There is a bewildering number of types of novels, and it is important that you know from the outset which of the fiction genres your own masterpiece will slot into.
It is a risky strategy to write a novel without having a clear idea of the position the novel will occupy in the literary marketplace...
Publishing a novel is a business, not a charity for creative types. True, it is a more far-sighted business than film production, for example.
If you are a screenwriter and your screenplay shows promise but nevertheless "isn't quite there," production companies won't touch it.
Book publishers are more likely to say: "Well, this guy isn't going to make any money with his first book, but his writing shows enough promise to do well with his second or third novel."
But, still, publishing isn't a charity.
If your books won't make money for the publishers - if not straight away then at least two or three years down the line - then they won't want to know you.
In other words, it is not enough for your novels to merely be good, they also need to be commercial - and one way that you can help to ensure that they are commercial is to make them fit into a specific category of fiction, one with a ready-made audience who regularly purchase the types of novels within that category.
Think of novels like products in a supermarket...
This is precisely what you must avoid when you write your novel, and it is what this guide to the types of novels is all about.
"If there's a book you really want to read, but it hasn't been written yet, then you must write it."
- Toni Morrison
Broadly speaking, fiction can be divided into three varieties: literary, genre, and mainstream. The first thing you need to do when deciding what kind of novel you want to write is to come down in one camp or the other...
There is a lot of information to absorb in the three articles above, and so I have written a summary of your options which will hopefully help you to make up your mind once and for all: What Type of Novel Is Best?
Oh, and here's one last article for you: What Is a Novel's Purpose?
What does the purpose of fiction have to do with types of novels? Quite a lot, as it turns out. This article is about what the three main types of novels (genre, literary and mainstream) have in common - indeed, must have in common.
If after reading all of the information above, you have decided to write literary or mainstream fiction, you can get on with the next task in my 12-Step Guide to How to Write a Novel (i.e. finding an idea).
They are pretty much "rule free", meaning you are free to proceed in your own way.
On the other hand, genre fiction - crime novels, horror novels, and so on - is governed by rules, and you must more or less stick to them if you wish to be successful.
Notice I say "more or less" stick to the rules. All great novel writers, whether they are working within one of the fiction genres or not, write books which are distinctively theirs. It is this originality that has helped them to become the successes they are.
Nevertheless, the rules exist.
The trick, then, is to learn what fans of horror fiction, for example, expect of horror novelists, and then to both meet these expectations and throw something original into the mix. The articles below should help you to do precisely that.
The first thing is to decide which genre of fiction in particular you intend to specialize in. This series of articles is a comprehensive overview of all the options open to you. The genres I look at here are:
Also on this page, you will find a reading list of specialist guides devoted to each genre. It is impossible for me - or for anybody - to provide expert information on how to write every imaginable category of novel. My job is to teach you how to write novels in general, or any novel.
Reading a guide to the specific type of novel you intend to specialize in is a great way of learning any specific demands of that genre.