Real Mistakes, Real Laughs:

Air bases were built on captured islands of Tinian, Saipan, and Guam but they were barley within the range of the long-range bombers.

(hope the bombadiers weren't on gluten-free diets)

Didn't catch the typo? Scroll to bottom of page

Monday, August 18, 2008

Freedom Writer

It’s no news flash that in the dictionary under "insecure" it says "see ‘writer.’" We’ve all been there. I’m proud of the fact that after 13 years of freelancing, I’ve progressed to a level where I know when my work is good, just as I know when it isn’t. This insight doesn’t exempt me from variations of writer’s insecurity, though. I spent a good portion of my freelance career feeling that the only talented, laudable (i.e., "worthy") writer is the literary novelist. This judgmental conclusion was pretty masochistic, considering that after 13 years of articles, essays, and books, not a single published piece of mine was literary. So I decided I must become a literary writer. I applied to graduate school.

Do you see a trend here? Because I sure didn’t. For a pretty self-aware person, I was blind to the signs right in front of me: I prefer reading nonfiction, I prefer writing nonfiction, I even prefer watching "nonfiction" TV (e.g., Discovery, History, National Geographic Channels). The light finally dawned when the only graduate degree program I was invited to pursue was the M.A. in Popular Fiction at Seton Hill University in Greensburg, PA.

I’m not knocking literary authors or their work; well-crafted literary prose is gorgeous. Nor am I spitting back the old "write from your heart, not for the market" adage; there are indeed established genre authors who successfully negotiate foreign territory deemed the Hot New Thing. They can afford the risk; they’re already household names. Rising authors are advised to find their best genre – literary fiction or otherwise – and persist. For me, that means commercial fiction and nonfiction, and I realized I don’t need a $50,000 parchment to confirm it.

Despite the bravado, I have my moments. Sometimes wonder if I won’t end up a martyr of the back lists, willing to die before compromising my art (or lack of art, as some commercial writing is regarded). So I was encouraged by this item on the Guide to Literary Agents Editors Blog of agents’ pet peeves:

"The [adjective] [adjective] sun rose in the [adjective] [adjective] sky, shedding its [adjective] light across the [adjective] [adjective] [adjective] land."

When you come right down to it, even the most beautiful literary prose needs one important ingredient to succeed.

Commercial value.

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