2 Tips for Genre Mash-ups

I’m starting the new year with two truths about my writing: (1) I finished the first draft Ride to the Altar in late December 2017, and (2) it’s a mess. A colossal mess.

One of the reasons it’s so messy is that it’s two unlikely genres mixed together, Women’s Fiction with a hint of Mystery. I know, I know. I was supposed to dump the “mystery” label, but I can’t. It’s still there. Once I got things set up and moving, elements of the traditional mystery became inescapably evident.

We’ve heard of Mystery Romance (or romantic mystery), and thanks to Anne Perry and others, we’ve heard of Historical Mystery. Science Fiction mixes well with Mystery—so does Fantasy. In fact, we’ve heard of mash-ups of a variety of genres, so why not Women’s Fiction and Mystery?

But it seems like I have two plots—not a plot and subplot—but two plots running through my novel, so it seems like more than just a blended story. It seems like a mess.

Enter Donald Maass.

In his book, Chapter Two, “The Death of Genre,” directly addresses the trouble I’ve been having, and, even better, shows me how to fix it. But best of all, Maass gives me permission to write my unlikely mash-up. As long as I do it right, that is.

This book is worth reading in general, as are all the manuals Donald Maass writes, but this one really works best during revision. Write your novel first (or your outline or however you want to do it), then go through Writing 21st Century Fiction and do the exercises. Maass’s theme throughout his book is “work backward,” so it’s best if you have something to work backward from. He suggests you find something in you manuscript where a particular technique he illustrates would be effective, then work backward to build up to it.

For me, the “work backward” is a bit broader. I’m not going to rehash the entire second chapter, but in the exercises, I found two keys that opened my eyes as to how to work backward and turn my mish-mash mash-up into a mash-up masterpiece.

  • “Take each story element and outline it, as if that were the entire novel. Work on it until it could be an entire novel” (page 18).

Doing this will make me focus on the elements that make up both genres, Mystery and Women’s Fiction, so that both are fully developed in the novel. It will also help me discover tangents where the two can blend. I can enhance those points so the readers can understand how the two genres work together, or—even better—it will seem seamless, and the readers won’t even notice (dare I hope?!).

  • “Each [genre] says the same thing in a different way . . . what is it? Work until the parallel feels (to you) ridiculously obvious” (page 18).

The minute I read that, I knew what connected the two story lines. I don’t know why I didn’t see it before, but now—to me, at least—it is ridiculously obvious. I’m willing to bet I can show the connection to the readers too.

Sometimes it takes an outside source to help shoo the clouds from your vision so you can see what to do with the mess you’ve made. The more I read, the more encouraged I am that the final in the Circle Bar Ranch series will be as 5-star worthy as the other two. I’m not dreading revisions anymore. I can’t wait to get started!

What about you? Where are you in your revision process? What do you need help with most?

About Linda W. Yezak

Author/Freelance Editor/Speaker (writing and editing topics).
This entry was posted in write tips, Writing, Writing How-To Books, Writing Tips and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

13 Responses to 2 Tips for Genre Mash-ups

  1. Thank you for the tip on the book! Bought mine and eager to read through it. I am still working on the first draft of book 4. It is more complicated than the others and I have come across a similar issue as you. Although, both story lines are still within the genre, I need to link what I thought was a subplot into the rest of the story. As this plot developed, I could see it was actually a story of it’s own and yet readers will expect more on this character after what happened in book 3. Yikes. What to do? I kept writing, believing the link would present its self. You have given me the advice I needed with Mass’s book. Can you see my broad smile? Also, there are other foreshadowing opportunities I don’t want to miss out on with this one, and I am sure his working backward method will help illuminate them. Happy dance! All thanks to my wise and generous friend! 🙂


  2. K.M. Weiland says:

    Maass is always so smart. I have this on my TBR list.


  3. Pingback: Mixing things up a little … or a lot – Just 4 My Books

  4. Great info! Many thanks for sharing! Going to check out this book now. 😉


  5. A. Connor Parr says:

    The novel I’m currently working on is a mixed-genre piece as well. For me, the most important part of writing is creating a good story, but I also know that labels are needed for marketing purposes. This definitely looks like a book I need to read!

    My process usually goes something like this:
    1. Write a chapter.
    2. Rewrite it 147 times.
    3. Repeat steps 1 and 2 for the next dozen or so chapters.
    4. Realize that you want to change one detail in your prologue that sends the story in a completely different direction.
    5. Scrap everything and start the novel again.
    6. Repeat steps 1 through 5 infinitely.

    But, seriously, this is the eighth draft of this novel. I NEED to work on my organization skills.


    • How funny, Connor! You sound (1) like the type of writers who are warned not to edit as they go and (2) like me—though I’m not quite that extreme. Really, this is the first time I gave up on the “edit as I go” approach to my writing and just got the blasted thing written with the intent to fix it in revision. The “edit as I go” approach worked great for my first four novels, but this one has been a total bear.

      If I could offer a word of advice (as one who knows): chase your rabbits on paper separately from the manuscript. See where they lead you before deciding to incorporate them into your work in progress. Figure out how you’d weave them in, what impact they’d have on the other characters and the plot, and how they’d affect the climax of the story. If you don’t keep control of those little wild hares that take you off on tangents, you’ll have a hard time developing a cohesive plot line. It’s easier to work all this out before you put it in. You may find the trails don’t take you where you want to go. Ya gotta keep control.

      Liked by 1 person

      • A. Connor Parr says:

        Thank you so much for the advice, Linda! I’ll try to bear the importance of that separation in mind when writing in the future (and yes, I have been told by my peers that I could write so much faster if I would just stop editing chapter-by-chapter).

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Pingback: The Revision Stage | Linda W. Yezak

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