Label Me

I’ve discovered I’m really bad at labels.

You know, like choosing labels for the blog posts. Like on yesterday’s post, I wanted some kind of label that would reference the way I fret over the animals, the small and the weak. I know it’s one of my themes that I revisit, but how do I summarize that in a word or two? That’s why I write the meandering story about the several things coming together. It doesn’t quite gel into a word or two for me.

I mean, scroll down and look at my label list at the bottom of the blog (you don’t have to – it’s a mess). I have hundreds of labels, I’m sure. So much so that I suspect it’s worthless to try to find anything through my labels. Hell, I can’t find what I’m looking for in that enormous label cloud.

I even created a spreadsheet now (you know how I love my spreadsheets) where I put in each post, which photo I use and the labels. Theoretically this should organize me. I’ve tried imposing a moratorium on creating new labels, to try to force myself to stay within the 972 I already created. (No, that’s not an accurate number – I guessed. I’m not counting them.)

Oh, and look, I created a new label today: labels.

It’s like a sickness.

I think of this when I see agents make scathing remarks about how they don’t understand how authors can possibly not know what genre they’re writing. Now, we all know agents specialize in scathing remarks. It’s pretty much a tool of the trade. But it always makes me want to stomp my little foot and whine that it’s really hard.

No, Tawna, I mean difficult.

I totally get why categorizing by genre is important. As a reader, I look for sections in the bookstore. The marketers need to know how to telegraph the story’s promise. Agents use it to target particular editors. I understand that there are genre conventions that establish the contract between the writer and the reader. All of that makes perfect sense.

But ask me to identify genre for a story and I fall apart.

It’s not just my stories, either. I’ve practiced and worked at identifying what genre a book or movie falls into. It rarely clicks for me. It’s like trying to describe a person in one or two words. He’s a Western guy. She’s a New Yorker.

The storyteller in me always wants to take it a few steps farther. He wears a King Ropes ballcap, stopped hunting years ago and carries a dog-eared copy of Napoleon Hill in his pocket. She’d leave New York, even with all its promises of glittering success, if it wouldn’t seem like such a concession to everyone who said the city crushed girls like her.

I suspect what makes a good agent is the ability to condense a story to its key element and target the right market. What makes a good writer is the ability to spin a story, an entire world or universe of people, from something minute.

It’s the difference between deductive and inductive reasoning. Not all of us are good at both.

Dammit, I just created another label.

9 Replies to “Label Me”

  1. There was some interesting talk about genre at the writers conference I attended a few weeks ago.

    First, when the agent panel was asked to describe the hairsplitting differences between certain genres (one persona asked about chick lit vs. upmarket women's fiction vs. contemporary women's fiction, and there was another question about subgenres within fantasy) they really couldn't do it and didn't even seem to think it was so important.

    Someone there made the point that many of the real big hits in terms of novels don't fit cleanly into one genre or another – they're kind of hard to classify.

    Personally, I wish they just stuck everything under "literature" and let me – as the book buyer – find what looked interesting.

  2. I tend to think in the broad sense when it comes to labels. Romance. Paranormal. That's it. If I try to dig deeper, I'd be completely lost.

  3. In World of Warcraft, we'd call this 'alt-itis'. You can't figure out who or what you are, so you create an alt character of every class and type. Yeah. I've got it. What I can say for your label disease, though? I've learned to never, ever hit control/end to take me to the bottom of the page. 😉

  4. That's interesting, Lt. – I do think the affinity for genre depends on the agent. I tend to notice the ones who are rabid on the topic. And I agree – the books I've loved most I've found "by accident," not by looking for the exact thing.

    Ha, Linda!

    Me too, Danica.

  5. No, Tawna, I mean difficult.

    I spat out my wine when I read that!

    But I agree, I have the same problem. I'm glad I can't add tags or labels to my blog posts and genre?! Even my shortest short stories confuse me. I think that creative people just don't think that way – while organisers do, so maybe that's why the author/agent issue?

  6. ~pats Kelly on the head~ that's nice, dear!

    Glad to make you laugh, Sylvia. I agree – I think it takes a certain way of thinking to be good at that.

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