So here's a question - do we label ourselves or do others put labels on us in relation to our writing? I think probably both occur. We might find a style of writing or a writing genre that we enjoy or perhaps it's a genre we read a lot of and perhaps want to emulate. One of the guys who joined the writing group is a poet by choice but wanted to extend his reach and so now usually writes a short story each month. However, his stories are filled with poetic sentences and his scenes or characters are usually beautifully described to a depth that I don't ever reach. He simply can't help but write this way - this is what he naturally leans towards. Even his flash ficiton is poetic in form or so it seems to a non-poet like myself.
In addition, it seems that other people can put a label on you too (not always just in relation to writing etiher but that's another story and probably one best left for my work based blog). I think this occurs particuarly at publishing stage (not that I know from experience - yet!) As your publisher starts to market you and your book they need a way of categorising you. It's about niches. It's about fitting you into an already existing slot so that readers can find you easily and buy a genre they enjoy. It's all about the money of course! I know that if I head over to the chic-lit section of the book store, there are likely to be lots of pastel coloured book covers, some featuring sophisticated looking young women and cupcakes (I know I'm being terribly stereo-typical here, but I'm sure you know what I mean). If I I go to the Horror section and buy a Stephen King book, I know exactly what I'm getting into.
In many ways this is helpful especially to the reader. The publisher has already done the categorising on my behalf. I can stroll into a bookstore with something in mind, browse the relevant section and hopefully get what I want. It's important if you're interested in getting published to think about your genre in advance as your publisher is going to want it to be as easy as possible to market you and your work. We may like to think that the book we are writing is genre-free, it simply can't be categorised, it doesn't fit into a slot. We're unique aren't we and so is our writing? Yet, you know if you do get published, someone, somewhere is going to have to place your book on the shelf. They're going to take a look at the cover and the title and decide where you should go. Do you want to end up amongst Vampire Romance when you clearly don't fit there.
You think it can't happen - well here's an example of how it can all very easily go wrong even in a title. In our local newsagent the fabulous Wallpaper magazine which is a design, fashion and lifestyle magazine can be found sitting among home interiors and decor simply based on it's title. So if you're about to jump on the publishing bandwagon, take a little time out to consider your genre or niche before you proceed - after all once you've got the opportunity to have an audience read your book, you certainly don't want to be misfiled!