Tag: Genre fiction

Writing Without Pretention

"Writing", 22 November 2008
“Writing”, 22 November 2008 (Photo credit: ed_needs_a_bicycle)

When I first started writing I was in high school. I wrote passionately, madly, and got lost in the worlds I created. I wrote volumes of (admittedly terrible) fiction of so many flavors I could’ve opened an ice cream shop to sell them all. And I did it without thinking too hard about it. I didn’t care if it was “genre fiction” or “literary”. I didn’t care if I used too many adverbs, too few adjectives, or the wrong punctuation. I just wrote. Words poured out of me with such reckless abandon that I scarcely could contain them all. And, best of all, I didn’t care what anyone else thought of my words. They were mine. Anyone else’s opinions were secondary.

Since then I’ve become more refined. I write with more polish and cohesion, but no less passion. I started to care what other people think about my words since at this point I am trying to use them to make a life for myself. But despite the fact that I have encountered a great deal of snobbery surrounding my preference for “lowly” genre fiction I persist in writing it with great joy.

It’s that lit snobbery that I want to address in this blog.

I’ve been interacting with a lot of writers, editors, and publishers lately and having long, meaningful conversations with them about the craft. Most of them have been fantastic, and I have learned a lot from speaking with these individuals. However, it’s swiftly become apparent to me that there are so many people out there that look down on one another for not being “in the know”. Whatever “in the know” means. It could be that YA writers are “immature”. It could be that anything but high literature is “rubbish”. It could be that erotica is just for “sluts”. It doesn’t really matter what the particular genre or facet of writing is someone has to turn their nose up at it and insult those that write in that style.

I’m here to say that behaving that way only reflects badly on the people talking like that. Everyone has their opinions – and rightfully so – but treating authors or other artists differently because they don’t measure up to your lofty ideals of success is not the way to go about making friends. In fact, I’ve discovered that is more of a life lesson than merely one in writing. Why does one have to be “better” than another? We all agree that some authors are better than other due to their command of the elements of our craft. That goes without saying. However, I’d suggest that regardless of what branch of the craft a writer devotes themselves to they are equally respectable. It would be like me turning my nose up at my fiance because he isn’t a fan of the intricacy of Jethro Tull and prefers Greenday. THE HORROR! (Not really.)

Writers as a community have enough trouble as it is. There are predators around every corner trying to dupe them into questionable deals, take their money for little return, or tell them that they’re foolish for trying to make a living as an artist. Don’t we have enough problems without picking at each other in such a way?

“Editing is such a subjective talent.”

"Writing", 22 November 2008
“Writing”, 22 November 2008 (Photo credit: ed_needs_a_bicycle)

I recently received a comment from someone on one of my entries where they stated that “editing is such a subjective talent”. It’s accurate, to a degree, but it can also be said that writing is a subjective talent as well. As with any art, everybody has their own tastes and preferences; some people prefer rock ‘n roll, while others like classical best. Part of the process of finding a publisher for your work is to find someone that shares the same “vision” you do. Some writers that have queried us simply clash with the style of the editors we have on staff – that’s just part of being part of an artistic world.

He went on to state how much it stings when someone edits your work. I can tell you from experience that it can, at times, be difficult. When I was taking writing courses in college, it was difficult to have my writing torn apart and critiqued not only by my teacher but by the entire class – all of whom had different tastes than I did. It’s natural to want to defend your writing because your stories are your babies. We all feel that way. Over time, I’ve grown far less protective of my writing in that sense because – being on the other side of the red pen – I know it’s not personal. In fact, the person with the proverbial red pen is doing their best to make sure that my work is the best it can possibly be.

Speaking as a writer (yes, I know the stereotype is that editors just wish they could write – surprise, surprise), I have had experiences with editors throughout my writing career that wanted to remove or change things that I felt were important to the story. In college, for example, my professor couldn’t stand what she termed “genre fiction” and, quite frankly, “genre fiction” is what I write. That resulted in her trying to force changes in my writing (she wanted me to write “literary fiction“) that I just plain wouldn’t see happen. I’ve had others try similar things, and this all ties back to the fact that “editing is such a subjective talent”.

You will in your writing careers encounter people whom just plain don’t click with your personal views of your work. You will in your writing careers, encounter people that don’t like your writing (as much as I respect him, I’m not a Stephen King fan at all). Inevitably, these people will tell you that you need to change something that is an important foundation for your work and there will be a clash of personality. Is this necessarily a deal breaker? Well, if the person that doesn’t “appreciate the beauty of your formalism” happens to be the editor for your work then it very well may be one unless you’re willing to put up with it to see your work in print. That’s a choice that only you can make; personally, I’d rather not see my work published than have to castrate it.

Whether or not an editor agrees with your work or your point of view, however, doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t gain something from them or that they are a poor editor. Even if your point of view differs drastically, you can learn from hearing people’s criticism (provided it’s constructive) and considering it. Grammar mistakes, word choice issues, plot inconsistencies, and many other common literary mistakes don’t require a matter of “taste” in order to be fixed.

Regardless of whether or not you have a personality clash, one of the most important parts of being professional is your behavior. You, and you alone, are responsible for how you react to the comments and criticism. Behaving in a professional, polite manner will certainly win you far more “Brownie points” than throwing a tantrum over the fact that you don’t agree. And in some circumstances, if you ask nicely enough it may result in you being reassigned to another editor rather than being dropped from the company entirely. There are many possibilities that you might face if you’re polite. If you’re rude or difficult, however, those doors will close on you and you’ll be left with only the option to start the process of finding a publisher all over again.