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? 

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