Recently I’ve discovered that I ‘sold out’ a few years ago, meaning I sacrificed meaning and richness in my writing for hooks, twists, and action. I’m not sure if anyone else is currently having this problem, but it’s a pretty huge and sad revelation. It seems the deeper I get into a character’s head, the further I get away from the linear storyline. Or, the faster I tell the story, the less I get into a character’s head.
Now I know what the typical remedy is. It’s in about 10,432 How-to books. “The trick, Patrick, is to find a balance between the two. Have your characters develop during the action. Show, don’t tell.”
Yeah, thanks, and I’ll get out of debt by playing the lottery too.
To be a literary writer, in my personal opinion, you must have connections, you must love the style of writing, and you must provide the potential for insight with almost every single paragraph or page. Is it medicine? Well, to hook, twist and action folk, it probably is. To be literary means you have decided to self-realize your own books without believing that, after every page, you are closer to a book deal. As a result, a literary writer must must must must must have connections, hence, the huge rise in popularity for M.F.A programs. Their struggle for notoriety and respectability can only be rewarded if they suffer in front of someone very very important, and grow on them, until their prose starts singing. Does that make them more of a purist or more of an artist? Definitely not. Give two people a brick, and they will each do something different. Whatever they do, that is their art. One might throw it through a window and cause panic, while the other might brush across the surface slowly, taking in the texture.
I have personal experience with this, I believe (God I hate sounding confident and/or absolute, but just give me this one paragraph). I was a literary writer who desperately wanted an audience. I read classics, or books that were at least trying to be classics, but instead of finding a Master’s program fit for a literary writer, I instead graduated from an M.A. program specializing in popular fiction. Thus, after running through the gauntlet of ‘make your sentences more active’, ‘you need a hook’, ‘why is your character feeling that way, make them more real’, ‘no one will publish a first-novel over 100,000 words, let alone one which is not a specific genre’, ‘you need a love interest’, ‘longer fight scenes’, ‘you solved the mystery too quickly’…….after all that, I came out of there split down the middle, and I’ve been writing what I call ‘Litstream’ novels ever since…
I guess what I’m saying is, if you’re a Litstream writer out there, and you’re getting rejection letters such as ‘weird mix of fantasy and reality’, or ‘Great book, I just can’t sell it’, you’re not alone. I’m sure this is the case with other authors who write in a different genre, such as mystery, romance, sci-fi, fantasy, etc…and feel slightly trapped by their own formulas. Even literary writers deal with their own constraints.
But Litstream? =). Well, we tend to write whatever we feel like writing, and must therefore brace ourselves for whatever the business feels like doing. A small (large?) consequence when dealing with such tremendous freedom.