Genre Basics - Western - article

The western genre is a dying breed. Perhaps that statement is a little overdramatic, but it would be hard to argue that the western novel has a popular place in American fiction today. Up through the mid-20th Century it was a very popular genre, but the interest in it has waned. That being said, manuscripts for this genre tend to be somewhere between 75-95K words, and can appeal to both men and women, depending on the novel’s sub-genre. 

Like most sweeping genres, with the setting being its main identifier, such as the Old West, there are numerous sub-genres, including cattle drives, the Civil War, quests and romance.

One of the most historically famous authors of this genre is Zane Grey, while the more current and notable authors today include Cormac McCarthy (Blood Meridian) and Larry McMurty (Lonesome Dove). McMurty’s novel remains one of the most famous western novels of the last 50 years, and when someone is asked to name one, he very likely could come up with Lonesome Dove. 

If you are an author and considering writing in the western genre, it would be wise to think about other genres your book can fit into, with historical fiction being one of the more likely contenders. When you write a western, you should keep in mind that even though most bookstores do not have a western section anymore, there are a number of books still being written that are set in the “Wild West.” Your challenge is going to be choosing the best way to market your work.

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