Lit Fic Check-In?

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ap123

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extremely belated response—hi everyone, love the thread, having thoughts upon thoughts because of this thread—but i think to a certain degree there is room in lit fic to do all of these things! in rooney's conversation with friends, for instance, she uses lots of bodily descriptions to convey feelings. the protagonist bites the inside of her cheek, digs her nails into her palms until she bleeds, etc. on the one hand i think it does lend a certain YA-ish tone to the novel, but on the other hand, if you have a protagonist who feels dissociated from her surroundings, anchored or trapped in her body, etc, it can work. (it certainly does for rooney!) it's all very postmodern—and i think i read an essay once that pointed to how, in lots of literary fiction now, feelings are located in the stomach, or the chest, or the throat.

one way that i sometimes try to convey what a protagonist is feeling, especially if again that protagonist is very repressed, or at least very repressed about a very particular thing, is to determinedly not mention it, not-mention-it so much that it becomes obvious. the protagonist is chopping vegetables as her husband talks. leeks, shallots, peas. she is keeping her hands busy. her movements are quick and strong, but sloppier than usual, more like a butcher than a chef. she is smiling, but it's hard. she can't look at her husband, because if she does—if she does—she won't. she slides the carrots into the pan. she pulls the garlic close to her, and picks up her knife again.

^ we don't necessarily know that she's mad, but there's certainly something boiling beneath the surface, maybe even a hint of threat. not only is she mad, she's trying not to be, or in denial that she is. and then the dialogue reveals further. you know?
Welcome to AW and the lit fic thread, Scarywicket, nice to have you here!
 
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ap123

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Literary fiction is quote unquote serious cultivated fiction, no? I think that everyone without a genre claims to write it. What it is, I don't know, however.
Hi, thewonder, and welcome!

I'm not sure what you're saying here. If you read through this thread, the discussions and authors/novels referenced, you can see lit fic is a broad category in terms of style and tone. There's no one acceptable voice or style--just as there's no one voice/style in any other genre or category--and it can be combined with other genres, ie: literary sci-fi, but lit fic is its own category, not a catch-all. There's a link to an excellent graphic somewhere upthread here that is helpful for defining.
 
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Hi, thewonder, and welcome!

I'm not sure what you're saying here. If you read through this thread, the discussions and authors/novels referenced, you can see lit fic is a broad category in terms of style and tone.
While I admittedly didn't read the entire thread, I was just pointing out that classifying something as "literary" as a genre is kind of like classifying music as "Art". It seems to be a way to draw a distinction between "serious" literature and genred subcultural trends. It's a way of designating someone like Marcel Proust, whom I do think is a better author, as having written some sort of ostensibly more actual literature than someone like William Gibson. I'm suggesting that the genre isn't quite what it seems and is more of a way of creating a special class of literature, as a kind of "high" art, that is to be taken seriously within the field of Literary Criticism, unlike the exercises in style curated by pulp publishers so as to sell as many books as they can to a philistine mass.

It just seems kind of absurd to create a genre of "literary" within what is already literature to me. I don't know, though. Perhaps, there's some nuance that I haven't quite picked up on yet?
 

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Everything in literature is genre beginning with the five hierarchal groups: Poetry, Drama, Prose, Nonfiction, and Media, then drilling down to each of their genre subcategories—keeping in mind anything that isn't poetry is prose. In fiction, for example, those genre subcategories would include Science Fiction, Mystery, Romance, and others, which are then further subcategorized themselves.

Literary is a marketing category which indicates that the content focuses on the character and the character's inner world rather than on the conflict which sets the story in motion. It's simply the difference in content focus in the story you want to tell. The use of literary devices such as motifs, themes, and metaphors can (and often does) result in a more lyrical or poetic style and flow, but that isn't the aim. Master craftsmanship is in the use of language, even when the language is simple or to the point; it is by no means meant to be flowery or purple—it serves a distinct purpose in telling the story. Those who think big or fancy words distinguish whether the content is literary are missing the point and should be ignored.
Also, here's the link to the infographic on marketing categories mentioned earlier.
 
