What Genre Is Your Work in Progress?

by | Nov 8, 2011 | Genres | 65 comments

Every now and then I like to check in to see what genre people are working on. The last time I asked was wayyyy back in 2009.

Now that it’s NaNoWriMo I’m guessing that there are many a new work in progress, so let’s see:

What’s Your Genre?

You’ll need to click through to see the poll if you’re reading via e-mail or a feed reader.


  1. Matt Sinclair

    I usually write literary fiction, but I'm working on a science fiction story for NaNo, with a vital "humor" element.

  2. Cathy Powell

    The statistics here are really interesting. I have started on a women's fiction book this time, although my NaNo effort for 2009 was a young adult paranormal one.

  3. Carolyn

    Still working on a steampunk adventure novel, with a third revision of a fantasy novel waiting in the wings. Too bogged down at the moment to consider anything past that yet. 🙂

  4. Philip Steiner

    Hi Nathan,

    My NaNovel, a cyber-thriller, kinda fits between Thriller and SF, along the lines of the movie Live Free or Die Hard.

    I wonder though, are the categories you present "standard" for the publishing industry, i.e. if a novel doesn't fit clearly into a category, does it become a problem child?

    • Richard Guiney

      I’ve written a novel that is fiction/fantasy. The story is about a man and his dog that have died together and now wake in a minor heaven. (I’ve established that there are many levels of heaven.) They have new abilities which allow them to time travel, read minds, and they can go anywhere they think of and at the speed of thought. The Dark side is there, trying to mess them up and pull them back. This story becomes quite spiritual (lessons in history etc.) I think people who believe in God will love it, but will publishers? Any ideas about what genre this could be? I’ve written one other novel – it’s on Amazon and other sites (Me ‘n’ Shorty) but not many know about it. Thanks ahead for the help.

  5. Suze Reese

    Wow, that looks like a good mix across the board. I was expecting a run-away winner. Maybe one will sprint ahead, but hopefully that means readers are ready to try anything! (Or at least writers are hoping that's the case.)

  6. Annalise Green

    Science fiction. I've been wondering if it could be called dystopian or post-apocalyptic, but I've concluded not really. Just straight-up science fiction.

  7. Mona Hodgson

    Thanks for the stats, Nathan. Fun to see. My first historical series, The Sinclair Sisters of Cripple Creek, was set in Colorado in the late 1890's. I've just started the next series, starts out in Missouri in 1865.
    Happy writing!

  8. Nicole Zoltack

    My nano story is a paranormal YA. My other WIP is a MG fantasy.

  9. Philip Steiner

    Hmm, I was surprised to see my category of choice, "Mystery/Suspense/Thriller" is tied for the lead with Fantasy, at 9% of 135 entries that's roughly 12 stories. This is doubly interesting, since your blog leans toward the YA writer audience (no bias there, eh?), even though Young Adult Fantasy is a step behind at 8%.

    Do you find in the publishing industry there are some categories that attract more writers than others, and do those categories tend to sell the best, or have the best-selling authors? Is there some sort of correlation?

    One case I'm thinking of is Margaret Atwood, well-known icon of the Canadian literary world, whose most recent novels I would plant squarely in the science fiction category. She has stated repeatedly that she doesn't consider the stories to be science fiction, perhaps "speculative", because they don't feature ray guns and space ships. The novels are marketed as mainstream literary fiction, which I suppose makes for better sales if they are more "legit" than they would be as SF.

    I'd love to hear your opinion.

  10. D.G. Hudson

    WIP Science fiction, epic.

    One ready for submission (sci-fi), one in planning stages (sci-fi), one new in development(crime novel).

    Not a NANO project in the bunch. Interesting stats on the voting.

    Good luck to those in Nano mode, may the muse be with you.

  11. Josin L. McQuein

    There's no Steampunk option, so I put it under YA fantasy.

    The other WIP are MG paranormal. 1 humorous / 1 spooky

  12. S. Kyle Davis

    I put YA Mystery, though it's technically a thriller.

  13. D.G. Hudson

    Nathan, I'm interested as well in the reply to Philip's question regarding M. Atwood and her sci-fi writing which she insists are literary.

    I've heard hard science fiction is hard to sell these days, and a lot of fantasy is calling itself science fiction, which muddies the waters even more. . .


  14. Anonymous

    Dark science ethno-fantasy

  15. Becca French

    Wooo non-fiction! Looks like in both the 2009 poll and this one I'm a loner. 🙂

  16. Alii Silverwing

    I'm doing Fantasy, specifically Urban Fantasy. I guess it could also be called Paranormal by your definition? Still, I'd know where to shelve it if I manage to finish it satisfactorily. 🙂

  17. Katherine Hyde

    Nathan, you left out "magical realism," which is the true genre of the novel I'm currently planning. (Not doing NaNo.)

