April 13, 2013 by KWills
I’m stuck. Seriously stalled. Ground to a halt, and other non-progressive type expressions. Writing, right now, is almost physically painful. So, in an attempt to rekindle my enthusiasm, I’ve been taking a peek ahead and refining my longlist of potential agents down to a shortlist.
Firstly, I went through the “Agents” section in the Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook, and crossed off all the companies who said “no fiction”, or “no children’s books”, or “no fantasy” – agents that were definitely not worth approaching with my YA fantasy novel. Then, I made a spreadsheet list of the remaining agents, and made a series of columns for things like “picture books”, “sci-fi”, and – importantly – “no reading fee”. One expression, though, kept on cropping up: “literary and commercial fiction”. This is a dichotomy that has always puzzled me, so I thought I’d better do some research and find out if I’m writing “literary” fiction or not; especially as half the agents on my list had the words “literary fiction” somewhere in their descriptions.
I found some useful articles to explain what is meant by literary fiction, but I still can’t make head nor tail of it. I’ll submit the best work I can do, and let the pros figure out where it belongs. Please leave a comment if you can help.
Another problem I face is whether I want to be an author, or a children’s author. I am currently editing “The History of Haplow House”, which is YA; but I’m also working on “Beyond Imagining”, a graphic novel that I hope will appeal to everyone over the age of about 10; and the next novel in the pipeline (“The Listeners”) is aimed at adult readers. Then again, if a bright 12-year-old reads and enjoys “The History of Haplow House” and then goes on to “The Listeners”, it should be understandable. Likewise, if an adult reads “The Listeners” first, then “Beyond Imagining” should be just as entertaining and thought-provoking.
What makes a book “for adults” or “for children”? I read the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy when I was eleven, and I enjoyed Dickens, Thackeray and Austin while I was still in school. I’m not saying that to brag – I honestly believe that as long as you can figure out what the words mean (and I did have to guess a bit at first) then sheer length (pages, sentences or even words) should not be an issue.
The choice of words and of subject matter is different. Most parents would object to their children bringing home books featuring graphic sex, foul language and drug cartels. So, do all books for adults need to have some NSFW aspect? I hope not. I don’t plan to write anything “fearless, forthright, and filthy“, even in my most complex and experimental work.