Thursday, March 17, 2011

Literary Fiction- Am I Alone?

Song of the Day: Eleanor Rigby by The Beatles

    Hello all! Today I wanted to talk about the type of writing I write. I'm working towards becoming an author of literary fiction. I recently read a blog post that was a rant about literary fiction and literary fiction authors. The post stated that literary fiction is dying and that most people read genre fiction (i.e. horror, fantasy, sci-fi, romance, mystery, etc.) The post was really more of a comeback to literary fiction authors who look down on genre writers. I am not one of those writers. I actually read everything except horror/sci-fi/fantasy and that is due to religious reasons. There was a point in my life where I explored writing both YA and romance. When I did try it out, it felt forced, and "not me." I decided that deep down I always knew I wanted to write literary fiction and I wondered why I tried to fight it. Was I denying it because it wasn't the "popular" kind of writing? At the time, I can say that I was genuinely confused, however I do think there was this underlying denial of literary fiction because it isn't very popular. But is literary fiction really dying?

    To be honest, I have no idea. I will admit that I've noticed that most people read genre fiction. The YA market seems to be VERY HOT right now. I've read in quite a few places that romance dominates the book market.

    I also see this trend on blogspot. I've noticed that the majority of blogs I come across are created and run by YA writers. I absolutely love YA. My two wonderful writer friends and adopted sisters, Pam and Quita, write and blog about YA. It's because of them that I have a better understanding about it. BUT I don't write YA. I write literary fiction, and I'm finding that it's hard to come by writers like me. It's quite the lonely world.

    I officially decided that I wanted to write literary fiction last year. Okay, I admit that I like to rebel on certain things. At my MFA program there was a very heated debate about transparent writing v. translucent writing v. opaque writing. Many professors turned their noses up at the transparent writing and stated that they preferred literature that was opaque. I felt so strongly that I blogged about it. I said that people should write whatever they want to write about and that it shouldn't matter whether it was transparent or opaque. One isn't better than the other. At my program genre writing is frowned upon, though no one will openly admit this. I didn't like that and I think that's why I ended up even exploring women's fiction, romance, and YA. I wanted to show them that could write in a genre and write well. But, again, it wasn't for me. I was only doing it for the sake of "showing them."

    I made my decision to write literary fiction anyway. I knew it was going to be hard, but I like a challenge. Things in my life have never come easy, and I guess writing is no exception. At the AWP conference this past February I saw my writer idol, Joyce Carol Oates and after hearing her speak, there was not a doubt in my mind that I wanted to write literary fiction. She is such an inspiration. She primarily writes literary fiction, but she also writes YA, mystery, and horror. She writes in all these genres and she is BRILLIANT. Her work is phenomenal and always leaves you mesmerized at the end. That's the kind of fiction I want to write.

    There may be a point where I feel like writing in another genre, but for now, I'm focusing on literary fiction. I enjoy connecting with any writer in general, because where I am I just don't have the "writer support system." It would be nice though, to connect with writers who write what I write.

What do you think? Is literary fiction dying? Am I looking in the right places for writers who write it?


  1. First of all- fist pump to your song of the day! Second, I DON"T think literary fiction is dying. I think there will always be a place for it in the writing world. I also feel like you can be a YA writer who writes literary fiction. I think you can be a romance/horror writer who writes literary fiction. This can be a view that only I share, but I thought literary fiction was works that focused on character more than plot/action. If so, then this is what I mainly write. I often forget about plot and action and have to add it in in revisions b/c I'm so busy getting down and dirty with my character (okay, that sounds weird...) Anyway, I think this is a great topic and I hope more people weigh in because I would love to hear what people have to say about this.

  2. Eleanor Rigby? Only one of the best Beatles songs ever! Okay, on to your topic--I agree with Quita. I don't think literary fiction is going anywhere. In fact, there's a really popular YA book that just came out last year that people consider literary (The Sky is Everywhere). And I have yet to read a Joyce Carol Oates novel (don't worry, this will be solved shortly), but it seems like no matter what genre she transcends, it's still literary. Does that make sense? To me, literary fiction is all about characterization, where as commercial fiction is more plot driven. I think as long as the readers resonate somehow with your characters, literary fiction won't go anywhere. :)

  3. I gotta admit: I'm not a huge fan of literary fiction. I'll read it if the story intrigues me, but most people I know who read lit fic has soured my opinion of it. That said, it's definitely not dead and there's so much crossover with literary fiction now. Before it used to be this nebulous writing thing, but in recent years it's gotten more commercial appeal.

    And I always forget how creepy Eleanor Rigby is until I hear some of the creepier covers of that song. *shudder*

  4. I love literary fiction, and write some literary fiction. I don't think it will ever die because there will always be people who appreciate the beauty of language. But I do think that the definition of literary fiction is changing... you can introduce elements of genre fiction into lit fic for a whole new experience (such as sci fi in Time Traveler's Wife or Never Let Me Go). This is a good thing as it brings new readers to that market.

  5. I read across genres, but have to admit that I don't read much literary fiction. That said, I don't believe that form is dying or will ever die. What dies pretty quickly are fads.

    More power to you for knowing what it is you want to write.

  6. I think what's most important is that you've found something you LOVE to write. That's what matters. Regardless of the genre, if the book is amazing, it will find a home with a publisher. you shouldn't force yourself to write something else if it isn't "you." I feel this way about contermporary YA. It isn't dying but also isn't as trendy as paranormal, dystopian and fantasy book. But it's the only thing I really want to write so I'm doing it. That's what matters to me. :)