Monday, July 5, 2010
Literary Fiction or Genre Fiction?
Once upon a time, when I was in college, a creative writing professor read a draft of the first few chapters of a novel I was trying to write. One of his comments was that it seemed as though I wasn't sure whether I was writing literary fiction or commercial fiction. I got the sense that I needed to choose one or the other.
Fast forward too-many years and here I am, still working on my first novel (the first one I've brought anywhere close to submission status anyway). I'm still wondering about the whole literary fiction vs commercial/genre/popular fiction thing.
My novel is intended for a Young Adult (YA) audience, and I would categorize it as High Fantasy. So it must be genre fiction, right? Well. . . I don't know about that. The book is intended to get people thinking about a serious, complex issue from both a philosophical standpoint and a real-world standpoint. It's not meant to be an "easy read" during which the reader can turn off his mind and simply be entertained. The ending is satisfying, yet leaves a lot of questions (at a higher level) unanswered.
I feel that my writing style in this book is more compatible with literary fiction than commercial fiction, but maybe I'm kidding myself. The more I learn, the more I realize how little I know. Do I need to be concerned that I may be combining literary and genre fiction rather than being firmly in one camp or the other?
I'd love to hear from anyone in the field on this issue. If you are writing or have written a novel, are you clear on whether it's genre (commercial) fiction or literary fiction? What makes this clear to you? How or when did this become clear? What criteria are you using?
Meanwhile, here's an interesting blog post on the subject: Writing YA Literary Fiction: What It Is and Why You Shouldn't Hate It.