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ap123

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While I admittedly didn't read the entire thread, I was just pointing out that classifying something as "literary" as a genre is kind of like classifying music as "Art". It seems to be a way to draw a distinction between "serious" literature and genred subcultural trends. It's a way of designating someone like Marcel Proust, whom I do think is a better author, as having written some sort of ostensibly more actual literature than someone like William Gibson. I'm suggesting that the genre isn't quite what it seems and is more of a way of creating a special class of literature, as a kind of "high" art, that is to be taken seriously within the field of Literary Criticism, unlike the exercises in style curated by pulp publishers so as to sell as many books as they can to a philistine mass.

It just seems kind of absurd to create a genre of "literary" within what is already literature to me. I don't know, though. Perhaps, there's some nuance that I haven't quite picked up on yet?
Writing may be art, but publishing is a business, and it's not only helpful, but necessary to know where your work fits into the market for those of us who sub to lit mags, agents, and/or publishing houses.

*also, I'm going to gently suggest we choose our words carefully. AW is a large forum, with writers of all genres, and RYFW = Respect Your Fellow Writer is the most important rule.

I write lit fic, I read both lit fic and commercial fiction. People read and write for different reasons. :)
 

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I was just pointing out that classifying something as "literary" as a genre is kind of like classifying music as "Art". It seems to be a way to draw a distinction between "serious" literature and genred subcultural trends.
Genres are just labels, applied by the publishing industry to try to help books find readers. It doesn’t really matter what those labels are at this point; readers more or less know how to interpret them, and no labelling system is perfect.
 

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i’m so glad you made this space, @ap123! i’ve always characterized my writing as literary-leaning and it’s been hard to find community to talk craft and improve with. i’m in the early stages on my current project and have had to give myself daily pep talks about how no project comes out of the womb perfect and brilliant, even and especially in a category where literary merit is god. i’m really looking forward to talking further with you folks as i move forward on this one.
 
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ap123

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I'm glad to have you here, scarywicket.

oh, the pep talks, I know them well. What's your current WIP? Are you working on a short? Novel?

I'm currently working (well, stalled at the moment) on a novel-in-stories, a book of connected shorts.
 
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@ap123 that sounds great! i saw a reviewer describe brandon taylor’s real life as a kind of series of interconnected short stories and i think that’s part of what impressed me so much about that book—how he really sits in his scenes and unpacks them and lets them bleed until drained before moving on to the next one. a lot of the novels i’ve read recently seem have thrown capital-s-Scenes out the window. i understand why at the level of style and theme but real life really immerses you in its world with these rich vignettes (i think the first scene lasts something like fifty pages). loved loved loved it!

i’m currently working on a first draft of a novel. my last manuscript was YA but most of the feedback was “the tone is too mature for YA, there’s no market for this,” so i figured it was time to try something else. it’s been stressful diving into such deep waters but i’m almost at the 30k mark and the end of act one now! hoping to wrap this part up by the end of august and then take a bit of a breather in september to do more research, fill in some of the gaps that have become obvious in this initial drafting sprint. then onwards to act two, where things can really start to unravel 🙏
 

ap123

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@ap123 that sounds great! i saw a reviewer describe brandon taylor’s real life as a kind of series of interconnected short stories and i think that’s part of what impressed me so much about that book—how he really sits in his scenes and unpacks them and lets them bleed until drained before moving on to the next one. a lot of the novels i’ve read recently seem have thrown capital-s-Scenes out the window. i understand why at the level of style and theme but real life really immerses you in its world with these rich vignettes (i think the first scene lasts something like fifty pages). loved loved loved it!

i’m currently working on a first draft of a novel. my last manuscript was YA but most of the feedback was “the tone is too mature for YA, there’s no market for this,” so i figured it was time to try something else. it’s been stressful diving into such deep waters but i’m almost at the 30k mark and the end of act one now! hoping to wrap this part up by the end of august and then take a bit of a breather in september to do more research, fill in some of the gaps that have become obvious in this initial drafting sprint. then onwards to act two, where things can really start to unravel 🙏
Sounds good. Sometimes it can take a bit to find the genre and category that feels right, and that too can change.

Seems like you're quite disciplined in your approach, I admire that!
 

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Genres are just labels, applied by the publishing industry to try to help books find readers. It doesn’t really matter what those labels are at this point; readers more or less know how to interpret them, and no labelling system is perfect.
Not exactly. Genres are labels taken from academe. And there are formal definitions of them, to the point that you can take a Ph.D. qualifying exam in a genre. Scholars, and other readers, may quibble over whether a particular book "fits" a genre, but genres are pretty clearly defined.

