Wednesday, July 8, 2009

On Being A Serious Writer

It's late tonight, and I don't have time for a long post.

One of my dear friends and writing partners has been going through a tough time of it lately; namely, despite the fact that many agents fought to get her, the one she chose (brilliant as the agent may be) is having trouble finding an editor to acquire the book. She is, apparently, "too literary." Her prose is too smooth, the plot too timeless, the story "too lyrical."

Publishers, apparently, are looking for the serial fast food of YA lit: gossip girls and clique chicks and what have you. My friend is, inexplicably, too good for this market.

None of us in my writer's group write fast food literature. And often, when I am at the beginning of an idea, I think: will this sell? Is it catchy enough?

The answer is never an easy one, because I don't write fluffy stuff. I like the hard hitting writing that makes you think, and feel; the kind that changes you a little. I gravitate towards reading it, and that's what I tend to write.

Tonight while catching up on correspondence, I had the TV on to some music station, just for the background noise, and one interview caught my attention. I rewound it (the great benefit of a DVR) because it seemed so apropos of this very discussion.

So I leave you with the thought of a country singer:

"Its hard to be taken seriously when you aren't doing something serious." Brad Paisley

Take that gossip girls.


  1. yeah, don't you just hate that.

    Nice lyric, though. I think I'll keep it.

  2. I love that you used a Brad Paisley quote. He is such an amazing musician.

    A lot of times YA doesn't like literary books. It's unfortunate, but kids don't always want to take the time to contemplate the meanings in their books.

  3. It's actually not a lyric. He was talking about writing songs and what kind of things he chooses to write about.

    But I thought it was a brilliant quote. And so apropos of writing.

  4. I don't like the fluff, but I don't think what I do is literary either. I am to entertain in a smart way, I suppose.

  5. I think there's a real rift between good literary YA and dumbed-down fluff. I enjoy the more thought provoking well written stuff myself, and that's how I like to write. Clearly some of it gets through.

    I heard "keep giving them you, until they realize you are what they want" in an interview once. I like that too.

  6. Perfect post and so true! It is frustrating, most certainly.

    And that quote is perfect.

  7. Sue - what a great quote!!

    Paul and MeganRebekah - I think maybe there are a lot of different views of what makes something literary. I don't think it has to be difficult to read or understand.

    I don't mind reading light books. I love a good Grisham or Brown book, and I had fun reading the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants books. But I like books that make me think, too. Books I want to talk about.

    I think in five or ten years we will look back at this time and see a gap in the spectrum of books published.

    Then again, I've seen the workload most high schoolers take on, and maybe all they really want to read outside of the required stuff is something easy and fun.

  8. I think you had a lot of really good comments here and your last one was one of the most interesting and thought provoking, namely that high school kids have all this homework and want something light when they're through wading through all of it.

    I wonder if there shouldn't be more English classes in high school with some writing classes thrown in for good measure and some required reading of good literature. I'm so far away from any of this to really know what high school kids are required to learn in high school, but I do know there is a real problem with college students not knowing how to write and that continues up into that first job.

  9. I have to admit that sometimes I like that fluff and other times I like diving into a real, make you think book.

    I hope that there's room for both in this market.