I said last week that I would have some thoughts and reflections on getting a couple of my stories accepted into the Genre Wars anthology.
The two stories that were accepted were, "The Best Medicine" and "Death, Be Not Me." This is food for thought. Both of those stories are experimental and essentially literary. They are certainly not genre fiction. Previously, my biggest formal success has been with another piece of experimental, literary fiction, "November / Thanksgiving," and a short, untitled poem with a very similar feel to it. Similarly, my biggest informal success has probably been with a stack of experimental, literary stories that reduced my roommate to tears on the floor and a series of science fiction stories that were lauded by my peers in a writing class -- which were really literary and only sci fi because they ostensibly took place on another planet.
Here's the rub. I bill myself as an author of psychological suspense, and my novel-length WIP's all fall to some degree under that banner. They are anything but literary. The bulk of my heretofore unpublished fiction is all genre. Since my last literature class in college, I have picked up only a handful of literary works. I spend my time in genre.
Now, with more recent success that's along more literary lines, I am given reason to think about that. There are a number of possible reasons I've had more success with literary works:
- I'm submitting to folks with literary tastes.
- Coincidentally, a few of my literary works happen to showcase some of my best writing.
- The stuff I happened to submit to folks who have evaluated my writing style favorable has happened to be literary.
- I'm just better at writing experimental, literary fiction than I am at writing genre fiction.
That's a lot to think about. There's no doubt in my mind that Options 1 -- 3 all come into play to some extent. Option 4 is more provocative. There are reasons it might be the case:
- Personally, I have an easier time identifying with characters in the abstract than in the concrete.
- Technically, I am strongest at conveying emotion and idea and weakest at point-by-point plotting.
- Mentally, I'm a deductive thinker (big to little), I am spatially incompetent, and I (honestly!) get sea sick from too much linearity or repetition.
- Philosophically, the most important part of anything I write is that the reader comes face to face with an idea that I am grappling with through the text.
I'm not certain that those qualities imply a lack of proficiency at genre fiction, but they are not strengths that are naturally favored by genre, which typically requires more structure and form.
I'm also not sure yet what this implies for my writing or for my WIP's. It may be a matter of conversion, or it may be a matter of playing around a little more and trying to see if I can better incorporate those elements into my genre fiction. I don't know. But I'm thinking now.