You Don’t Have To Be a Serious Writer

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I write serious fiction. My work is offbeat, but it’s still within the sphere of the literary establishment. However, I dislike the attitude that permeates certain circles, one that believes that literary fiction is more important than other types of fiction, or is the only type of quality fiction.

I think that much of this attitude is borne out of the academy. If you’re enrolled in a Creative Writing program in your undergraduate career, or if you are pursuing an MFA, you’re going to learn craft, and most likely, you will become skilled in the technical component of writing fiction. However, you also may consciously or subconsciously start picking up on the cues of the kind of writing that a serious writer should and shouldn’t write. That’s why it can be confining to write for a literary audience – the parameters are not nearly as wide as for the audience for literature as a whole.

A writer should write whatever story she feels called to put on the page. Of course, it should be technically sound. However, it doesn’t have to be limited to stories about serious people dealing with serious situations within the tradition of realism, and hefty with a subtle philosophical weight. Your work can be light, it can be a romance, or a mystery, or pulpy, or fantastical, or belligerent. As long as your writing is sharp, as long as your writing is fresh, you ought to feel pretty satisfied, regardless of whether your work would be deemed “serious” fiction or not.

What’s your take on this? Do you write literary fiction? Am I going too far? Do you write mainstream or genre fiction? Have you ever felt slighted by the literary establishment? 

Six Mistakes That Publishers Hate

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As an aspiring writer attempting to build a name, you don’t want to irritate publishers. There are many mistakes that publishers hate. Please make sure to avoid the following:

1. Responding to Rejections – If your writing is rejected by a publisher, don’t respond to the rejection under any circumstances. A response is inappropriate. A response trying to convince a publisher otherwise, insulting them for passing on your writing, or bemoaning the rejection is a huge faux pas.

2. Poorly Edited Material – Even if your concept is interesting, if your writing is poorly executed, you’re wasting a publisher’s time – and your own. You must have your fiction edited before sending your work out to a publisher. There’s no way around this step.

3. Material That’s An Inappropriate Fit – How do you imagine a publisher would feel if they had to reject (as they will) the most amazing piece they’ve ever read because it’s totally incongruous with their style? Show some respect and submit your writing to appropriate markets.

4. Fanfiction – I don’t really need to say anything more – it’s called copyright.

5. Ignoring Submission Guidelines – You can’t send seven poems to a literary magazine if they ask writers to send no more than three. You can’t send a short fiction piece as an attachment if the literary journal wants it copied in the body of an email. Always read the submission guidelines before submitting, and make sure to follow them.

6. Unprofessional Query/Cover Letters – You’re not displaying personality, all you’re doing is showing a lack of professionalism. A too informal cover letter rubs many publishers the wrong way, even when submitting somewhere that appreciates edgy work or presents itself on their website as rather informal. You’ll be seen as an amateur, regardless of the quality of your writing.

Have you ever made any of these mistakes? It’s time to ‘fess up about your tragic experiences so that other aspiring writers can avoid making the same errors.

I imagine that sharing these experiences will also have a cathartic effect, but don’t quote me on that…