The Case for Literary Writing

The young writer or the very new writer most often begins with a story or a poem in mind. The subject calls to them, pesters them, until one day they say, “Enough already! I’ll write it down!” After that first adventure, they may start thinking about publishing what they’ve written. They buy some books on craft and some books on formatting and then maybe Writer’s Market or Best in Print. Maybe they join an online critique group.

They sit down to write their cover letter or their query letter and suddenly, they realize that they have to categorize what they’ve written. Is it science fiction? Neo-existentialist? Postmodern? Mainstream? Literary? Wait..what the hell is “literary” anyway? And somewhere along the line, someone tells them that if they want to make money, they have to write genre fiction, but if they want their writing to last, they have to write literary.

Bullshit on both counts.

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NaNoWriMo #10-12: Lord of the Rings & Disillusionment

Yes, I am a geek. I am proud to be a geek. I’m really okay with being a fantasy geek. I’ve almost convinced myself that it isn’t the best genre for me to write, but for reading, there are few genres that I enjoy as much. The Lord of the Rings trilogy wasn’t my first foray into fantasy (that honor belongs to the Incarnations of Immortality series by Piers Anthony, which, in retrospect, is just plain awful), but it was the first trilogy that I remember taking my breath away.

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NaNoWriMo #6 and 7: Two Books I Read as a Child

The first full length novel I remember reading was Watership Down. I was in the third grade and my father bought it for me. The weekend after I’d finished it, we drove out to Elbe to a little greasy spoon restaurant (my dad’s favorite kind) and talked about the book over a french dip sandwich. It was my first experience with a grown-up literary conversation and it went something like this:

Dad: Did you like the book?

Me: The rabbit book?

Dad: Are you sure it was about rabbits?

Me: It said it was about rabbits.

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NaNoWriMo #4: On Les Miserables by Victor Hugo

While I started the month honoring contemporary novelists – and fully intended to continue doing so throughout the month – I find that I cannot separate the novel from its history. Similarly, I cannot honor contemporary novelists and the impact their words have had on me without acknowledging the tremendous impact that historical fictions have also had. So I come to one of my favorite novelists and one of my favorite novels, Les Miserables by Victor Hugo. To say this novel profoundly impacted my perspective on life would be a drastic understatement.

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On the Mayfair Witches by Anne Rice

The theme of anti-heroes in literature always brings me back to the first anti-hero novel I read: The Vampire Lestat. Instead of talking about that particular book, though, I come to another, lesser known Anne Rice series: The Mayfair Witches. I do this in part because someone invariably compare the Vampire Chronicles to Twilight et. al. and piss me off and in part because the Mayfair Witches played a more dramatic role in my development as a writer (while the Vampire Chronicles played a bigger role in my development as a person).

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