This is an old blog that I started in 2006. I keep it because it has a lot of historical data and people still come here. As of September 2016, no new updates will be made here. All new blog posts and writing/publishing related news will be posted over on my new site at

Monday, October 27, 2008

Defining What You Write

By Jennifer Hudson Taylor

It isn't enough to say, "I write historical fiction." 

A statement like that immediately invokes all kinds of other questions. 

"What time period is it set?" 

"Do you mean historical romances?" 

"Like westerns?" 

Then I can clarify, "well… books are more like Christian fiction historical romances." But that still doesn't clarify a time period or a setting. So if you're a writer like me who has written an Irish historical, an English Regency, a Scottish Medieval, a South Carolina historical, a Missouri historical, and a contemporary—what's a writer to say? 

It would be helpful to narrow it down to a sentence, or better yet, a tagline. You can work on building an author brand around your tagline. This will help with marketing by word of mouth, fitting a short description in tight spaces for postcards, bookmarks, and blog and website ads. Also, it will give you an identity as an author. People need to feel like they "know" you. 

Obscurity does not sell. 

Confidence sells. Boldness sells. 

Niche sells even better. 

But how do you do that? How do you narrow down what you write when it covers a broad time period and various places? If you're like me, you don't want to narrow yourself into a tight little box. Creativity hates to be stifled, and writers are by nature, creative individuals. Follow with me through the process of defining what I write. 

Start with a Sub-Genre
What do you write the most? With six historicals and one contemporary, I'd be classified as a historical writer more so than contemporary. My future plans include several more historicals, but only a few contemporaries. What we've written and what we plan to write will establish our author identity. 

I write historical fiction. 

Choose a Theme or Element
All of my books include elements of faith and romance, but to me the faith is the more important element. In some of my books the romance is more than 50% of the plot and in other books the romance is less than 50% of the plot. Therefore, if I need to eliminate this word, I can.

What about you? What are the themed elements included in all your books? 

I write Christian fiction historical romance. 

Establish Time Period
My earliest book is set in Medieval times and I know I have no desire to write in an earlier time period such as in Biblical times., Here I can set a beginning boundary. My latest historical is set in Victorian times, but I have a planned novel that I know will be set during the late 1920's. Also, the time period of the 1940's and WWII appeal to me so I would be better off setting my ending time period at WWII. 

I write Christian fiction historical romance from Medieval to WWII. 

Establish Setting
So far, my American books are set in Missouri and South Carolina, even my Missouri characters are from North Carolina, so both have the Carolina theme. This will narrow down my American setting from 52 states to a couple of states. It will also give my characters the ability to roam from the Carolinas to other places. At least one main character must be from a Carolina state to fit in with the Carolina theme. 

I also have books set in Ireland, Scotland, and England. None of the characters in these books are Carolinians, but couldn't they emigrate to the Carolinas to bridge the theme? While my written stories are not immigration stories, I could tie in the Carolina theme by writing immigration stories in the future. All of these countries are based in Europe so this gives me a broad, but distinct setting.

I write Christian fiction historical romance set in Europe and the Carolinas ranging from Medieval to WWII. 

Now that I have it down to a sentence, I can edit the wording. The time period already indicates historical, so that word can be deleted. I want to emphasize an open door to contemporaries depending on which way the market swings and what I have on my heart to write. Therefore, I'm going to substitute WWII for contemporary. To cut the length I also delete romance.

I write Medieval to contemporary Christian fiction set in Europe and the Carolinas. 

And there you have it. A short, but precise description of what I write. If you are a writer, try this process out for yourelf to define what you write. What you end up with doesn't have to be your tagline, but if it's witty enough, it might serve as a tagline as well.