Justifiers and Qualifiers

The two women friends are shocked at a third w...

The two women friends are shocked at a third woman dressed as a man. But Harlequin and Pierrot are also men. From the Danish “Punch” magazine (not the British Punch), July 1876 no. 30 page 233 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I feel like I’ve done quite a bit of moaning and groaning here on Mrs Fringe in the past couple of weeks.  New week, I’d like to start out positive before beginning my usual obsessing musings.  While I didn’t write as much as I would have liked at this point in the month, I have worked on both my WIP and a couple of short stories.  There.  I’ve given my dear readers unicorns and rainbows, you too, can chase your tail while sorting laundry and cleaning lost bodily fluids from canines and dependents.

On to the whine portion of happy hour.  As I’ve said  in the past, I write romance (the current WIP) and literary fiction (short stories, and a temporarily shelved WIP).  None of this includes the blogging, which is another entirely different style of writing.  Everybody’s a critic.  Those who like romance,  other types of genre fiction, or even–squee–my romances, don’t understand why I write lit fic.  “Ew. Oh. It’s so dark.  Aren’t those the books where nothing ever happens?  Why do you write that?  Well, it’s not my cup of tea.”

For those who like lit fic, or even–squee–my lit fic, when they hear I also write romance.  “Really?  Why are you wasting your time with that shit?  You can do better than that.  Well, I guess it’s easy money.”

I can’t win for losing.  First of all, let me repeat, for the 8000th time, nothing in writing is easy money, or an easy path to publication.  After 40,000 years I am still, but hopefully not always, one of the unwashed and unpublished masses.  Maybe not unwashed, I bought an absolutely divine magnolia pear scented soap.

As a reader, I have a wide variety of books on my shelves.  Romance, lit fic, short stories, poems, biographies, essays, non fiction books about economics, various religions, cookbooks, thrillers, horror, mysteries, even a fantasy or two.   Some people are more focused, but I know many whose bookshelves look like mine.

Fiction Stacks

Fiction Stacks (Photo credit: chelmsfordpubliclibrary)

So why do these same people with varied titles on their reading lists sneer at me for writing two seemingly disparate styles?  Yes, the style of writing, pacing, sentence structure, word choice, these things are different.  One is more introspective and character driven, the other quicker paced and it’s true, the black moment is a lot more, ummm, navy blue.  But honestly, most (all) fiction is about exploring people, our emotions, our responses, our needs, wants, desires, connection to others, how we respond in any given situation, societal dilemmas and individual dilemmas.

I’m guessing there are slurs for every style and genre, but it feels like the two I write in are particular targets.  Romance is for frustrated housewives, girly-porn (not sure what these critics make of M/M romance, but hey), they can be knocked out in a week, blah blah blah.  And this doesn’t begin to touch the many subgenres of romance, or the different levels of “heat,” from sweet to yowza!  I like writing romance.  It isn’t easy, but it’s fun.  How do two people (or vampires, if that’s your thing) fall in love?  What makes someone heroic, or lovable, for that matter?  What makes someone with an independent, fulfilling life want to make the drastic changes necessary to incorporate a significant other and arrive at happily ever after, or even happy for now?

And literary fiction.  Sigh.  It’s pretentious, self conscious, an excuse to break the rules of grammar, there’s no plot, it can’t be literary if it hasn’t won an award, navel gazing, yada, yada, yada.  If you haven’t been following Mrs Fringe for long, let me tell you, I’m quite fond of navel gazing, and wondering why the fuck we make the decisions we do.  Yanno, the human condition.  Also, not easy to write, and for me, even the pace of production is slower than when I write romance.  Is it “fun” to write?  No, but there’s a depth of satisfaction I can’t describe, and I love it.

I wish I was like Stephen King, able to create believable, relatable characters that battle unreal creatures and situations.  I wish I was like Margaret Atwood, sculpting a marriage of poetry, brilliant prose, and speculative fiction.  I don’t have either of their levels of talent, certainly not the imaginations required.  But if I did have an imagination that leaned towards alternate realities and creatures that go bump in the night? I’d write those stories too.

