How to Find Your Novel’s Genre and the Perfect Guidebooks to Help You Write It

I struggled to find what I wanted to write until I created a method that guarantees the book I write will be one that I love and readers will too

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

What do you love to read?

If you want to write a novel but you are unsure where to start then begin with what you love to read.

Set a timer for 5 minutes and write a list of novels you love. Don’t think about it too much, don’t dive into research, just write.

When the timer goes off, you’ll have a list of books that can be used as the inspiration for your novel.

Choose two from the list

Next, you are going to choose two of those books you love that will be the parents of your novel. Imagine the two of them got together and had a beautiful book baby. It will be the best of both them.

Wouldn’t you love to read that novel?

Two things to be aware of here:

  • Don’t choose two that are too similar. If they are in the same series, or by the same author, then they are probably not a pairing to choose. Incestuous relationships will not result in good offspring — their genes are too similar.
  • Don’t choose two that will never agree. We don’t want our bookchild to be raised by two warring parents who can’t agree on anything. Winnie the Pooh and Silence of the Lambs is probably not going to work.

You are looking for two books that will appear in the same section of the bookshop, but maybe not on the same shelf. They have their own distinct personalities.

For example, I might choose The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern and The House in the Cerulean Sea by T. J. Klune.

What do you love about these books?

Set a timer for 5 minutes and write down what you love about the first book.

Repeat this for the second book.

Genre discovery

Go to and search for the first of your two books.

Look at the genre line and write down the list:

The Night Circus: Fantasy, Fiction, Romance, Historical Fiction, Magical Realism, Magic, Young Adult, Adult, Audiobook, Historical

Repeat for your other book:

The House in the Cerulean Sea: Fantasy, Fiction, LGBT, Romance, Young Adult, Audiobook, Queer, Adult, Magic, Contemporary

Find the common ground

Write down a list of the common genres:

Fantasy, Romance, Young Adult, Adult

(I’ve missed off categories that don’t really define the book such as Fiction and Audiobook)

Now choose from the other genres listed, any that particularly appeal to you for your novel

Magical realism, Queer

Combining the common genres with the ones you have selected gives you the genre of the book you are going to write.

Warning signs

  • No common genres — maybe they don’t have enough in common for your childbook to thrive. It might be possible to write a book that combines them, but it will be difficult and you may not have an audience for your book. It will likely be a mishmash of genres that won’t please the readers of either of those books.
  • Identical genres — maybe they are too close and any resulting bookchild will have the worst features of both amplified, rather than the best. (recessive genes coming out in the offspring…)

If either of these situations occur then go back and choose another pairing from your list.


The two you have chosen can act as guidebooks for your novel writing. Whenever you get stuck, you can refer to them for ideas on how to proceed.

Reader Experience

On, go to the page for your first guidebook and find the five star reviews.

Read through the first ten reviews looking for language that mentions the emotions that the book made the reader feel. List all the emotive words that you find.

The Night Circus: Magic, Love, Enchantments, Wonder, Fairy Tale

Now repeat this for your second guidebook.

The House in the Cerulean Sea: Delight, Warmth, Acceptance, Caring, Heart, Humour, Fairy Tale

Consider these lists and your reasons for loving the books. Pick out the top three emotions that you want your book to bring out in the reader.

This is the first step in writing your novel. If you would like to receive the following steps, then subscribe to my newsletter here.

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