What’s your big idea?

Lesson Progress:

What do you want to write? You have an idea about what you want to write, a vision of a story that needs to be told. Before you go any further, you need to flesh out your idea and decide in which genre and category you will be writing. What will be the best fit for your idea?

What are genres and categories?

A genre refers to the kind or type of literature you will be writing. For example, two main genres of writing are fiction and non-fiction. Each genre has its own distinctive style and characteristics and because of this a reader will also have certain expectations of works in each genre. Non-fiction readers expect to read only facts about a topic. Fiction readers expect an imaginary story that is not based solely on facts.

You will sometimes see a genre being referred to as a category. In Smashwords, for example, they list the genres or primary categories as Essay, Fiction, Non-fiction, Plays and Screenplays.

There are also many categories and sub-categories within each genre. Examples of common categories within Fiction are General Fiction; Science Fiction; Mystery & Detective; Adventure, Young Adult; Fantasy; Horror; Historical, Romance and many more.

Once you have chosen your genre, you will also need to decide whether you are going to write a very specific type of sub-genre. For example perhaps you are writing a collection of African poems or a Romance novel that is set in the period between 1811 and 1820.

Here are some of the more common categories for fiction:

  • Romance
  • Thriller (or Suspense)
  • Mystery/Crime
  • Science Fiction
  • Fantasy
  • Horror
  • Literary
  • General

The following table shows you examples of possible categories that you will find on Smashwords.

Genre (Primary category) Sub-category 1 Sub-category 2
Fiction Poetry African
Fiction Romance Regency
Fiction Plays & Screenplays African

There are many sub-categories listed in Smashwords. You will notice that some categories have a “greater than” symbol (>) next to them. When you click on these categories you will see further available sub-categories. You can watch this short clip for an example of some of the sub-categories available for Plays and Screenplays below.



Note, the WritePublishRead Assisted Self-publishing option accepts fiction only within these genres and at these word counts.

Genre Word count
Novel 40 000 words or more
Novella 17 500 to 39 999 words
Novelette 7 500 to 17 499 words
Short story 1000 to 7 500 words (one story)
Short story collection of own work 1 000 to 3 500 words per short story (10 to 15 stories)
Short reads/Flash fiction collection of own work 100 to 1 000 words per short read (5 to 10 short reads)
Drama (stage play) 5 000 to 10 000 words
Collection of poetry 20 to 50 poems