Notes from An Alien

~ Explorations In Reading, Writing & Publishing ~

Tag Archives: literary

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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What Is A Genre & Should You Try To Write In One?


“Genre” simply means a kind or type of writing.

Some folks have even criticized the whole concept of genre.

If you look the word up in Wikipedia, you’ll see a questioning of the genre of the very article about genre:

“This article is written like a personal reflection or essay and may require cleanup. Please help improve it by rewriting it in an encyclopedic style.”

Wikipedia supplies a list of genres and there’s a much more extensive one here.

So, do writers sit down and think about all the genres and choose a particular one to create within?

Some do and some do it well. Still, some “genre writers” get stuck in the form and fill it with less than original content.

Many writers say they first meet or create their characters and that helps determine the genre. Yet, a book can begin to be written in one genre and end up turning itself into quite a different genre.

And, to include an edit of this post after it was written and published, one could explore mash-ups, where an idea from one genre gets recreated in a potentially jarring genre. Take a gander at Roz Morris’ post on literary mash-ups!

Sometimes a writer finds a plot first but almost any specific plot can happen in a number of different genres.

Also, you don’t have to look far for arguments against genre-writing by folks who try to compare it with “literary” writing–as if a book written in a particular genre automatically becomes non-literary…

You can also find arguments like:

“…even good genre…is by definition a constrained form of writing. There are conventions and these limit the material…If you are following conventions, then a significant percentage of the thinking and imagining has been taken out of the exercise. Lots of decisions are already made.  So it follows that genre tends to rely on a simpler reader psychology.”

But the article that contains that quote goes on and extols good genre writing.

So 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 :-)
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