  18. Jaimie

    Mine's a tie between YA fantasy and regular adult fantasy. (I went YA for the poll.)

  19. Elisabeth Grace Foley

    I picked Western, but strictly speaking it's a combination of two genres – it's a classic-style murder mystery set in the Old West.

  20. Stu Ayris

    I guess literary fiction is the closest in terms of genres. A novel about a man who just qualifies as a midget and his wife who just misses out on qualifying as a midget – in which she plans a murder and he meets an angel – is always going to be difficult to categorise…

  21. Sandi

    Thanks for the poll. Very interesting.

  22. Krista V.

    Happy to see my genre, MG historical fiction (although, admittedly, it also has a little sci-fi), is represented at a solid 0%. Maybe this manuscript will actually stand out from the pack a bit… 🙂

  23. Anonymous

    I'm guessing "New Adult" is part of "Other."

    I'm also guessing that New Adult is getting a lot of resistence in the mainstream. I don't know why. It's a valid genre and a lot of people who are just beginning their "real" lives can identify with it.

  24. Megan Hicks

    I chose YA fantasy, though my novel would more accurately be called historical fantasy. The fantasy and historical elements are equally important!

    (It's not steampunk, either. Historical fantasy!)

  25. John Caliburn

    Is it okay if my work in progress is a young adult mystery? Even though it doesn't have some sort of detective or crime or anything?

  26. collectonian

    This year's is a post apocalyptic piece, which would probably fall under science fiction.

  27. AlvaradoFrazier

    Is there such a thing as Urban YA? That's the direction I'm taking for my NaNoWriMo project.
    Surprised to see low % on Women's Lit.

  28. Mira

    Fun. I love seeing the different poll results.

    I had a thought reading the comments – I wondered if genre definition will loosen up in the new e-book era.

    An internet site, like Amazon, can list books in a different way from a brick and mortar store.

    For one thing, you can list a book under multiple genres on an internet site. There's only so much room in a brick and mortar shop, but that's not true on-line.

    It's interesting. I think there may be more room for genre crossing, blurring and creativity in the future.

  29. Gehayi

    No steampunk option, so I'm calling mine YA historical fiction.

  30. Laura C.

    I picked "Other" – but mine's YA Horror.
    I think you need to broaden your YA choices to match the adult ones.

  31. FourDaysAWeek

    Hi Nathan,

    Thanks for starting the poll, and a special thanks to your readers for participating. Interesting stats.

    I am working on a historical fiction inspired by my father's journal. The main part of the story takes place in Vietnam from 1944 – 1975. I aim to finish with the revisions in 2012. -Mia

  32. Danielle La Paglia

    My WIP is actually YA paranormal murder-mystery. I marked YA mystery because the "paranormal" is psychic abilities, not werewolves, vampires, or zombies.

  33. Roger Floyd

    I notice you divided the list into several sections, including Young Adult and Middle Grade, as well as, I assume, Adult. But you ask us to check the genre we are working in. Does Young Adult or Middle Grade constitute another genre? Or even a subdivision of a genre? In my opinion, no. Science fiction is science fiction regardless of who reads it. I, as an adult, could pick up and read a Middle Grade novel just as well as a ten-year old.

  34. Natalie

    The stats are interesting, but from the comments it seems like a lot of people have WIPS that are a merging of more than one genre. I enjoy books that bend genre/broaden it but it can be hard to categorize which translates, sometimes, into hard to sell. Wondering if any writers who merge genres can comment on what they do to sell it to agents/publishers and readers?

  35. Keisha Martin

    My muse is really interested in the Lord Of The Ring so I am writing a Gothic/fantasy YA novel I love the process of creating a new world the creatures that will live in the various parts, so fun but not that easy kudos to Tolkien.

  36. Donna Amis Davis

    Since this is my first book, and I'm only 1/10th of the way into it, I *think* it's romance with an international adventure setting. But maybe it will turn out to be women's fiction??

  37. Sharon K Owen

    This question always makes me stutter. My wip romantic element, as sulspense element, and deals with women dealing with family issues. Sooo it could go several ways. Usually, for lack of a better fit, I call it romantic suspense.

    So hard to put your book into one genre but I know it is necessary to do so.

  38. kate

    i'm actually really surprised by the figures! i assumed that a backlash would result from the twilight phenom (and all the multifarious other, perhaps better?, paranormal series) and authors would steer away from the paranormal genre for a bit. of course, my book is paranormal so i shouldn't be surprised to be in good company. my only twist is my telepathic heroine is a junkie…i wonder if a sub genre of paranormal drug lit will ever develop?

  39. Angela Brown

    Interesting poll. I suppose the end results will be as interesting.

  40. CG Blake

    Mine is a murder/mystery, which is totally different from my genre. It's a lot of fun to write outside your genre. I'm at 14,000 words. I've nervous about running out of story before I reach 50,000 words.

