Marisol asked a question earlier in the week: "What literary writing techniques do you feel are missing from genre fiction? It's part of your welcome message, and I infer that you feel pop fiction is missing something in that way."
Hot on the heels of yesterday's debate, I might feel a bit too exhausted to broach that subject again, but I'm going to attempt a manifesto of sorts. I haven't received my co-hosts' imprimaturs to say any of the following, so they have every right to distance themselves from this manifesto if they like.
Marisol's basic question seems to be "So what's wrong with non-literary fiction?"
My answer is: Nothing that isn't wrong with a lot of literary fiction. Let me explain.
Writing, as we all should know by now, is hard work. Writing well is very hard work. And most writers don't work that hard, even a lot of published and successful writers. There, I've said it. J.K. Rowling is a good story-teller, but she's not a good writer. Her prose is clumsy and unmemorable even if her characters and settings are very memorable. Ms. Rowling could do better. She could work harder. What would be the point? Her books would be better written, and reading them would be more rewarding for her readers. Yes they would, you boys. The same can be said of Mr. King, Ms. Steele, Mr. Hornby, and a raft of other writers. Their writing, their prose, is simply not very good, nor do they expend much effort on creating depth or multiplicity of meaning. Their books remain enjoyable. They just aren't that well written. And it's not just popular writers. Booker Prize-winning beloved literary author Salman Rushdie? He's written a few books I thought were unreadable, too. He owes me a refund for "The Ground Beneath Her Feet." Not because I didn't like the premise, but because it was badly written. Sorry, Sal.
The same goes for all of us, I am strongly tempted to believe. Writing is hard. Readers have no idea. Agents have no idea. Publishers have no idea. It's HARD WORK, even to write a bad book. 80,000 wrong words fitted into clunky sentences telling the story of cardboard characters doing boring things? That's still a lot of work. 80,000 perfectly-placed words in beautiful, effortlessly-read sentences telling the story of believable, compelling characters caught in imaginitive activities? Well, that's nigh impossible. And most of us don't work at it as hard as we should.
So here's the thing: Writing is as much craft as it is art. Writing is not just a creative endeavor, it's also a nuts-and-bolts, get-your-hands-dirty and change your own oil kind of undertaking. Whoever we are, we can all write better. We can all become more expert craftsmen. Davin, Michelle and I don't claim that we are experts. We do claim to be deeply interested in exploring the craft of writing, and we think it could be a great thing to explore, to discuss, to learn about, with a big group of people from the whole spectrum of the fiction-writing world.
So to get back to Marisol's question: Are there specific literary techniques that pop fiction seems to be lacking? Yes. But, as I say, it's not just popular fiction that needs to work on its technique, it's all fiction. Every writer can grow. Goodness knows I expect my next book to be better-written than my last. And I will only write a better book by thinking about the craft of writing, and trying to learn some good lessons from my fellow writers. That means you all.
And Marisol, the question you ask? The answer is this blog itself. Look at our old posts and keep reading the new ones.