Marketing categories, like YA or Lit Fic or Women's lit, are not well defined and come less from publishing and more from book retailing, because that's where the metadata for catalogs and shelving come from, in the final analysis. Sure, a publisher can suggest, but the book seller is the one who actually decides.
 

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Genres are labels taken from academe.
TIL!

But I’m also confused. Because I commonly see terms like “literary fiction” or “women’s fiction” referred to as genres. Here, for example. Is this a case of just going along with a popular conception of what ”genre” means?
 

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TIL!

But I’m also confused. Because I commonly see terms like “literary fiction” or “women’s fiction” referred to as genres. Here, for example. Is this a case of just going along with a popular conception of what ”genre” means?
Yeah. Literary fiction is not something you'll see used outside of the context of buying and selling books; writers who describe their work as lit fic do so in the context of "selling" whether to agents, editors, and book buyers, or to readers.

One of the reasons that it's a marketing category and not a genre is that there is no agreed upon definition or canon of lit fic, and it's completely context dependent. Moreover, novels that are categorized as lit fic typically belong to one or more genres.
 

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I would like to join this conversation -- but mostly to say hello, and hopefully say more going on.

I feel like I read lit-fic, but I am never sure if I actually write lit-fic. But I tell myself what I write is lit-fic, since it's not really anything else as far as I can tell, and you are what you eat, right? When I post in SYW, I feel as if I get the best responses in the literature SYW section, or at least the responses that make the most sense to me are there. But I always have a sort of imposter syndrome about what I write. As if it's not quite up to snuff with whatever 'lit-fic' means. And when I read other peoples writing, which is labeled 'lit-fic', I somehow see it in their writing (however nebulous it really is), but I have trouble seeing it in my own.

Does anyone else feel this way?

It's all kind of silly thoughts, but still it's difficult to escape.
 
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ap123

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Hi Lustefan, welcome to the thread!

Lit fic is a funny beast, broad with fuzzy edges. It is kind of I know it when I see it, but there are certain characteristics--which it sometimes shares with other categories/genres: It's character or theme driven. There is a specific focus on language, ie: a sentence or passage that calls attention to itself isn't necessarily a bad thing. Plots (and yes, there must be a plot in lit fic) tend to be, umm, quieter.

There are all kinds of emotions/prejudices/ridiculous boring debates that go around endlessly about genre vs lit fic. In this thread, we aren't going there (see above: boring, and prejudicial = disrespectful).

I write lit fic. Sometimes realism, often fabulist. My work is neither flowery nor experimental. Whether or not it's good is a different question--and that, for me, is where I hesitate, not the what of it. :)
 
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M.S. Wiggins

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Hello everyone. So I write literary fiction, as beta reader after beta reader after beta reader after… has told me so. I think it all started with that one horror story I wrote years ago when a beta reader quit after a first-three-chapters swap and her reason was: “I can’t connect with the mc.” Naturally, I researched what this meant (meaning I became obsessed with trying to fix whatever may be broken). Right or wrong, I decided that maybe the problem was that I hadn’t delved deeply enough into the character’s motivation (what makes the character tick). Well, you can bet your sweet cheeks I fixed that problem. Every beta reader I’ve had since then (with other stories, but also including that horror story) slips in the ‘literary’ word in their assessment.

I’ve written:

literary horror
literary speculative fiction (x2)
literary science fiction
My most recently (‘recently’ used loosely here) completed manuscript is literary ?

I can’t nail down the genre. The last beta reader wrote: “It’s like Fight Club meets One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.” (And she wasn’t wrong, per se.) The beta reader before her got more of a paranormal vibe.
My dilemma? For someone who likes to at least try to slap a label on manuscripts? What the hell genre is it? I’ve always viewed it as ‘left to reader interpretation’. But that’s not a genre either.

Does anyone here have any thoughts on this? Am I just trying to shove a square peg in a round hole?

I welcome any and all advice.
Thank you.
 
