When is a series not a series? And when is a genre not a genre? by Sheila Deeth

I typed “The End” a few days ago. The end of my next novel, Imaginary Numbers: The final scene, where I finally know whodunnit, when, how and why… and I wonder if I’ve rushed throu

gh the revelations too fast for the reader, because I was too eager to understand. I think I might conclude I’m not a mystery writer, but that’s all right; Imaginary Numbers isn’t really a mystery. It’s not really a romance either, though it’s protagonists might be falling in love. It’s not really drama, though it’s pretty dramatic when David reads his mother’s obituary while he’s talking to her on the phone. (My continued thanks to Pat Bertram, author of More Deaths Than One, already published by Indigo Sea, for letting me play with her premise.) It’s not really…

obituaries

Ugh! Why do I want to classify my book? They say it’s so it can go on the right shelf of the library (Why not an Indigo Sea shelf, or a Sheila Deeth one?), so Amazon customers can type in a few words to find it (Then list all the genres it fits instead of choosing one), or perhaps… just perhaps it’s to keep a tighter rein on my pen (or my typing fingers) so I don’t stray too far from the path, so I don’t lose the reader on the way.

Imaginary Numbers is set in the same small town as Divide by Zero, Infinite Sum and Subtraction (at least, a few short scenes of Subtraction). It stars some of the same bit-players. It’s part of the same Mathemafiction series, woven between the same events…

…and there I lost my way, because Imaginary Numbers is not about what happened in Divide by Zero; it doesn’t need to grow on the same patch of green, by the same paths, in the same park… It doesn’t need to slow down while other events take place, or crash into a wall while the author explains…

I have some very generous friends who’ve been reading my chapters as they grew. The last set I gave them were rejects — too much stuff about too many people who really didn’t matter to the story, events that really had no bearing on it, and ideas I only included because I was weaving, weaving, weaving the threads of those other books into places they didn’t belong…

…because I’d forgotten to classify my novel! It’s not a mystery or a romance. It’s not about Troy trying not to be his father, Sylvia recovering from abuse, or Andrew trying to believe there’s still good in the world; it’s not about what happened in Paradise Park; it’s about the other guy at the garage — the guy who read his mother’s obituary and found that nothing he believed was quite as it seemed, and wondered why.

A writers’ job isn’t to tangle the stories together, not even if they’re part of a series; the writer’s task is to set them free. So I rewrote, teased threads apart, rewove, and typed “The End.” Next week my friends will see how the novel changed; I hope, perhaps, to please them. One day I’ll hope to please you too, but not till the story’s threads are separate and tight. Till then I’ll tend and mend it with the aid of great friends.

Thank you so, so much to my great critique partners: Jean, Judy and Karin! And thank you again to Pat Bertram for the story’s seed. I’m so thrilled I’ll really get to meet you soon!

Sheila Deeth is the author of Divide by Zero, Infinite Sum and Subtraction, all published by Indigo Sea Press. Pat Bertram is one of her first ever online friends, and the author of many wonderful books also published by Indigo Sea. Jean, Judy and Karin are members of the Writers’ Mill.

10 Comments

Filed under books, musings, Sheila Deeth, writing

10 responses to “When is a series not a series? And when is a genre not a genre? by Sheila Deeth

  1. Wow! I’m famous! I’d forgotten about that obituary contest to promote More Deaths Than One. So glad you finally wrote the book. And I am truly delighted that we will finally meet. Best of luck with your new book.

  2. It sounds great, Sheila. Having just written a “romance” novel that really isn’t (because the characters are already married), I understand what you mean about writing books that don’t fit into any genre. I guess I’m just a fiction writer who doesn’t like to color inside the lines? Congratulations on Imaginary Numbers!

  3. Sheila, I understand all you’re saying. For me, I knew I was writing a mystery, but when it was done, I had to decide about sub-genres. Was my book a cozy, a traditional mystery, and crime story? I settled on the traditional.
    The very best of luck with Imaginary Numbers!!!

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