Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Literary? Commercial?

A thoughtful writer posted that he can’t get agents to respond to his literary manuscript, and is choosing to revise it and fashion a more commercial way to tell the story. He asked if others have gone that route to eventual publication.


In response, another writer shared a link to an article on BuzzFeed Books. It’s a parody of a critique group member offering Jane Austen feedback on her supposed yet-to-be-published manuscript called Pride and Pejudice.

It’s hilarious, and it’s also spot-on. All who commented on it agreed they have gotten and given such. Red-face and phooey on us all.

This got me thinking about how important a backbone is to artists. Maybe to all people, but especially for those who are guaranteed to face a lot of rejection.

Art is never made without great vision. Getting and considering feedback is a good idea, but losing sight of your vision will guarantee failure. Commercial books are written by committee, even if it’s a committee of one with only echoes of the voices of others.

What is a legitimate concern for writers of literary books is that they communicate well. To this end— the input of others can be of enormous help. But it saddens me when the voices of commerce become gospel.


10 comments:

  1. Honestly, I live by telling the stories I need to tell. If they don't get picked up, that's fine. I'll put them out myself, because I write for me. Of course I love when others love my work, but I know not everyone will. Some books have a small niche, and there's nothing wrong with that.

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  2. I do think that we often lose sight of your vision because we are to easy to conform to others for the sake of greatness. Or what we think is greatness. In a world of now now now, this is an easy road to take.

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  3. Oh, this is so spot on. What is art if not a way to express the unique vision of an individual. The more the artist stretches to reveal his vision, the more likely he is to be disliked and misinterpreted and definitely not a commercial success. Here's to backbone.

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  4. Excellent insights. And thank you for linking to that fun parody.

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  5. That link is great! Thanks for a great afternoon laugh.
    But boy, you've got to write what you need to ... but there's no rule that says you have to be one or the other. Some of the best stuff is commercially viable and of high literary quality.

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    1. What many editors dream of-- a story that has literary merit but also great commercial potential. Many literary books are. Speaking of Pride & Prejudice... .

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  6. I guess I've decided I can't write "commercial" books, although I've tried. It's sad when you see kids in a bookstore or at a school bookfair making a beeline for what they've seen on TV, movies, etc., but I suppose they're just looking for what they already know, something familiar (and possibly unchallenging...)

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    1. Kids are no different from other readers. We want to be entertained.We want to enjoy what we read. When I write I hope my stories are entertaining and interesting. But, like you, I can't help if my stories want to have layers and allusions. It's just the way they insist on being ;)

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  7. I had a fun time reading that article, Mirka. Thanks for the link! I hope to always maintain the integrity of my stories over everything else.

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  8. Think skin and determination are needed. Checking out the buzzfeed.

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