Writing Books/labels


There is a story about a game warden trying to find out who is killing hunters. One reviewer calls it another "thriller" So is the book "a thriller" "mystery" or "detective story?" Why not "commercial fiction?" What I am getting at is there is confusion as to how to label a novel. But genre fiction follows a type of format where certain things are expected?


Correct. "Commercial fiction" is ALL fiction, because all fiction is commercial (versus niche, which appeals to a small demographic, or literary that doesn't rely on certain elements as part of the make-up.) The general fiction shelf is a catch-all for those books that don't easily fall onto one genre shelf or another in a bookstore. That's all genre is---the shelving in the bookstore. But the shelves are based on certain elements that readers EXPECT to see, book after book. Here's a general overview:

"Detective story" generally implies a series, like Monk, Ellery Queen or Nero Wolfe. They deal with that particular detective and the cases he solves. But it's about the PERSON too, not just the mysery. Police procedurals and hard-boiled are two types of detective stories.

"Mystery" is just about the same as a detective story, but there  are categories that make it fall outside the detectives, such as amateur sleuth (Miss Marple, where Poirot would be more a "detective" story, since that was his life's work), and cozy mystery fall within the genre. There's usually little physical danger involved. It's just a matter of solving the problem.

"Suspense" novels aren't quite thrillers, although they're shelved in the same location because they have many of the same elements. Suspense novels depend on subtle fear as a plot device, rather than action toward thwarting of the bad guy's plans. Often, too, suspense novels threaten ONE person, the protagonist.

"Thriller" novels are mysteries with lots of action---car chases, explosions (or defusing bombs) etc. So, a mystery with action becomes a thriller. A mystery with lots of nail-biting, nerve-wracking worry is often called a suspense. A mystery with just the pursuit of the question remains a "mystery" and shows up on those shelves.

Does that help? :)


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Cathy Clamp


I'm happy to answer questions about any aspect of writing novels, from the beginning kernel of an idea through completion. I can help with writing a query letter and synopsis to an agent or editor. I can explain publishing terminology and acronyms. I can also assist with questions about verifying the credentials of agents/publishers and how to proceed once you've been accepted for publication. I can teach the rules of formatting a manuscript, creating viable plots, characterization and flow in the following genres: romance, science fiction, fantasy, thrillers, suspense, horror, women's fiction, mainstream and mystery.


I'm a USA Today bestselling author of urban fantasy and paranormal romance for Tor/Forge Books. Along with a co-author, I've published fifteen novels (combination of mass market and trade softcover) since 2003, and have contracts for four more books through 2011.

Romance Writers of America, Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America, International Thriller Writers, Western Outdoor Writers, Horror Writers of America.

Tor/Forge Books, Western Reflections Publishing, BenBella Books, Running Press, Wild Child Publishing. Many others.

My educational background is limited to real life experience of publishing novels commercially for the past five years.

Awards and Honors
USA Today bestseller, Waldenbooks Mass Market Paperback Top 20 bestseller, Nielsen BookScan Top 20 bestseller, RT BOOKreviews Career Achievement Award winner, 2009, Book Buyers Best Award for Paranormal, Romantic Times Best Werewolf Novel, Write Touch Readers Award, EVVY Best Historical Chronicle Award, The Lories Best Paranormal. Many others.

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