I finished a rough draft of my next novel a few weeks ago. I'd been tentatively calling it Merlin's Grove, since that's the name of the small town it takes place in. The idea was to make a something similar to Gilmore Girls, quirky town stuff, witty characters, etc, but with gay main characters. The first draft worked that way, and I renamed it The Overlook, which would make more sense if you read it.
The town was still called Merlin's Grove, and I thought on my first pass through the rough draft that I'd layer in some light fantasy elements to go with the name. I put in a backstory about where the name came from, and it gave a reason for the random magical stuff that happens.
But then I got carried away, and I essentially turned the whole thing into a fantasy with a neat small-town setting. I keep joking that I've invented a new genre. Urban fantasy is fantasy in an urban setting. My setting is small town, so I wrote a "rural fantasy." (My husband said this isn't new, because all classic fantasy is rural. But mine takes place in a quirky small Connecticut town, not some Middle Earth prairie).
It got me thinking a bunch about genre and how important it is. Genre gives you conventions and even the form of the story. On the one hand, it's easy to say sticking to a genre is boring and easy. Some may think following genre is only for non-creative writers. But that's not true. You can be wildly creative within a genre.
Genre gives a novel a cohesiveness. Someone who tries to defy genre by making something a romance here, a drama there, a comedy over here, fantasy elements over there, and so on is engaging in just plain bad writing. It's confusing to the reader and stylistically choppy.
New writers want to throw everything into a book. Restraint and cohesiveness is a sign of mature writing. The fact that I've only come to understand this over many years of writing made me nervous that I backslid into this hodge-podge writing style.
This means that on subsequent revisions, I'm going to have to be very careful to make sure I've set up the right expectations from the start and then stay consistent. I had expected to submit this manuscript by the end of January, but it might be a touch longer now that I've given myself this added task of smoothing out this new rural fantasy M/M romance genre.
Oh. And also, I like this setting and the people so much that I plan to make this a series (at least 3 books, probably new characters each time). I'm quite excited about what I've come up with, but I may have dug myself into a hole that could take some time to climb out of.