Monthly Archives: May 2014

Can Genre Fiction Also Be Literary?

When it comes to my writing, I’ve always had a bit of a dilemma.

Like a lot of writers, I have a fantasy in my head of being the modern era’s Hemingway or Faulkner. Perhaps sitting in a small cafe in Paris, dutifully punching out literary masterpieces that will be cherished throughout the ages. After all, isn’t that at least part of why people write? So that while we may pass from this earth, at least our thoughts and feelings might become immortal.

Still, while I do love reading the classics, I have to admit that my favorite books have always been in the sci-fi/fantasy/horror genres. Particularly fantasy. It probably won’t surprise most of you to find out that I’m a big nerd. I love nothing more than reading fantastic tales of swords and sorcery. Maybe I’ve always dreamed of being the valiant hero who saves the damsel in distress, (please forgive my chauvinism,) or maybe I just long for a time when courage and chivalry counted for something. Whatever the reason, I’ve always loved medieval history both factual and fictional. I still hold out hope that some day, an archaeologist will discover evidence of dragons. I’m such a fan of the genre, I’ve even taken up amateur blacksmithing as a hobby.

Because of this, I’m afraid I’ve developed a bit of a split personality when it comes to my writing. I switch from being the serious author who wants to immortalize his thoughts and feelings in print, to the writer who just wants to play and step into the shoes of his characters to live out the lives of people he will never be.

I’ve been doing some serious thinking about this recently and have come to a conclusion. Who says genre fiction can’t also be literary? Why can’t one piece of work be both entertaining and meaningful? Of course there are examples of books that, were they written today, would be pigeonholed into a specific genre but have still managed to become literary classics. Books such as The Three Musketeers, Treasure Island, and Robin Hood. The question is, Can it be done today?

I guess there’s only one way to find out.

So I suppose the point of this rather rambling post is this. I’m going to be true to myself and write what I enjoy. Hopefully my more literary personality will be able to reconcile with my other side and I can find some peace. Or at the very least, I’ll be able to finish a project without questioning whether it’s really what I want to be writing.

Of course, the fantasy bar has been set fairly high by certain contemporary writers, (I’m looking at you George Martin,) but I think I’m up to the task.

One other perk of being a successful fantasy writer, if I get popular enough, I might be invited to Comic Con.

What do you think? Can a work of fantasy, sci-fi, or horror also be literary?

Leave your answer here, or on Twitter @JustinMKelly1, or on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/jmkelly60. Also, please visit my website at http://justinmkelly.com/ (I have plans for a major overhaul but I’m concentrating on the writing itself right now.)

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Okay, Okay, I Confess

First, an apology for being a day late with my post this week. I intended to write a post night before last but things got a little crazy. The motel I work at usually provides a quiet, distraction free place where I can work on my craft with little interruption. Unless there’s an escaped fugitive staying in one of our rooms and the police are trying to get him out. Yes, that was my night. So needless to say, my mind wasn’t exactly on my work. Anyway, here it is now. I know you were all waiting with bated breath.

I have a confession to make.

I haven’t written a thing so far this week.

I’ve thought about writing, I just haven’t actually done any.

I have a good excuse, I promise. Although I still feel guilty.

I was trying to teach myself how to outline.

I know for some of you, outlining is probably second nature, but I’ve never done it. I’ve always just sat down at the keyboard and started writing. This can be great fun. I get to enjoy watching the story unfold and watch the characters develop as I write the story just as you get to when you read it.

Unfortunately, not having a plan tends to result in a half finished story, of which I have written dozens, possibly even hundreds. Occasionally I’m able to finish a story, but more often than not, I write myself into a corner or just reach a point where I have no idea where to go next. Sometimes the story is just dragging because I’m wandering aimlessly trying to find the story like a miner stumbling around in the dark looking for that vein of gold.

I’m trying to find a balance when it comes to outlining. I want enough plot points to keep me going when I get stuck, but I don’t want it to be so tight that I have no room to play. I want my characters to have the freedom to wander off from time to time. Occasionally they may find the real story without me.

Seat of the pants writing can be a blast, but if I really want to make a career out of writing, I’ve got to have a roadmap so I can finish my stories.

Sorry for the short post this week. I promise next week’s will be longer, and hopefully on time. Please visit me on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/jmkelly60 Or on Twitter @JustinMKelly1

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Feeding The Habit

The only way to be a writer is to write. It seems obvious, but I never realized that there is more to this oft-repeated advice than it seems.

Yes, it’s true. If you never write anything, then you can never really be a writer. But there’s more to it. My biggest excuse for not writing as much as I should have over the last several (please don’t ask how many) years is that I had no good ideas. Or that I would get halfway through a story and run out of ideas. It’s very frustrating to suddenly not be able to do something you were once so good at. Especially if it’s the only thing you’ve ever felt you were really good at.

Over the last few weeks, I’ve finally started taking my writing career seriously. That means not just writing when the “muse” was with me. It means forcing myself to write when I’d rather be doing just about anything else. It means ignoring that new Facebook notification, not checking to see what’s new on Netflix, or giving in to any of the other millions of distractions the internet presents. It means devoting myself entirely to being a writer.

Most importantly, it means not giving up when I hit that wall but instead finding a way over, or around, or even, if need be, smashing right through it.

What I’ve found is that forcing myself to write even when I don’t feel like it, even when what I’m writing seems like complete crap, leads to new ideas. Sure, you may have to throw away some parts that took you forever to write but sometimes you have to clear away all the dirt to get to the gold.

I can’t say I don’t still have moments where I just don’t feel like writing. I can’t say I don’t still sometimes feel uninspired. Still, more and more, I look forward to my time at the keyboard. The ideas are flowing once again. I look forward to my fingers flying across the keys just so I can see where the story goes.

Writing really is like a muscle. If you want it to perform, you have to exercise it on a regular basis.

The voices are back. EXCELLENT

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