by Elizabeth Conte
If I wrote the way I spoke, I would be in big trouble! I over talk. Over explain. Over argue. So, it is no surprise that I overwrite. Writing to me is like eating donuts holes – little sugary balls of dough that you can’t stop stuffing into your mouth, one right after the other, until the two dozen are gone. I can’t stuff enough words into my novel. I stuff until there are no words left.
Let’s face it, if you are a fan of 20th century writers, overwriting was the model of great writing. Have you read D. H. Lawrence? Paul Bowles overwrote almost every thought, much to many reader’s dismay. But I am not here to discuss the merits of writers from the past. We all know in today’s publishing world, many of our beloved writers, who feasted on words, wouldn’t get past the query.
A Literary Girl Living In A Publishing World
Writers feast on praise. “We lean into what we’re good at, and we avoid our weaknesses,” says Julianne Boggett in her article, The Writerly Skills Test. But one of the hardest things to do as a writer is to face what we aren’t good at. My weakness is words. Lots and lots of words for the mere fact they are beautiful, poetic, and musical. It is why I became a writer. But writers are facing a new landscape.
The novel, in its quest to be published in today’s market, has undergone changes. To be competitive, meet the needs of the busy consumer, keep pace with the ever-changing society and digital age, and the downsizing/corporate takeovers of publishing companies with their diminished power of the purse, the novel, once a Gesamtkunstwerk, is now mere entertainment. The point of reading was the literary ride, not the destination. Words were to feast on, not just to glance upon to get to the end.
For Better or For Worse
When Stephan King proclaims, “I believe the road to hell is paved with adverbs, and I will shout it from the rooftops,” does any writer dare question the king? Advice is pounded into writers with a heavy stick. If it doesn’t build character, or advance your plot, edit it out. Edit. Edit again. Then edit again. It seems I spend more time cutting my novel than writing my novel. But what does this fast-paced, slimmed down version of novel writing mean for great literature?
If a person is to succeed in the writing business, he or she must adjust to the demands of the marketplace. For me, that meant facing my weakness, overwriting. I thought I could plow through the wall of rules with the high ideal that readers wanted the literary back in literature. I stood firmly in my writing and filled my novels with adverbs, dialogue tags, and lofty, beautiful descriptions that “didn’t move the plot along.” I had words to feast on! They were books D. H. Lawrence would be proud of (or so I imagined). But that is not what the publishing industry is seeking. Therefore, I have had to change my writing style to accommodate the demands.
Weak or Rebel
Oh, there are those that will insist that I am becoming a better writer. But by whose standard? Is the publishing world of today a better literary world? For all those who argue that I am discussing the merits of literary vs genre, I am doing neither. I am addressing the very real standards by which writers are being assessed, accepted, or rejected. There is an “in” style that is dominating the publishing world. To ignore it means failure, unless you are very, very lucky. Being unique or breaking the mold only works when you have made it. I realize that I have to adjust for the marketplace, if I am to fit in.
Am I betraying my artistry? I like to think that I am growing as a writer and learning new skills. I am taking a weakness and learning to broaden my writing abilities and hopefully will find my place in the publishing world.
When I am not writing books, tormented with poetry, or inspiring others with my blog at Writerdeeva.com, you can find some of my work published in Lost Coast Review and PennWriters, and I am a regular editor/contributor to Industry News for Women’s Fiction Writers Association (WFWA).