  41. Richard Thomas

    Usually I write what I call neo-noir, but I've been dabbling in magical realism, and really enjoying it. My first novel, Transubstantiate, was a neo-noir, speculative thriller. My second, which I'm shopping right now, is a neo-noir, transgressive thriller. My third, about five chapters in, Incarnate, is this new magical realism vibe. I'm digging it so far.

  42. Peggy

    I'm really not sure where mine fits; considering it as mystery, but also as scince fiction, or YA. Guess I'll decide when I get done.

  43. Kate

    I think of my novel as "metaphysical fantasy." It's NOT magic in the traditional sense, and it's set in the real world, but it's not realistic and doesn't quite match any of the other categories, either. My NaNo (a side project) edges more into horror, and my current short story is flat-out fantasy. So fantasy overall, but it's a little more complicated than that.

  44. Simon Haynes

    Science fiction comedy/satire as usual. After that I'm moving back to middle-grade science fiction for the second Hal Junior novel.

  45. N.R. McLaren

    I'd have to go with Atwood-esque Speculative Fiction for mine.

  46. Terin Tashi Miller

    As I've found frequently the case, there doesn't really appear to be a genre for my WIP.

    The closest I can say is "literary fiction," though more precise would be "multicultural fictional memoir." Ha! I swear, it's interesting…

    Another WIP I'd set aside for actually a number of years I'm having a renewed interest in. It fits the simple category of "mystery."

    And Happy NaNoWriMo,

  47. Matthew MacNish

    You didn't put YA Rural Fantasy up there, so I went with the closest one.

  48. Tiffany

    This is my first NaNoWriMo and I'm very excited and nervous and waaaaay behind on my wordcount. But I'm loving what I've written on my historical fiction so far, so it's definitely something I'll stick with regardless of whether or not I "win" NaNoWriMo

  49. Daniel McNeet


    Another interesting inquiry. My new book a political thriller, "Operation Downfall", has been released. The one I am working on now is called "The Traitors", another political thriller. There is such a cornucopia of corruption in politics the plots available are endless.

    Good post, Nathan.

  50. Ishta Mercurio

    I had a dystopian partly outlined, but I've backburnered it in favor of a YA historical about WWII. It's my NaNo project – I want to get a very rough full-of-holes draft out, then do the necessary research to fill in the blanks.

    Crazy, but I'm loving this story.

  51. Meghan Ward

    Wow! That's a much longer list than the last time I took this survey!

  52. Marie Gilbert

    My trilogy is spaced between sci-fi and paranormal romance, and because of the human trafficking subject matter, not for children or teens.

  53. Skip Milo

    Help! There isn't a category for my WIP. It's a comedy with alien undertones. Having said that, I'm also half way through a specialist cook book, so I've voted 'Non fiction – Other'!

  54. Amy Joy

    Thanks for the stats. Very interesting. Like others have said, I too expected to see a big winner rather than the mix. I have several works in progress, from picture books to young adult novels, but my focus for my middle grade and young adult writing is paranormal fantasy.

  55. Anne R. Allen

    I was just thinking what Meghan Ward said–the list gets longer. Probably because YA is broken down into more categories now.

    Mystery/crime/thriller is a very big umbrella, which may explain the bigger numbers.

    Nice to see so much diversity in your readership.

  56. Anonymous

    Nathan, an interesting follow-up post could be to have the results of your poll compared to book sale stats for genres.

    I noticed fantasy and YA fantasy combine to make up 20% of the projects being written… but are fantasy books 20% of total book sales?

  57. Kevin

    I have a problem. I have no idea what genre my book is…

  58. Arief Zainal

    I'm writing a Fantasy for my WIP but for my NaNo Novel, I'm writing an Urban Fantasy.

  59. Robin Storey

    I am writing a humorous crime novel, which I notice didn't get a mention. Maybe I have invented a new genre! Seriously, it's a market that's not overcrowded, which is good from the point of view of trying to get published.

  60. jryo45

    What about straight up comedy? I have a work in progress that is a Mystery satire, and another co-writing with a friend that is just a raunchy, random, ridiculous comedy novella. Super fun to write.

  61. M

    I have two works in progress. a novel and a play. The novel is for young adults. I am not really sure what the correct category would be? It's a good mix of fantasy, mystery, and adventure. My stage play is a play within a play. Or should I say a dream, within a dream, within a play. Overall it is a thoughtful comedy about a dramatic romance with a node to Shakespeare.


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Hi, I’m Nathan. I’m the author of How to Write a Novel and the Jacob Wonderbar series, which was published by Penguin. I used to be a literary agent at Curtis Brown Ltd. and I’m dedicated to helping authors chase their dreams. Let me help you with your book!

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