1. aguywhotypes
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    aguywhotypes Active Member

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    Looking for how to write literary fiction books.

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by aguywhotypes, Apr 29, 2015.

    There are plenty of general how to write your novel/story/genre fiction.

    I'm looking for books on how to write good literary fiction. Does anything exist?
     
  2. stevesh
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    stevesh Banned Contributor

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    I guess we'd have to know what you mean by 'literary fiction'. Non-genre, or something else?
     
  3. aguywhotypes
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    aguywhotypes Active Member

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    I'm leaning toward non-genre.
     
  4. Lance Schukies
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    Lance Schukies Active Member

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    I would say reading other books. I found nothing as you request, but learnt plenty from reading.
     
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  5. Selbbin
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    Selbbin I hate you Contributor

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    Literary fiction does things differently. There won't be a useful how to book because there can't be.
     
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  6. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    As already mentioned, the best way is to just read more literary fiction. In my opinion, how-to books are not very helpful, especially when it comes to something like creative writing.
     
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  7. Selbbin
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    Selbbin I hate you Contributor

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    I've read three literary fiction 'how to' books that helped:

    On the Road,
    Last Exit to Brooklyn,
    Factotum.

    And I'm not being a dick, either. All three are by writers who didn't worry or care about conventional writing and did things their own way, in different ways.
     
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  8. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Actually, I'd go a step farther and say if you want to write literary fiction, do NOT buy and read 'how-to' books. I mean, it's okay to understand how stories are usually constructed, what gets attention, what kinds of characters resonate with readers, how to present information in a way that engages the reader, but just about all the 'rules' that are handed out by 'how-to' writers are focused on writing a book that sells in large quantities. This is not the overriding goal of a literary fiction writer—although sometimes the regard of their peers and 'critical acclaim' is important to them, and of course they are happy if their book catches on.

    A literary fiction writer has something they want to say to the world, and they create their own method of saying it. In fact, many of them write books that baffle the 'how-tos' because they break nearly all the rules. They mess around with story structure. They create confusing POV characters. They throw rules of spelling, punctuation, etc, straight out the window. They do this deliberately for effect, not because they don't know any better. And because they do it deliberately, it works. Take a look at literary prize-winning books, and see how different they all are from one another. Compare this to the heap of genre books, most of which seem to be much like one another—in content, in style, in pace, in focus.

    The Impressionists were hated by the conventional art world when they first emerged because they broke all the rules, and just put little dabs of colour onto the canvas, instead of producing carefully rendered paintings and drawings like students of art were 'taught' to do at the time. Impressionist works were considered 'sloppy' by many, and the Impressionists had to create their own art exhibitions because conventional museums and galleries wouldn't touch them with barge poles at first. But these artists—who were all conventionally-trained and could do carefully-rendered drawings with the best of the conventionals—chose to go with their own methods instead. They broke the rules because they had something to say about the way we see things, and the result they were trying to achieve was totally different from that of the conventional artists around them.

    This isn't to say that a literary writer must break rules. It's just that a literary writer won't hesitate to break rules if they feel the rule-breaking enhances the vision they're creating.

    @aguywhotypes -
    It's a good question, but as others on this thread have said, these how-to books probably don't exist. However, what might be very useful is to read essays and reviews in literary magazines. These essays and reviews discuss works of contemporary literary fiction. There are also in-depth interviews with authors, who often discuss their methods and what made them want to write. You could also do worse than attend book festivals that feature literary artists. These events usually consist of authors reading from their books and taking questions from the audience. I'll be attending one of these a week from now—the beyond-excellent annual Ullapool Book Festival in the north of Scotland. Can't wait!
     
    Last edited: Apr 30, 2015
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  9. Selbbin
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    Selbbin I hate you Contributor

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    Hmmm, perhaps I should put out a book titled: how to write literary fiction. The first page will say 'Start here' and the rest of the pages will be blank.
     
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  10. Shadowfax
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    Shadowfax Contributing Member Contributor

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    That sounds like a Booker prize winner!
     
  11. Lance Schukies
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    Lance Schukies Active Member

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    do it
     
  12. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    I find that books which explore how to release creativity are of more help than an actual writing guide.
    Even books discussing art. Most how to write books are geared towards genre because it's reinforcing set patterns, generalizations and tropes. Readers buy genre because of their familiarity. And the how to write books are helping you to achieve that familiarity.

    The reason why nobody tells you how to write a literary book is because most writers who write literary are already out there doing there own thing. They don't need to be told how to be different.

    But here are some of the things how-to-write books skim over or avoid - things that I've noticed are usually common for a literary novel -
    * Voice/style
    * imbedding layers
    * interconnecting setting with character and plot
    * cutting back on dialogue ( not always the rule )
    * making your exposition count
    * word precision
    * the importance of linking details
    The reason they skim over them is it's hard to tell people they need to have a way with words, they need to explore an idea with depth ( how to even tell anyone how to go about doing that? ) and that exposition which sounds like telling, the great no-no, could be your greatest ally.

    I would suggest Natalie Greenberg's Writing down the Bones. And also a trip to the literary studies section in your library. ( It's my favorite section. ) Pick out an author you like and read about how someone dissects their novels. If will give you an idea on the uses of symbolism and embedding, characters etc.

    I think in order to write literary you have to start changing the way you view things, the way you approach your writing. You have to strip down through pretention, pride, mediocrity, evasiveness, settling, familiarity and get down to pure feeling, pure honesty to your passion.
     
    Last edited: Apr 30, 2015
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  13. BrianIff
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    BrianIff I'm so piano, a bad punctuator. Contributor

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    I've been looking for a thread such as this for some time. My circumstances are peculiar as a writer. I want to write something that says something about life and society, but have never been a big fan of literature til recently. I studied social sciences in university so I get a lot about historical context and theoretical paradigms, but what sets literature apart? I know there is nothing formulaic about it but what has been written about what classics have in common?
     
  14. Jack Asher
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    Jack Asher Wildly experimental Contributor

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    I'm pretty sure this book doesn't exist. We can see evidence from the way 7,000 people don't win the Pulitzer prize every year.
     
  15. BrianIff
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    BrianIff I'm so piano, a bad punctuator. Contributor

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    Why not? You could have 7000 copies sold already.
     

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