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ap123

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Hello everyone. So I write literary fiction, as beta reader after beta reader after beta reader after… has told me so. I think it all started with that one horror story I wrote years ago when a beta reader quit after a first-three-chapters swap and her reason was: “I can’t connect with the mc.” Naturally, I researched what this meant (meaning I became obsessed with trying to fix whatever may be broken). Right or wrong, I decided that maybe the problem was that I hadn’t delved deeply enough into the character’s motivation (what makes the character tick). Well, you can bet your sweet cheeks I fixed that problem. Every beta reader I’ve had since then (with other stories, but also including that horror story) slips in the ‘literary’ word in their assessment.

I’ve written:

literary horror
literary speculative fiction (x2)
literary science fiction
My most recently (‘recently’ used loosely here) completed manuscript is literary ?

I can’t nail down the genre. The last beta reader wrote: “It’s like Fight Club meets One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.” (And she wasn’t wrong, per se.) The beta reader before her got more of a paranormal vibe.
My dilemma? For someone who likes to at least try to slap a label on manuscripts? What the hell genre is it? I’ve always viewed it as ‘left to reader interpretation’. But that’s not a genre either.

Does anyone here have any thoughts on this? Am I just trying to shove a square peg in a round hole?

I welcome any and all advice.
Thank you.
Hi & welcome to the Lit Fic thread!

I have 0 experience with self-pubbing, but if you're going to query, yes, you need to identify a genre, or at least a broad category, like lit fic.
I can't really say, if you're unsure & I haven't read it, but it is completely valid to query a novel as lit fic, no further qualifiers required. If it feels more appropriate/more comfortable for you, another option is to term it upmarket. Somewhere upthread here is a link to a graphic that helps with the distinctions. :)
 

M.S. Wiggins

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Hi & welcome to the Lit Fic thread!

I have 0 experience with self-pubbing, but if you're going to query, yes, you need to identify a genre, or at least a broad category, like lit fic.
I can't really say, if you're unsure & I haven't read it, but it is completely valid to query a novel as lit fic, no further qualifiers required. If it feels more appropriate/more comfortable for you, another option is to term it upmarket. Somewhere upthread here is a link to a graphic that helps with the distinctions. :)
Thank you so much, ap123. Yes, I have looked at the graphic. Several times, in fact, and not just recently. (I oughta have it framed so I can hang it near my desk!) When I start querying this novel I'll probably leave it at lit fic... and then, assuming they'll read the sample page/s, hope they won't laugh at my folly. (I worry too much.)
 
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mccardey

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If it feels more appropriate/more comfortable for you, another option is to term it upmarket. Somewhere upthread here is a link to a graphic that helps with the distinctions. :)
I would suggest Upmarket, simply because it's a larger category, repped by more agents, and does better business that straight-up lit fic. And from what you're describing, your work doesn't seem to be lit-fic - it sounds more like you're writing with a literary style which is not the same thing. A literary thriller (ask me how I know this) is not the same thing as literary fiction - and I wish to god it had been shelved as Upmarket instead (see above).
 

M.S. Wiggins

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You know what, looking at this through a different lens (thank you apt123 and mccardey... and yet another look at that graphic) I'm thinking Upmarket is indeed the better 'home' for this novel (It's titled: Safe Harbors: False Selves Satire). Anyway, I thank you both more than I can fully and truly express through mere typed words in a tiny box.

How 'bout some flowers! 💐 (I would add a kiss, but that would be weird. ;))
 
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ap123

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You know what, looking at this through a different lens (thank you apt123 and mccardey... and yet another look at that graphic) I'm thinking Upmarket is indeed the better 'home' for this novel (It's titled: Safe Harbors: False Selves Satire). Anyway, I thank you both more than I can fully and truly express through mere typed words in a tiny box.

How 'bout some flowers! 💐 (I would add a kiss, but that would be weird. ;))
I love flowers!
And I'm glad if we helped. I know for me it feels good to have how to categorize the mss settled. Fairly settled. Settled enough. 😂 And I agree with mccardey, if upmarket feels right, it's a broader umbrella than lit fic, making it easier to find agents to query.
 
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Catriona Grace

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After much research and cogitation helped along by this thread, I've decided my current WIP is upmarket fiction with a strong element of magical realism. That definition is subject to adjustment depending on where the queries go, of course.

I was beginning to feel quite lonely amidst the fantasy and sci-fi writers. Nothing against either (I've also written fantasy) but that's not where my interest lies right now.