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View Full Version : As a work of literature, my MS has zero value



anonymous_guest
06-13-2010, 02:28 PM
So I was re-reading Margaret Attwood's Oryx & Crake today (which is a masterpiece... in my humble opinion) and a thought suddenly occurred to me.

Truly great literature is supposed to enlighten people. It's supposed to critique society, show new ways of looking at the world, and explore the darker sides of life and humanity that people don't generally like to talk about in public.

My novel does none of these things. Which is understandable, I guess, because I never intended it to-- I only wanted to make something that was entertaining. Full stop. Nothing more.

But now I'm thinking that maybe it's presumptuous of me to try and get it published. If I've got nothing to say why should anyone listen? If I can't get a person to start thinking about themselves or the world or the society they live in then what business do I have being a writer?

Sorry if this is sounding angsty (it's not I swear!!) I was just wondering if anyone else here feels like this. And also (so this will be an actual discussion :D), do you think every published novel should be a work of great literature? If not, why? To take it further: do you think that the value of 'popcorn books' has decreased in modern times due to the fact that pure entertainment can be had so much easier in other areas (movies, video games, the Internet etc)?

Terie
06-13-2010, 02:45 PM
My first thought it this: why *should* every novel published be a work of literature? Surely most of the books on the shelves today (not counting the 'classics' section) aren't going to stand the test of time. There's nothing wrong with writing something that will entertain and bring joy to people now and transport them away from their lives into a whole 'nuther world...but that won't be around in a hundred years.

Sure, all of us would like to think that our work will one day be considered 'classic literature'. But honestly, I believe that no one can possibly know what will stand the test of time until, yanno, said time passes. In the meantime, there's nothing wrong with writing stuff that brings us and, hopefully, our eventual readers pleasure.

I seriously doubt that the writers we consider 'classic' today wrote with the intent to be classic. They wrote with the intent to please their readers and to make money. Just like most of us do today.

I've read work in university creative writing classes by writers intentionally *trying* to write *literature*, and it's mostly horrid, pretentious, and horridly pretentious. :)

Also, if every novel published had to be deemed a great work of literature, just imagine how tiny our selection of stuff to read would be! :scared:

So stop angsting. ;) If you write a 'great work of literature', it most likely won't appear in the 'classics' section until after you die, anyway. (How many of the authors on those shelves are still alive compared to those that are gone...and even long gone?)

Just write on! :D

seun
06-13-2010, 03:17 PM
I'd rather write a book that's as good as I can get it and which will be enjoyed by people for as long as possible. If that's a few years, then fine. If it's a hundred years, then great.

A book doesn't have to be either a masterpiece that's only read by 'smart' people and ignored by the plebs, or a piece of fluffy entertainment. Write as well as you can, tell your story and ignore the rest.

anonymous_guest
06-13-2010, 03:20 PM
Thanks Terie! That was a really nice post :)

I guess it's because the publishing world is SO competitive I start thinking, "Omg I have to be like THE GREATEST AUTHOR THE WORLD HAS EVER SEEN if I'm to stand a chance at this" and I get freaked out because I'm clearly not the greatest author the world has ever seen, and never will be either.

Usually that doesn't bother me. Like you said, I just like writing to have fun and (hopefully one day) make other people have fun. But when I think about how many people out there in the world are doing the same I get worried that maybe that's not enough, and maybe I should be trying harder to make something that's special and amazing and never-even-been-comprehended-by-human-thought-before.

I totally agree with university writers though!! Being a university student myself I encounter it on a daily basis :D

Captcha
06-13-2010, 03:29 PM
Compare Atwood's sales to Stephenie Myers (spelling approximate). The publishing world IS competitive, sure, but I don't think the profitability of a book is necessarily based on its literary merit.

Tell a good story, in the way that feels right to you.

Kalyke
06-13-2010, 05:06 PM
At least you are reading something with some literary value. Maybe you will learn something from the book. I don't think "literary value" is accidental. The author has to start out constructing something with meaning.

C.M.C.
06-13-2010, 05:53 PM
My first thought it this: why *should* every novel published be a work of literature?

It's a very good thought. The world of reading and writing would be far less interesting if every single book had to abide by the rules of literature. Just like we wouldn't enjoy it if every show on television was a documentary, we don't need every book to say something deeply important about the human condition. When everyone says the same thing, no one listens.

sheadakota
06-13-2010, 06:44 PM
My first thought it this: why *should* every novel published be a work of literature? Surely most of the books on the shelves today (not counting the 'classics' section) aren't going to stand the test of time. There's nothing wrong with writing something that will entertain and bring joy to people now and transport them away from their lives into a whole 'nuther world...but that won't be around in a hundred years.

Sure, all of us would like to think that our work will one day be considered 'classic literature'. But honestly, I believe that no one can possibly know what will stand the test of time until, yanno, said time passes. In the meantime, there's nothing wrong with writing stuff that brings us and, hopefully, our eventual readers pleasure.

I seriously doubt that the writers we consider 'classic' today wrote with the intent to be classic. They wrote with the intent to please their readers and to make money. Just like most of us do today.

