Hi everyone. I wrote a book, I've been writing it since the summer before I started high school, and now I'm in my senior year and looking to get published soon, and as I'm looking for agents, I've realized that I can't keep saying the genre of my book is "kinda fantasy, but not like high fantasy and like I have my own made up fantasy race, and it's really dark and written with a weird narrative voice."
So, I think the biggest thing that makes it hard to put my work in a genre is the way I wrote it. I really like experimenting with my writing, so I wrote the whole thing with no dialog. Like, it still has characters, and the characters still talk to each other, but there's no quotes. Like, instead of something like
"Ugh, that was a pretty worthless harvest," Izander said through bites of vegetables, "maybe we should go hun-" Nero eagerly interrupted him: "Yes, we absolutely should go hunting."
it's more like
Izander talked through a full mouth to complain about how little food they were able to get from the garden, and he barely even had to propose hunting before Nero heartily agreed.
(ew those quotes look so clunky but at least it's easier to read than trying to put both of those little scenes in the same paragraph, I guess)
So, that writing style is very weird and I've kind of taken it in stride by trying to keep a lot of narrative distance and make it feel like the reader is sort of watching these strange creatures (the characters in that example are a race called "syiks," btw) go about their lives, instead of trying to get them more... engaged? in the writing. My first instinct was like "okay so it has that weird writing style, so maybe it's literary" but I don't think my book is, like... Deep enough, or polished enough, or character focused enough (because it's hard to really get that literary character vibe going when none of the characters can use quotes), or realistic enough to be literary, so I don't think I can sell it as literary.
It also has that fantasy race (real brief rundown, syiks don't die of old age, they can respawn if their blood remains in tact outside of their body, they kill because it's the only way to absorb life energy and humans are by far the best prey, 99% of them are psychopaths n sadists, they're basically ninjas, and their magical abilities are equal to about that of a talented but untrained human in a world where mostly only elves use magic.) and a little bit of magic (not much, they just have runes that they can charge with energy and then expend for a certain effect), but that's most of the fantasy about it. It takes place basically on a version of Earth that has syiks and a little bit of magic, and human settlements are just, mundane, because humans can't at all use magic and there's no special artifacts or anything that give them power like that. Yeah, the book is technically fantasy, but it really doesn't give off that vibe at all, especially not with the writing style. I don't think there's enough adventure or anything, and the magic is used more just for author convenience than anything else.
So I'm like, okay maybe I can just categorize it by audience, like YA or whatever. But I really don't know. I don't think it can be YA because it doesn't have enough or the right kind of character growth and interaction, and the plot is about Nero trying to betray the syiks in order to save the humans from their tyranny, but he keeps growing more aggressive and selfish until it's more about getting revenge through genocide of the syiks, and in the end Nero realizes he can't even be happy living among the humans he worked to save. And that's kind of, uh. Not a YA plot, I don't think. Nero does have one slight romance subplot, but it's weird and kinda forced 'cause it's just there to enforce Nero's inability to really connect with people, and to add weight to an already important plot point when he accidentally kills his love interest (btw, another dilemma: all the syiks are gay b/c I'm gay and I wanna write cool gay ninjas (also b/c they're immortal and they don't wanna keep making more people to compete for resources with), but, uh they're also all sadistic psychopaths, and aside from Nero himself, they're the villains, even if it's only because they're, like, lawful neutral and the "laws" are bad? And Nero's plot revolves around hating himself, murdering people, and trying + failing to be something he's not, so... I think it'd be pretty tacky to try to market this stuff as LGBT in any way, so that whole situation might be a lil weird) but again, it's just not enough to really be "YA." Also according to my mom (the only person I could get to read my entire first draft), it's "reaaalllly gory," which supposedly isn't okay for whatever audience is gonna be reading a book that doesn't have cuss words in it? (personally I think it's fine to have or not have gore in YA stuff but neither of us are experts so idk) I don't think the gore is that bad, but yeah I do go into fairly graphic detail on battle scenes. I think most YA books have at least a couple fight scenes, in my experience, but I guess the way I write mine, where like half the battles are kinda blase instead of being intense and important to progressing the plot, sorta sets me a little apart from YA tradition? Idk.
I feel like overall, my book is too literary and dark to be YA, even aside from its lack of a YA plot, so next I'm thinking, maybe it's adult fiction? But, like... I'm a teenager. I wrote this as a teenager, and I feel relatively certain that my work doesn't quite have the maturity to be "adult fiction." I don't really know how to elaborate on that, but I guess, like... The plot is too shallow, there aren't a lot of, like... -[serious]- scenes, like nothing with the vibe of serious fiction where characters deal with real life issues like getting fired or having to rethink a relationship or whatever, in reasonable and mature ways? Idk I guess when I think about adult fiction I think about characters having to find complex solutions to complex problems in their lives, and my book doesn't really have that on any relatable scale? I mean there's Nero trying to figure out how he's gonna stay on the humans' side after he's forced by another syik to go on a killing spree or whatever. But yeah.
Sooo... Yeah. I have no idea if I can really market this as the genres that it is, and I have no idea what age group I might be targeting.