I’m not prone to writers’ block. If one story isn’t working out for me, I’ve usually got another one I can focus on for a bit. As long as I know what I’m trying to say, I can usually commit words to 1s and 0s that at least roughly say it. But right now, I’m in the throes of trying to write my first piece of literary fiction for grad school, and I seriously feel like my head is about to explode.
Changing genres is hard!
Every editor, everywhere, when asked what a writer can do to increase their chances of being published will answer with something to the effect of, “Follow the submission guidelines.” It’s seriously become a trope. Every writer knows to follow the submission guidelines, right?
Well, I started grad school this week, and part of my financial aid package is that I’m working in the office for the school literary magazine. So I familiarized myself with the office by opening mail, and OH MY GOD! There were probably a dozen submissions in there, not a single one of which was following our submission guidelines.
The instructor for the first writing workshop I’ll be taking in my MFA program posted the syllabus today. It contains a fascinating statement on page 1: “We will be writing literary fiction in this class, not genre.”
Now, I need to start by saying that this is what I signed up for. When I chose this particular MFA program over the other one I was admitted to, one of my reservations was that the entire department is very lit-fic oriented, so I was expecting that I’d need to write lit fic for the workshops. But I’m very taken aback and the notion that this instructor doesn’t recognize that literary fiction is a genre.
All writers need to have someone take a look at their writing and make sure it works. (I say “all” meaning “every writer I’ve ever encountered,” not as a statement that this facet of writing has actually been researched and determined to be universally true.) So, dear writer, chances are that you have beta readers, or a crit group, or a very patient life partner, etc. who you ask to give your stuff a read. One of the greatest challenges with working with these readers, however, is understanding how to fix the issues they flag.
Rather than trying to tackle in one post everything a critter might tell you, I’m instead going to do this as an irregular series, when I see something crop up in a critique that’s especially challenging to translate into a workable solution. So, first up is one that I hear a lot on my first drafts: “I’d like to know more about…”
Well, I signed the contracts today (yes, two contracts arrived in one day, which sort of took the sting out of the rejection letter that arrived alongside one of them) so I feel like it’s O.K. to announce that I’ll have two new stories coming out at still-to-be-determined future dates.