I've read work in university creative writing classes by writers intentionally *trying* to write *literature*, and it's mostly horrid, pretentious, and horridly pretentious. :)

Also, if every novel published had to be deemed a great work of literature, just imagine how tiny our selection of stuff to read would be! :scared:

So stop angsting. ;) If you write a 'great work of literature', it most likely won't appear in the 'classics' section until after you die, anyway. (How many of the authors on those shelves are still alive compared to those that are gone...and even long gone?)

Just write on! :D
I couldn't agree more with this! I write to entertain- myself and hopefully those you choose to read it- I never intended it to be a great work of literature and sure hope no one thinks its supposed to be one!
Just write what you love- what inspires you, what makes you passionate!

ChaosTitan
06-13-2010, 06:46 PM
My novel does none of these things. Which is understandable, I guess, because I never intended it to-- I only wanted to make something that was entertaining. Full stop. Nothing more.

This is why I write - to entertain. If, by some grand accident, something in my books makes someone stop and think, then I consider it a double-win. But i don't set out to write great literature. I just try to write the very best book possible.

Libbie
06-13-2010, 07:10 PM
"Truly great" is in the eye of the beholder. Obviously a whole lot of people think that the "merely" entertaining novel is truly great, or they wouldn't sell so much more than all those incisive, important criticisms of society sell.

I'll be in my corner, crying over my ambitions to write full-time and my literary manuscripts.

Jamesaritchie
06-13-2010, 07:29 PM
A hundred years from now, readers and critics may thing Atwood stinks, and no one may still be reading her. A hundred years from now, readers and critics may think any one of us was a genius, ahead of his time, and out books may be regarded as classsic literature.

Take a look at the classics from past centuries. A great many of them were nothing more than entertaining genre novels when first published.

A good story always has something to say, whether the writer intended it or not.

Do I think every novel published should qualify as great literature. Yes, that would be wonderful. But time is the test of great literature, not current opinion. All we can do is write the best way we can, tell the story we want to tell, put it out there on the market, and wait a hundred years to see how well we succeeded.

Kyra Wright
06-13-2010, 07:36 PM
If your book entertains even one person, it has value.

Lady Ice
06-13-2010, 07:36 PM
If you're writing to entertain and it actually is entertaining...you do have something to say! You can write a long novel about climate change and say absolutely nothing and write a novel about Billy's unrequited love for Doris and say a lot.

'Having something to say' is not about how moralistic and noble your political/religious/philosophical sentiments are. It's about how interesting your take on things is.

willietheshakes
06-13-2010, 08:53 PM
Margaret Attwood's Oryx & Crake ...(which is a masterpiece... in my humble opinion)

Edited for required emphasis. :)

MGraybosch
06-13-2010, 09:07 PM
But now I'm thinking that maybe it's presumptuous of me to try and get it published. If I've got nothing to say why should anyone listen? If I can't get a person to start thinking about themselves or the world or the society they live in then what business do I have being a writer?

What's wrong with being a hack? And how do you know that your book won't speak to somebody and show them something they hadn't seen before?

MGraybosch
06-13-2010, 09:08 PM
Take a look at the classics from past centuries. A great many of them were nothing more than entertaining genre novels when first published.

No kidding. Some people derided Alexandre Dumas as a hack. These days we call him a "great Romantic writer".

Kitty27
06-13-2010, 09:11 PM
I write for fun and a good time. I hope future readers take away the same feelings. I don't care about being seen as a giant of literature whatsoever.

Cyia
06-13-2010, 09:16 PM
I write for fun, too - and because I think others will enjoy my characters and how I torture them for entertainment their struggles.

BenPanced
06-13-2010, 09:27 PM
Just remember: many books we now consider "great literature" were once considered trash written by hacks.

Kalyke
06-14-2010, 01:47 AM
I used to really worry about this. My sainted beloved mother rip called me a Hack and it was like getting slapped in the face. Truth is, you need to at least have the discipline of a hack to move words around in a way that get an audience salivating. I'd rather be a good hack than a poor arteest. However, given the choice to be both--- I would love that. You were mentioning Margaret Attwood. Man! Can that lady write! What about Babara Kingsolver, what about T.C. Boyle or P.D. James? They all write with plots that given a sloppy ineffective writer could turn into pure crapola. I believe in good structure, seamless plots-- that is where I spend a lot of time on a novel, working on what I consider a "flawless" story (or at least as close as I can get). But then after I have written the first draft I go in and anylise, re-anylise and do some real writing. I tend to think that no one can write better than a first draft in half a year. To get real "literature" you need to let it ferment and brew. I don't know the rate of writing of those I consider writing gods, but I'll bet they are not these sorts who do not edit a million times and who think their first run through is "done." So Rewrite, rewrite, rewrite, and continually reduce and refine. --- not the best advice, but mine.

(no my mother's name is not rip)

anonymous_guest
06-14-2010, 04:42 AM
Edited for required emphasis. :)

*gasp* What are you implying!!! D:

Use Her Name - That's right! Though I'm impatient and I don't like admitting it, fermentation (perfect word!) is an important part of good novel writing. Unless of course you're one of those evil people who can write amazing books in under 6 months or so (damn them!!)

