Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Literary and commercial fiction

I don't typically do this but this particular post called out to me. Readers who don't care about fanciful writing questions should come back tomorrow for the basic slush.

First, one must link to this blog where Lady Glamis of The Innocent Flower asks the question:

Question For the Day: What does the word "literary" mean to you? How much of it do you include in your own work? And if you do, do you feel that you are choosing a smaller target audience?

Ah, good question. It's like you dove into my head.

Literary, to me, means writing the way I wish I could write. Let me try to explain, because this is tricky.

See, I love many authors. Danielle Steele and Maeve Binchy for my lazy afternoons on the beach (these come about once every three years, but I still appreciate them). I also love P.D. James, Ruth Rendell, Yann Martel - etc. etc. etc.

The difference is that I view the commercial fiction as the easy fiction. Easy to write, easy to read. Literary takes time. Each sentence is perfect. It tells a story in a way that is more than like two friends talking over a cuppa. There are layers, perhaps.

I love both kinds. Kind of like I love both my children, even though they are different. However, and this is the crux of it all, while I like to write literary and I know that I can, I tend to write commercial because it is easy. I vision my life as playing out something like this: while I am busybusy with the children and this NEVERENDINGINFERNALEFFINGRENOVATION I will write my easy commercial fiction. To say it's easy means it just flows off the end of the fingers; the stories never stop, and if I had the time and the energy I would probably write all day long.

Once life is....word choice is key here...once life is manageable, easier, simple, oozing time...once that happens I will write where I must take my time. Where I put much effort into it. Where I may write a page or two and that will be exhausting.

Each of these are a whole different creative for me. I love them both, I can only do one at a time.

And that is okay with me.


Davin Malasarn said...

You brought up a great point here. I definitely agree with your definition on the reading side of things. Commercial fiction is easier to read than literary fiction. I think writing commercial fiction can still be quite difficult for writers, though, depending on the person. I don't think I could ever be as exciting or as crowd-pleasing as many commercial much as I'd like to be! Cool post!

lotusgirl said...

I agree so much with you here. I think I could write literary, but I have chosen with the distractions of life to take what I consider the "easy" route. It has been a conscious decision. Since I write YA, I don't think the literary elements will be as appreciated. I want to appeal to a larger audience so I include less literary. I can't stay away from it completely because it is what is in me to a certain degree.

Alexa said...

I popped over from Lady Glam's blog after seeing you in the comments. I really loved this question and blogged about it too.

I agree about the reading commercial is so much easy but I don't think I agree about the writing. To write commercial well takes a lot of work and talent I think. There are a huge range of books out there and some are just far better written than others be they literary, commercial or YA or whatever.

Good Luck with your writing

spinregina said...

David - thanks for stopping by. I checked out your blog, very well written. Is there anywhere to read your stories?

Lois - I can't imagine you writing the easy route. I think you may be hard on yourself on that one. You are way too introspective & thoughtful. Unlike me, who is completely shallow and time pressed.

Alexa - I'm going to take what you said and apply to infer that you mean that of course my writing (commercial as it may be, and hey, that's what I get paid big bucks to do...or bucks, rather...)is good, even tho it's commercial.

Lisa and Laura said...

Based on your blog posts I would have pegged you as a literary writer. I'm sort of scared to know what Laura and I would be qualified as if you consider yourself commercial....

Yeah, don't answer that.

Lisa and Laura said...

Ahem, just read your post on our blog about reading the book. If you seriously have any desire to read it (and the time! you are one busy woman), we would absolutely love your thoughts. For the love of god, you're a professional editor, who wouldn't want you to read their book! Just don't feel obligated because we know how hard it is to write, work and be a mom. Add beta reader to the mix and that gets downright scary.

And I'll miss your little Canadian flag too...sadly, if I bring my lap top to the Bahamas I'm 99% sure I'd come back single!

spinregina said...

Sorry, I am here and so I answer now, L&L: do I come off as pretentious???? pray god no

I think what matters is that (personally)is that both kinds are great. And there is some literay that is crap and some commercial that is fab. And I know lots of super educated and High Minded Writing-type People who would totally disagree, but whatev

Lisa and Laura said...

Not pretentious, just smart. As in WAY smarter than us.

If I had to guess your style of writing I would guess Marisa De Los Santos. She's one of my faves. Her books read like poems.

Justus M. Bowman said...

Interesting, and I think I know what you mean. A lot of commercial fiction would not survive a thorough inspection.

Davin Malasarn said...

Wow, thanks for asking to read my stories. Here's a link to a really short one that I wrote awhile ago.
I was actually asked to join the staff of this ezine years after this story, so I "work" there now.

Lisa and Laura said...

Sorry to keep hijacking your comments, but you need to see this:,,20261570,00.html

Rebecca Ramsey said...

This is off subject, but I just had to thank you for your kind review of my book! I so appreciate your taking time to do that! And I'm thrilled that you enjoyed it!
I'm sending you a big hug!

Laura Essendine said...

I did go through a phase of reading worthy "literary" fiction but, so often, I got to the end of the book and thought, great writing but where was the story?

The point of reading is not to see how clever the author can be but how great a tale he can tell. I really struggle with award winning literary fiction (even though I am educated to post-graduate level) I think there's a lot of the emperor's new clothes about it.

As an author, I'd much rather entertain the masses than impress a few academics.

A few people like John Irving and Ann Tyler make the crossover but, in the main, if I see "literary" in the description, it's a real turn-off, not a page turner.

Laura Essendine
The Accidental Guru Blog

spinregina said...

I had imagined it differently, a fade out rather than a death

Davin (I called you David before; apologies)...I just read your story. Loved it. Especially the line above. Now that's literary.

Lady Glamis said...

I love this post! I commented on it in my last post about what literary means.

I love that you mentioned layers. I write in layers, and I plan on doing a post about this soon. You and I are on the same wavelength!

Tara Maya said...

I like layers too. In my case, I'm trying to write genre fiction (fantasy) but I would like to layer different levels of meaning into it. My hope is to make it the book like a swimming pool. You don't have to go into the deep end if you don't feel like swimming, but it's there if you want to.

Ok, that leaves open WAY too many jokes about going off the deep end. ;)