Why this rant?  Because I am feeling good about working on both, I get different but definite satisfaction from working on each, but I’ve received several of  these not so sly little pinches in conversation this week.   Unknot your panties, folks.  If I’m ever blessed enough to be published in both, they’ll be in different sections of the bookstore (assuming there still are brick and mortar bookstores by then), and I’ll use a pen name for one of the styles.

“Another belief of mine: that everyone else my...

“Another belief of mine: that everyone else my age is an adult, whereas I am merely in disguise.” Margaret Atwood (Photo credit: katerha)

14 comments

  1. You know, my best friend’s mom always talked about wanting to write again when we were kids. She and her husband had published Christian counseling books when we were kids, her husband was a Southern Baptist minister. They actually met in Hollywood when they both attended a fellowship for actors. Anyway after her kids were grown and she started writing historical romantic fiction – she has had 12 books published. She was always the most creative mom – she painted an eagle on her Suburban with house paint to mark the Bi-centenial. Who knew she had a dozen or more books in her. She’s still selling and writing – I love that.

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  2. I write romance, and I love to read both literary fiction and genre of all kinds.

    I agree wholeheartedly about the criticisms you hear, because I hear them too. I suppose every sort of art suffers from its own critics. A big part of it is who you talk to – if you’re talking to artistes, they’re going to scoff at your romance novels. If you’re talking to people that don’t read ever and only like TV, they’re going to scoff at poetry.

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    1. I know these aren’t experiences unique to me, but I’m sorry you hear these criticisms too.

      So frustrating!

      Welcome to Mrs Fringe, and thank you for taking the time to comment. 🙂 I hope you’ll stop by again!

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  3. I’m sorry to be showing up so late to the party! Mrs. Fringe, I wonder if you have ever read True Confessions Story by Spencer Holst? It could be said to be about the intersection between literary fiction and romance writing. It is an utterly delightful story and may lift your spirits, though I assure you you are nothing like any of the characters depictd. Well, maybe in part you are… the good parts. 🙂

    Anyway, I highly recommend the story’ it’s collected in The Zebra Storyteller, one of my all time favorite books.

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    1. Thank you Kyla 🙂 No, I haven’t read it, and now I’m going to make a note to find it and read it. I definitely need something to lift my spirits, so I particularly appreciate the rec and good thoughts tonight!

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  4. After reading this, before I could reply I had to *looking around embarrassed to reveal my complete ignorance* look up literary fiction. I’d seen you repeatedly refer to it here and the term kind of confused me. So I read, I thought I understood the difference and then read a totally pretentious dissertation about it on some writers site and was left confused all over again.:D

    Anyway, to my important point: if one enjoys reading multiple genres why on earth couldn’t one write multiple genres? I think the whole slur thing is insulting. You write what you love, and I can’t wait to read it!

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    1. I’m sorry, I should have clarified!

      Lit fic is tricky, there isn’t one, clear, definitive definition. In general, it’s safe to say it’s more character driven than plot driven, (often much) slower paced. You’ll usually find more introspection. Some say it’s a heavier focus on how the words are structured. Others say it isn’t literary unless its won awards. Most agree they know it when they see it. Have I muddied the water further?

      I’m not sure, but I don’t think there’s as much of a “You’re writing what?” if the genres are, say, mystery and sci fi, fantasy and thrillers. I could be wrong, since I don’t write any of those–and romance is always dissed. Which makes no sense, because it is the lion’s share of the mass market fiction sold.

      Thank you! ❤

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  5. I went to a writer’s group once and everyone had to bring along a piece of their writing to read to the others. I listened with fascination at some of the other pieces mostly from works in progress – romance, science fiction, crime, thriller. Then it was my turn. I read out the first chapter of my self-help book that I had begun to write on helping my son with food sensitivities (I am a nutritionist). Everyone stared at me blankly. It was as if I did not belong. One person even said … but who would read it? Of course, a book with a scientific basis is by necessity factual and informative in content without flowering adjectives or colourful verbs, so completely different from the others in the group. While I was going to that group to get some support for my “writing” (sentence construction, grammar, editing, putting a book together for publication), the others were there for an appreciation of different literary styles. I realised in an instant that I had gone to the wrong place.

    Advice …. do not listen to any of the critics. Go for what is in your heart and soul.

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