I guess I need to remember that there is a certain genius required for good hack writing, too. :)

MGraybosch
06-14-2010, 04:46 AM
I guess I need to remember that there is a certain genius required for good hack writing, too. :)

It's not a matter of genius. It's a matter of discipline, stubbornness, and desire. All it takes to finish a novel is refusal to let anybody or anything stop you from finishing the novel. If your wife interrupts you, ignore her. If your friends discourage you, tell them to bugger off. If God himself tries to stop you, kill him.

Of course, the stubbornness required to finish a novel is no guarantee that the novel will be any good. That's where discipline and desire come in. You have to want to put in the time necessary to become a good writer, and it's likely to take about ten thousand hours bare minimum, and you can't just sit there typing "I love kittens." over and over again. You have to read other people's books to see what works and what sells. You have to learn from their example.

KTC
06-14-2010, 02:33 PM
What readers look for is a great book. Great book is a subjective term. I feel that Oryx & Crake is a piece of shit. I wouldn't call a piece of shit a great work of literature. I wouldn't care how many people disagree with me. But, see...that's just my opinion. Opinions are like pie-holes...we all got one. Each person has their own ideas of what makes a great book. Just write a book...and let the world decide---first if it will get published and then if it will be liked. Nobody should try to write a great piece of literature...based on their idea of what a great piece of literature is. Write the best book you can write and don't worry about it not reaching any invisible standard.

CaroGirl
06-14-2010, 04:31 PM
Personally, I loved Oryx and Crake. But that's me and that's why there's everything from soup to nuts to choose from on bookstore shelves. I also enjoyed Shopaholic (so sue me). There's room for the Oryx and Crakes, as well as the Shopaholics.

I have a friend in my writing group who didn't produce any writing for over a year. She recently confessed to me it was because she wanted to write "literature" and didn't think she would ever able to do it. Knowing her work, I said, "You aren't that kind of writer, my friend. You are a writer of light humour. You should write chick lit." She attended a writers' conference with me and met writers of all stripes, from all genres and abilities, and came away believing she could write something worth reading, even if it wasn't literary.

Last week she sent her first submission to the group in more than a year. And you know what? It was great. Funny, engaging, insightful and a joy to read. And she loved writing it. So what's wrong with that, I say?

Jamesaritchie
06-14-2010, 06:29 PM
*gasp* What are you implying!!! D:

Use Her Name - That's right! Though I'm impatient and I don't like admitting it, fermentation (perfect word!) is an important part of good novel writing. Unless of course you're one of those evil people who can write amazing books in under 6 months or so (damn them!!)

I guess I need to remember that there is a certain genius required for good hack writing, too. :)

Pretty much anyone should be able to write an average length novel in under six months.

It takes some talent to write a good novel, and it takes a lot of talent to write a great novel, but all it takes is sitting your butt down and writing to write any novel.

Fermentation is good for wine, but with novels, it's usually nothing more than an excuse to avoid writing.

When you look at how few words you have to write per day to finish a 100K novel in under six months, it should take away all excuses.

MGraybosch
06-14-2010, 06:44 PM
When you look at how few words you have to write per day to finish a 100K novel in under six months, it should take away all excuses.

No kidding. It took me a year and three months to do 350K words, and most of that writing was done after work while waiting for my wife to finish her shift.

Terie
06-14-2010, 07:56 PM
Pretty much anyone should be able to write an average length novel in under six months.

Huge generalization. Total bollocks. Some can, some can't. Everyone is different.

Elsewhere in this thread where you changed someone's language to add 'in my humble opinion'. Maybe you should take a shot of your own medicine.

willietheshakes
06-14-2010, 08:02 PM
Huge generalization. Total bollocks. Some can, some can't. Everyone is different.

Elsewhere in this thread where you changed someone's language to add 'in my humble opinion'. Maybe you should take a shot of your own medicine.

Oh, fer the love of fuck, now I'm getting mixed up with JAR.

It was ME who emphasized the "in my humble opinion" -- I didn't add it, by the way; check the OP. I just changed the colour -- not Jamesaritchie.

If you're going to lash out in a personal manner, please be sure who you're lashing out against...

CaroGirl
06-14-2010, 08:05 PM
Oh, fer the love of fuck, now I'm getting mixed up with JAR.
Well, you and JAR do have a similar hairstyle...

willietheshakes
06-14-2010, 08:11 PM
Well, you and JAR do have a similar hairstyle...

LOL!

KTC
06-14-2010, 08:20 PM
LOL!


I can read between the lol. What he means, Caro, is that dems fightin' words and for them you will pay dearly.

CaroGirl
06-14-2010, 08:24 PM
I can read between the lol. What he means, Caro, is that dems fightin' words and for them you will pay dearly.
It's the price I pay for my rapier-like wit. I'm so persecuted.

willietheshakes
06-14-2010, 08:32 PM
I can read between the lol. What he means, Caro, is that dems fightin' words and for them you will pay dearly.

It was actually more along the lines of "the only thing MORE different than our hairstyles is our politics..."