“Do you really want to write a beach book?”

“Do you really want to write a beach book?”

was the question posed to me by an international best-selling crime fiction novelist in her writing workshop where participants read a few pages of their works in progress.

Her tone was accusatory.

slap cheek

Honestly, I felt like I’d just been slapped.

Hard. On both cheeks.

I’ve no doubt my face colored.

I was crestfallen. Every writer hopes for approval from authors they admire. Or at least, constructive criticism.

judged c

I felt judged as lacking.

I felt publicly shamed.

I don’t even know if I answered her.

I was just doing everything in my power to keep from bursting into tears.

meaningful

I tried very hard to hear what she was saying as meaningful feedback.

But she wasn’t critiquing my writing, but the content of my writing.

What I hadn’t realized at the time, was I was running into the great divide, previously unknown to me–

Literary versus Genre Fiction.

lit vs genre

And genre fiction, like my romantic time travel adventure novel, according to her was not worthy of wasting time writing.

(And isn’t crime fiction, genre fiction too? Well, not hers I guess.)

I’ve been writing poetry since I could hold a crayon. But that was okay, because poetry is considered literary?

poetry b

Call me naive, but I didn’t realize there was such animosity between literary writers and genre writers.

To me, good writing is good writing.

And I’ve always read both literary and genre fiction without placing any value judgment on the worthiness of either.

I like what I like. And I like a good story.

once upon

I like books that transport me to other worlds, other lives, other experiences than my own.

bradbury

Books that make me think, and feel, and understand something new.

kindred

Books that take me out of my own mental anguish and bring joy.

p and p

Both literary and genre fiction can do those things.

handmaid

So why decide one type of writing is better or more worthy than the other?

Why is only “literary” worthy or merit

and

who defines what is literary and what isn’t?

better

I wish I had stood up to that author.

I wish I had said, “All writing matters.”

proper lit

I wish I could go back in time, and say to that author who shamed me,

“Yes, I really want to write a beach book.”

And now I have.

I wrote the book I needed and wanted to write.

And I’m glad I did. Hopefully, some readers will be too.

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3 thoughts on ““Do you really want to write a beach book?”

  1. You are so right. Good writing IS good writing, no matter the genre, or even if there isn’t one. Dashiell Hammett and Ray Bradbury and countless others dispelled that myth a long time ago. She was wrong. Sail on…

  2. I agree with Richard. ‘Good writing IS good writing, no matter the genre…’

    The conflict that I feel sometimes re genre writing is what is written for commercial gain rather than good writing. The commercial guys who employ partner writers unfortunately in my opinion do not produce the quality of work that I read in the beginning: Agatha Christy, Lee Child, Grisham to name a few. Working in a bookshop puts me in contact with both readers and the books frequently. The conversations at the desk are rich.

    So, perhaps the thought of writing because writing is what you do and writing because you make your living from writing present both the reader and the writer of a different way of looking at it. Or am I being naive about this?
    I’ve been accused of being naive more than once.

    Both are valid in my opinion.

    1. Hi Janet,
      There is no shame in making money at doing what you love. It’s troublesome and unfair that Science Fiction and Romance and other genre writers are accused of just churning out words for the cash. Nothing could be further from the truth. Writers write for the love of making story. Would we accuse singers of being hacks because they make money from selling albums? I don’t think so. We may not love every genre of music, but that doesn’t make it less valid or less art or less enjoyable to the audiences that love those genres.

      I have incredible respect for Nora Roberts whose imagination is boundless, and whose ability to create empathetic, unique interesting characters is also boundless. She sells lots of books because she knows how to engage with readers looking for empathetic characters what want the happy ending life rarely has.

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