Exploring Your Writing Genre
“After careful study, I decided to write and tell you what took place,” Luke 1:3.
Most of us want to write in the genre we prefer to read, but some of us also want to try other types of writing at least once. The Bible includes all genres too, and each can be highly effective. Although we usually think of the main writing categories as fiction, nonfiction, or poetry, only two genres technically exist as either fiction or nonfiction but with many subcategories following. For example:
Writing fiction can mean writing a full-length novel you place with a Christian book publisher or publish yourself. Or maybe you’ll write short stories, flash fiction (super short stories of literary quality), or children’s stories for church school take-home papers. If you’re interested in Bible times or other era of history, you might draw on that interest, too, by researching the culture, unusual events, and prominent places of a particular time. You might especially want to get to know well the Gospel stories Jesus told as parables to present listeners with timeless truths in a memorable, lively, and often humorous way.
Writing nonfiction can mean writing a full-length book on a topic that interests you or writing a blog or newspaper column on the subject. Or maybe you’ll be drawn to writing devotionals or Bible crossword puzzles and other word games. If you have teaching credentials or Bible schooling (preferably both), you may be led to write curriculum for your church’s denominational headquarters or Bible study guides for an interdenominational press. You might especially want to study the Gospels and Epistles, noting how the writers connected with God’s Word then used their own words to connect with readers.
Writing poetry can mean writing heavily rhymed and rhythmic poems to help children remember character-building Bible stories or to present on special occasions as greeting cards. If you prefer free verse, your poems might be poetic prayers to help build up the church Body of Christ or bring healing to our nation. Or maybe you’ll write environmentally-sensitive poetry to encourage secular readers to take care of the world God created. Generally poems provide experiences readers can relate to, so you might especially want to read Genesis 1, the Psalms, and poetic prophets such as Isaiah, Joel, and Habakkuk.
All sorts of experiences (preferably good ones!) can help your writing gain depth and a larger view, so a major job perk for Christian writers comes in knowing nothing goes to waste. Romans 8:28 puts that thought into a biblical perspective by saying, “For we know all things work together for good for those who love God and are called according to His purpose.” That’s why it is important to explore your writing genre.
Knowing God’s purpose for you will help you to establish priorities and keep your writing on track. The quality will improve, too, as you become familiar with classical and contemporary works in your favorite genre. Often this requires many readings as you first connect with a thought, story, or experience before returning to read again the parts that seemed exceptionally well-written – or not!
Paradoxically most of us learn from other people’s mistakes faster than our own. We read something poorly written and realize we don’t want our words to go on and on. Conversely, we read well-written works and think, “How did they do that?” Either way, the idea is to get to know diverse writings in your genre and assess what works well and what does not. As you find written examples that appeal to you as a reader, you’ll also find mentors, so to speak, of the types of writing you want to emulate or set as a high literary standard for the manuscripts you’ll soon write in your own unique voice.
Christian poet and writer Mary Harwell Sayler is a lifelong lover of Christ, the Bible, and the church in all its parts. Many of her traditionally published books, including her Christian Writer’s Guide e-book from which this article came, can be found on Amazon. Mary also offers resources for poets, writers, and other communicators for Christ through her website and a variety of blogs.