Wednesday, April 22, 2009

You don't write fiction the way you write a literary novel

It just doesn't work that way. I have been reading so much lately (mostly online) about how a novel should be written. Geez. Every time I start to think I might know a little bit about what I'm doing I try to improve my craft by reading some "how to" stuff. Immediately I get confused and figure I know nothing, because everyone has a different idea of how things should be done.

The subjects I have been looking at lately are about point of view (when to switch within a story or to switch at all), grammar, punctuation, dialogue tags (he said, she said, etc.) and on and on. Well, some things are pretty cut and dried, like dialogue tags. You don't want to go on and on. A simple "he said" should work. Or you could convey emotion in what he does in the rest of the paragraph and completely leave out "he said" because obviously he is the one speaking. (Still a bit confusing, I know, but I am half asleep here.)

There is one person (and I'm not naming names) but every time this person says something, it's to go on and on about how something should be written. Proper sentence examples, grammar exercises, etc. (No, none of it is aimed personally at me. I have just made this observation.)

I do try to improve myself, because I feel it is necessary to stay in this business. And I do want to stay in the business. However, I feel that too many writers (and maybe a few editors) have forgotten that we are writing popular fiction here, not literary novels.

Here's a good example of what I'm trying to say (but probably messing up because it's after 1:00 in the morning and I'm exhausted)

As you can see in this blog post, everyone has a slightly different opinion on how things should be done. It's the same everywhere I look.

Okay, so here's what I've decided. I'm going to continue telling the stories that I feel need to be told. I will tell them in first person or omniscient, since those are my preferred styles. And I DON'T think that omniscient is "head-popping." My high school English teacher explained it to me years ago as "it's like God is telling the story, because only He could know everything."

I also think it is perfectly acceptable to switch point of view in a paragraph as long as it flows and readers can clearly understand who is doing what. A good writer can do this. I see it all the time, so I know it can be done. My goal is to be good enough. I enjoy reading books like this. Not convoluted head popping, but a flow of action, emotion, and dialogue.

I also think it's perfectly acceptable to start a sentence with "and" in a popular fiction novel. Popular fiction (to me) is written more like how people actually speak rather than how they should speak. That's probably the best way I can sum it up. That's also what makes popular fiction so easy to read and so ... well, popular.

Most "great literary works" bore the living shit out of me. If that means I'm uncultured and/or retarded then so be it. I hate that crap. I hate having to worry about perfect comma placement too. I'm not trying to be the next Jane Austen, I'm working on being the first ME. I had an English teacher in college who said that a comma should be placed where there would be a natural pause in the sentence. Like if you were speaking aloud rather than writing. Now THAT made sense. And that's what I try to do.

Then again, every friggin English teacher (just like every article I've read online) said something different.

I have come to the conclusion (purely my own) that there are no hard and fast rules. I strive to tell a good story in a way that the reader can connect with. I try (through numerous self edits and a crit partner's gracious help) to have as few errors as possible in my work. But if I focused on every little nit-picky thing to do with grammar instead of the story, then I would never have written a single page, let alone just finished my 13th book. With nine of those under contract (I have only submitted nine for publication) I must be doing something right.

To hell with trying to understand the rules.


She said...

It's your book. Write it the way you want. I find if I read aloud anything I write I find the mistakes. It won't sound right to my ears then I'll change it> Sometimes we worry more about impressing others when we need just to be us.

Tracey H. Kitts said...

Very well said:)