What other books or writers does your writing resemble? I’m talking style more than genre here. Do you write like Stephen King? Or perhaps Kate Morton? Or Alice Munroe? Is your style flowing and epic or minimalist? Is it straightforward or flowery, filled with figurative language? What is your worldview? Is this book a stand alone or part of a series?
Here are a few key questions that might help in finding comparative stories:
The concept of genre, while not specifically under scrutiny here, helps us to make these choices. For example, if you have written a cozy mystery from a Christian worldview, what other authors have done the same?
If you read Stephen King, you know the writing is full of tension, fear and dread. If you read Kate Morton, you will need to unravel layers and layers of backstory and motivation to find the heart of the story, rather like a treasure hunt. Is your story lighthearted or serious? Witty or sober? What other authors write in a similar mood to what you write?
* Worldview (this will be examined in more detail next month)
We all see our world through a unique set of filters. It’s unavoidable. It’s who we are. For example, because I’m a Christian I write from a Christian worldview. Also, since my home life was loving and nurturing, that filter finds its way into my worldview. As writers, we are vulnerable people, and we allow our vulnerabilities to show in our writing. What other authors write from a worldview similar to your own?
Do we write to entertain, to inspire, to teach (through story), to motivate? What other authors do the same?
While our publisher, or our readers, want to know where our book falls in with others, they also want to know how it stands out among these others.
Does my book offer more or less of a spiritual focus? Are the characters more or less quirky? Is the ending of my story sometimes sad instead of happy? Is my setting in another country instead of the U.S.?
I suppose the most telling questions to ask regarding contrast are:
* Can I identify a subgenre that extends the categorization?
* Is my book witty rather than just silly? (I’ve started reading a few of those silly ones)
* Is my setting unique yet believable?
Once you’ve answered these further questions, you can make a shortlist of books that compare to yours as well as a list of those that contrast. This will also help you focus on your marketing tactics. Every refining of category, style and purpose helps us as authors to define our ideal target market.
Note: Although this topic came up late in this series of blogposts, it is something that can and should be considered at all times from the novel’s conception to the final marketing stage.