALL EXPERIENCE IT.

Why??? Why are we judging what each other reads or writes? It’s no more difficult to create a fantasy world than it is to make someone feel emotion or to laugh out loud. I hear that my genre is “easy to read” as though that’s a bad thing. Do you know why it’s easy to read? Because people can’t put the books down. In my world, that’s a pretty awesome quality.

The bigger issue to me is that as fellow writers we should all appreciate the effort that each of us puts into our work. Regardless of your genre, regardless of whether it is traditionally or self-published, can we please just support one another? Can we please stop with the book bashing, the genre bashing, or just quit with the judgement?

We’re all facing steep challenges in the world of publishing. It’s not easy. It can be heartbreaking. It can also be rewarding. But that’s all the more reason, in my mind, to support one another and drop the judgement.

I would like to be a writer in a world where I can read what I want, write what I want, without a negative look or comment. I don’t feel like I’m asking for a world of rainbows, unicorns and kittens here. Am I?

How do you feel about this? How do you support your fellow authors of different genres?

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9 Responses to My Plea: Let’s End the Book/Genre Shaming!

  1. lorellepage August 23, 2014 at 2:51 am #

    As an urban fantasy writer I’m actually intimidated by contemporary romance and chick lit. I can’t even read it because I know I’d fail so hard at a genre that gets such an emotional response. We all have our strengths. We write where we feel comfortable. Embrace it !

  2. marymforbes August 23, 2014 at 7:54 am #

    I am with you. Nothing that is properly edited is a wrong way of writing. Everything deserves a chance. There has always been a stigma with romance writers. It could possibly be jealousy for those who can’t ‘feel’ emotions the way a writer can. Good luck with writing and enjoying – exactly what you want.

  3. Suzanne Stengl August 23, 2014 at 8:28 am #

    One of my favourite movies is LOVE ACTUALLY, billed as “comedy, drama, romance”.
    The writer, Richard Curtis, says this: “If you write a story about a soldier going AWOL and kidnapping a pregnant woman and finally shooting her in the head, it’s called searingly realistic, even though it’s never happened in the history of mankind. Whereas if you write about two people falling in love, which happens about a million times a day all over the world, for some reason or another, you’re accused of writing something unrealistic and sentimental.”

  4. D.MarieProkop August 23, 2014 at 8:40 am #

    I am also in awe of the romance writer. As a typical scifi nerd, my romance scenes are the most challenging to pull off. Props.

  5. Tammy Lyn Carbol August 23, 2014 at 9:36 am #

    I think anyone who writes is amazing – no matter what genre!! I too have gotten the raised eyebrow when they ask what I write, and I simply smile back. I *could* say something, but I choose not to because frankly, I think what THEY write is cool, even if they think what I write is not. Everyone is different and has their own opinions. Just live your life and write what is in your heart! 😀

  6. Lorraine Paton August 23, 2014 at 10:11 am #

    I agree. It can be difficult.

    I enjoy fantasy, mystery and science fiction stories … but I also know a lot of people who don’t. It is a shame, though, when other writers dismiss the work involved with writing another genre simply because they don’t understand it or it doesn’t appeal to them as a reader. And, sometimes it does seem that romance writers get looked down on a bit more than the others in the media and in person. (But I don’t write those other genres, so I’m not sure what reactions they get when they talk about their writing.)

    I’ve given this some thought over the last few years, and here is what I’ve come up with –

    For some reason, romance is seen as not being as “literary” and that “genre fiction” is somehow not as relevant. And there are some famous authors out there who I would argue write romantic fiction and yet even they shirk the romance mantle. (And that is rather sad, I think.) And yet, some genres likes fantasy, science fiction, and mysteries, which each come with their own set of reader expectations, are sometimes more well perceived. I think this happens for a number of reasons.

    Romance is a big seller. This means that a lot of people buy it and a lot of people write it. Therefore, I’ve heard people who don’t read / write it dismiss it based on the sheer volume of it out in the world. (Using the statistical argument that if there is so much then most of it must be awful and easy to do.)

    I do think there are times when it comes down to gender – romance fiction is mostly written by women for women.

    And, since it doesn’t usually appear to deal with global, political, or ethical issues / theories, it is dismissed as less “powerful” or thought provoking.

    And yet romances can often go beyond the concept and exploration of love, into trust, acceptance, overcoming emotional trauma … and all the things that make the human existence human. No matter how those messages are conveyed, whether through humor or something more tear-jerking, it is an exploration of the human condition. Therefore, I think, it can be dismissed by some because emotions are so common place – everyone has them, right?

    I could probably go on and on about this… (I’ve been known to refer to the Massey Report and more. 😉 ) … but ultimately, I don’t think anyone can change anyone else’s ideas about genre or writing. Particularly if they don’t understand the genre, or have never read it or tried to write it.

    On the upside, there are a number of universities and groups who are studying romance novels (Yale, Princeton, DePaul use Beyond Heaving Bosoms: The Smart Bitches’ Guide to Romance in some of their undergraduate courses), talking about romances (http://popularromanceproject.org/about/), and hopefully that will build some additional credibility.

    And I’m going to end with – Screw the naysayers! Be proud of what you write! Know that it is important and that the people who matter will value it! 🙂

  7. Dee Van Dyk August 25, 2014 at 9:53 am #

    I think this sentence in your post nails it: “The bigger issue to me is that as fellow writers we should all appreciate the effort that each of us puts into our work.”

  8. emberangel August 25, 2014 at 11:40 am #

    I love reading every genre. I think that they all have something unique to offer. And if the readers are OK with all genres why can’t the writers?

    • vscot848 August 25, 2014 at 7:26 pm #

      I don’t know that all readers are okay with all genres. We’ll get there eventually, but kudos to you for reading broadly and deeply.

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