**No movie spoilers**
A long time ago on a blog that’s now far away from a regular posting schedule, myself and a buddy had a debate about predictability versus surprise in fiction.
Quite unwittingly, this discussion arose on the heels of an entirely different examination of pantsing versus plotting.
(For the record on that account, I like to know where my story is going before I start and to rough out as much of the journey as I’m aware of up front, but I’m in no way wedded to it, nor do I subscribe to the notion that plotting will rob a story of the joy and magic of actually writing it. But you can read more about all that yourself.)
This post is more accurately titled “Should Female Writers Abbreviate Their Names?”, since they are, it seems, the writers who most commonly do so.
The short and simply answer to the question is, of course, “They should do whatever they want.” For I’m not here to dictate otherwise, especially given the numerous different reasons a female writer would choose to use her initials instead of her full name:
- She had a given name that’s difficult to pronounce or spell
- To create a new identify for writing in a different genre
- To maintain a measure of distance from her non-writing life
- Because another author has her exact same name
- Because she dislikes for her given name
- To emulate classical male writers who used abbreviations, such as C.S. Forrester, C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and J.D. Salinger
Just to name a few.
One of the most important and oft-cited tenets of marketing is to identify your target audience.
When it comes to books, an easy was to start doing this is through identifying your novel’s genre, thereby making your target audience the readers of said genre.
Many writers descry genre. I’ve hear it stated that genre conventions impose limits to creativity and the possibilities a writer can introduce into a story.
Some also claim that genre is a means by which the traditional publishing industry pigeonholes the market by only publishing stories adhering to this or the other trend, which ultimately comes to define various genres as a whole (e.g. the dystopian trend in YA).
Yet, whether one agrees with the above statements or not, genre is the means by which readers have been trained to locate books within the publishing landscape. Whether a book is traditionally published or self-published, it’s the GPS that helps lead readers to the promised land of similar content and fulfilled expectations.
According to bestselling sci-fi author Hugh Howey,
[W]riting within a genre is a huge first step in becoming discovered. No one is looking for you or your particular book. You are both unknown unknowns. So you better write a book that’s near a specific book…. Random fantasy books sell better than random randomness.
But what happens when your book doesn’t quite fulfill those expectations? What happens when it meets some of the conventions of its genre, yet blithely disregards others?
What happens if your book is like my book?
I have no idea whose going to want to read my book.
Don’t get me wrong, I know of several individuals who claim they’re anxiously awaiting the momentous day that I deliver unto them a copy of my novel-in-progress’s final draft:
- Friends who have had to listen to my talk about my opus for far too long
- Former coworkers
- Select family members
(My mother, at this point, is only a “maybe”, but I’m fairly confident I’ll be able to either strong-arm or guilt-trip her into the task.)
But in terms of actual readers who are neither emotionally nor relationally obligated to me, I’m not really sure.
Particularly when it comes to actual male readers.