Friday, August 14, 2009

Attitude, Literary Fiction & Genre Fiction, Networking

Writing is a solitary activity. Or so we would assume, as it generally involves a person planted in front of a screen or notepad typing/scrawling ideas on a page. But this is always only the first step in the writing process. Revisions are best done after the draft is seen by multiple eyes. The more solid a group of people you have to look at your work, the better. This doesn't mean you need a lot of people, but certainly a group of individuals you can trust.

I happen to believe that all writers deserve not only a group (either in the form of a critique group or a collection of independent readers/critique-rs) but a network of other writers from which to gain support. The wider network is for access to knowledge, encouragement and inspiration. Sometimes, I think this is half of the reason for conventions and conferences. While writers learn about the process at these events, we also gain acquaintances.

For this reason, networks like Facebook are very useful. Whenever I meet another writer -- even if their subject matter is not similar to mine -- I reach out to them. If people respond with snappy phrasing, they are electing to sever the potential networking opportunity. It is really easy to get into semantic debates online, and as writers I think we should be more flexible with our interpretations of words.

For instance, the definitions between "Literary and Genre Fiction." While the industry likes to pretend these are definite labels, their use indicates otherwise.

Literary Fiction has subgroups: Historical Fiction, Magical Realism, Fairytales, Psychological --mind, I don't spend a lot of time on these books as they don't tend to hold my interest, but I'm sure you can see that some of these are certainly pretending at a literariness because the author's agent/editor has seen the ability to market them so. I'll bet the individual writing "modern fairytale" owns a lot of the same non-fiction and mythology tests I have at home.

These are marketing terms. We have appropriated them both as writers and readers in order to define and describe our likes. It has become a sort of jargon, but jargon and semantics allow for the embedding of meaning that can divide groups. So we lump "genre fiction" together, despite its diversity and create a loaded term.

Loaded terms and semantics can lead writers of either end of the debate to think that their writing is more applicable to the world at large than is another. I would think that neither would be right. The difference is not content, but audience. Who do you speak too?

A lack of understanding in this regard allows people to sever themselves off from community. That might not be the intent, but it is the result of having a poor attitude.

All writers in your community are worthy of respect. Everyone is equally imaginative, but their manifestations differ. Our processes, like our minds, and interests are diverse. But and all forms of writing have literary value, at least as their most essential idea. The ability of the writer is to convince the audience of the impossible, experience the different, or gain a new perspective. Any of these goals rely on skill and communication, and can coexist.

So as wordsmiths we should be wary of the meanings of words and know that when we touch on loaded terms, our interpretation of an individual's intent and perspective are not necessarily accurate. We should be aware of the ability of a word to inspire an emotional reaction, and be conscious of that reaction. If possible, we should not take insult where insult may not be meant if semantic difference can be acknowledged.


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