It’s that dreaded time in an author’s life when a project is nearing completion. Dreaded because one hates to let one’s characters and stories go off on their own into the big, wide, scary universe. And dreaded because it means one must refocus.
With FATAL ERROR the 2nd edition off to the cover designer (Avalon Graphics) and formatter (e B Format) I ponder my future.
I have not been as successful a writer sales-wise as I’d have liked. There have been many rewarding aspects to this career—sales not being one of them. It costs a lot in time and money to write, publish and promote books and after 8 books, both traditionally- and self-published, financial success has not followed.
It’s not that I’m starving (I have other revenue sources) but the common measurement of success in my part of the world is a monetary one. Not achieving monetary success lends itself to creating a feeling of failure.
Despite that, I am doing what I have to do, compelled to continue. Obsessed. There are many life pursuits that are detached from financial gain, and writing, for me, is one of them.
Many hobbies score low on the financial value scale—gardening, knitting, cooking. As do other activities such as raising children and doing volunteer work (hours of it for many).
My novels are my spiritual contribution to the world, my commentary on people and their lives, on social values and political influences. My books are my immortality.
So what’s up for me? There is always the next book in The BackTracker Series, drafted and ready to refine (I have several sequels on my hard drive). There is my NaNoWriMo project. (National Novel Writing Month –which is November and is the month in which one is supposed to complete a novel. Traditionally, for me, it takes 3 years-worth of Novembers to get a novel done!) My current ongoing NaNoWriMo project is a triology of scifi novelettes, written in past years and now ready to refine.
Then there is my nagging desire to write a Literary Novel.
I have heard ‘literary novel’ defined as a novel wherein characters which one cares little about are doing things in which one is not very interested.
It’s not a flattering definition, but one with which I feel a kinship. I’ve never much liked reading literary novels but they are the ones that get all the attention and awards.
Literary works encompass the classics and the Shakespearean and Margaret Atwood’s Handmaid's Tale.
What sets apart a literary work is the writing. Whereas I have until now done my best to make my writing disappear beneath the story and the characters and the plot and dialogue, in a literary novel the writing itself is an integral part of the book. Everything from word-choice, to cadence, to sentence structure, to symbolism comes into play. Powerful words are used to create scenes and define characters. The writing almost becomes a character itself, driving the plot, setting the scene, and creating the emotions.
Literary novels are sort of like poetry, but not totally the same. They can be beautiful and can be ugly. They can have abrupt endings, logical endings or no endings. They can be historic or futuristic or every day. But, always, they make a social comment. They change the way their readers think. They wring out readers’ emotions.They can inspire and they can depress. Sometimes they deaden. They are quotable. They strongly affect all who read them.
They change the world—one word at a time.
Literary novels tend not to make the mainstream, tend not to place on best-seller charts. They are reserved for book clubs, schools and universities, and the very best of the New York Times reviewers. They tend to win Giller Prizes and the like.
I want to write a literary novel for perhaps the same reason that comic actresses long for dramatic roles, why Sally Fields went from The Flying Nun to Norma Rae. I want to be taken seriously as an author, I want to grow my writing abilities. I want to do more for the world than merely entertain.
I want to learn how to make a difference.
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