Notes from An Alien

~ Explorations In Reading, Writing & Publishing ~

Genre or Literary? What’s The Difference?

“…the question of whether a writer should try to write in a particular genre could become completely moot. What matters most is good writing, creative writing; even writing that pushes hard against genres and rules and conventions—steps up to the literary plate and belts one out of the authorial park :-)

That quote is from a previous post, Genre Reconsidered ~ Reader-Driven Fiction, that has links to three more previous posts that explore Genre.

If you want some “definitions” you could look here > Genre and here > Literary but you may come away from those references still wondering what they mean

I feel the divisions between various types of writing are being diluted as the publishers who created and sold them are being transformed.

I published a novel a year ago that most “experts” would not label as a novel.

Most folks would say it’s Science Fiction (a genre) though it has much that adheres to the literary tradition.

I’m not that concerned with the categories

However, I don’t write this blog just for me :-)

I gave you some links up there for genre-exploration and I’ll point you toward the beginning of an exploration of the literary.

Jane Friedman had a guest blogger a while ago named April Line.

She wrote a piece called, Why Isn’t Literary Fiction Getting More Attention?

What are your thoughts or feelings about genre vs literary?
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13 responses to “Genre or Literary? What’s The Difference?

  1. lynnbiederstadt May 1, 2012 at 10:51 am

    I was trying to find the very similar post that I did on Skydiaries about being suspended–and happily so–between genres. I’m happy in that netherworld. If one can have the conventions of genre that help attract readers and hold their attention, and have the richness of inner character-life that is the stuff of the Literary, why shouldn’t we? Why shouldn’t we use every tool available to bring our tales to life?


    • Alexander M Zoltai May 1, 2012 at 11:04 am

      I admire your willingness to stretch your talents to include consideration of genre

      The fact that my novel could be considered genre had nothing to do with that type of consideration—my story had to teach Earth a lesson and creating a civilization 12 light-years away was necessary—so, in a way it is Sci-fi but certainly not to the characters in the story :-)


      • lynnbiederstadt May 1, 2012 at 11:11 am

        One of my favorite books, Mary Doria Russell’s “The Sparrow” does what yours does. It’s sci-fi, but more than that…as I expect yours is….


        • Alexander M Zoltai May 1, 2012 at 11:12 am

          Thanks for that heads-up, Lynn :-)


  2. Simone Benedict May 1, 2012 at 12:19 pm

    I learned a bit from this Alexander. I’m someone who thinks of literary as a separate genre. I also learned a new category. Paraliterary. Oh, I love that one! :-)


    • Alexander M Zoltai May 1, 2012 at 2:32 pm

      So, then, I propose that Paraliterary and Anti-Genre get married and give birth to ________________………


      • Simone Benedict May 1, 2012 at 2:42 pm

        Oh my!

        Say, Congratulations Alexander! I was just reading about you in Joel Friedlander’s latest issue of “Carnival of the Indies”!!! Awesome!


        • Alexander M Zoltai May 1, 2012 at 2:59 pm

          Yep, I submit every month—only been rejected once, so far


  3. martinaseveckepohlen May 1, 2012 at 2:41 pm

    Paraliterary is a great word because it invites ideas that theorists never dreamed of. I’m sure it’s useful for labelling books that are considered too readable. The Corgi editions of Terry Pratchetts discworld novels used to have the lovely sentence “Occasionally he gets accused of literature” on the ‘about the author’ page. When I first read it in the 1990s I thought it was a joke. The case of Terry Pratchett is interesting because the light tone of his language often becomes dark (literature?) and his German translators have so far failed (or didn’t bother) to look behind the obvious meaning of the words. It appears that the label genre has dire consequences for the treatment books undergo.


    • Alexander M Zoltai May 1, 2012 at 3:02 pm

      Three most interesting observations you make, Martina:

      “Paraliterary…useful for labelling books that are considered too readable.”

      “Occasionally he gets accused of literature”


      “It appears that the label genre has dire consequences for the treatment books undergo.”


  4. Mollie Player May 1, 2012 at 6:47 pm

    I prefer genre when possible. It goes without saying that we want to exceed the usual genre quality whenever possible; however, just because you are a genre writer doesn’t mean people don’t expect surprises, uniqueness. It’s all in how you use it, and I think in the end it sells more books. That said, I’m not a genre writer … yet. It’s actually something I aspire to though my inspiration is too varied lately.!!!


    • Alexander M Zoltai May 1, 2012 at 11:38 pm

      Well, writing to a genre does have the potential benefit of possibly helping sell a book


  5. Pingback: Is Genre The Best Way To Pick A Book? | Notes from An Alien

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