Which way does your writing heart beat?

The same, but different

I don’t know if I can get this out fast enough before losing the string, it has all been pestering me for the longest time, but I didn’t know how to define it.

A few weeks ago, I was graced with a day in Madison flitting around with Rebecca Rasmussen and our three daughters. We were moms, writing moms, a mom on book tour and a mom writing for dissolution. Our daughters grounded us in the present, the three holding hands on sidewalks, balancing birds fledging along the Capitol grounds. It was ice cream and chocolate and sticky hands and finally a distinction I’d failed to read–Literary writing or Commercial writing.

Again with my daughters, this time in the car on our way to my niece’s high school graduation ceremony, I listened through break beat versions of “Mom. Mommy,” to the first half hour of yesterday’s To The Best Of Our Knowledge show titled “Novel Novels”. I heard the distinction again, though differently stated by Steven Moore most recently author of The Novel: An Alternative History: Beginnings-1600. Moore’s classification –Art writing or Entertainment.

To loosely paraphrase Moore, entertainment writing is character and action driven while art writing is focused on language and what it might do. There is no question which camp I live in, but it’s a quieter camp prone to less parties.

Moore also stressed that art writing, while less widely read, has a sort of staying power, that there will always be some sort of audience though without much girth.

Realizing these distinctions has been a Great Huzzah! I’ve found writers all over the place, popping out between library shelves, sneaking ahead in a coffee line, buying me shots a week before my wedding, but there haven’t been as many (though there are a great many more these days) who “get” where my writing comes from.

Writing commercially or for entertainment is great, terrific, perfect if that’s what’s in you. I love a good piece of action and a great ache of the heart, but for me. Ah, well. You get it. I know you get it.

How do you like your writing and reading? Can you mix the two halves to make a whole?


About E. Victoria Flynn

E. Victoria Flynn is a mother and a writer living in Southern Wisconsin. Published in a variety of venues, Victoria is currently writing the first in a series of three fantasy novels based on Cornish folklore. When not taking part in a shrieking dance party or engrossed in her own little fictions, Victoria is keen on art, the natural world and people unafraid to explore their own brilliance.
This entry was posted in Creativity, Saved, truth, Why write, wildness, writing and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

14 Responses to Which way does your writing heart beat?

  1. Eglentyne says:

    *Happy sigh* I get it, Victoria. I really do. — Dani

  2. Jillian says:

    I love this to little bitty pieces, shard slivers enough to pierce my heart.

  3. Keep writing your heart; it’s the only way!

  4. Christine says:

    Write what matters! Keep writing, Victoria!

  5. “Literary writing or Commercial writing.” What about the middle ground?

    • pennyjars says:

      Linda, Yes, of course, yes. I wrote this post and ran out of the house and I realized, how stupid to make this sound so mutually exclusive. I was ready to turn the car around and head back home. Nothing, as they say, is black and white. That being said, those who would label us will–booksellers, editors, critics, publishers, agents… as you pointed out recently, it’s wise to know your reader. I know my reader certainly isn’t going to be coming to me looking for cliff hanging nail biters or sexy sex. If they’re into me, they’re into whatever it is I am able to evoke of their senses, or memories, or wildness, or whatever it is I give them through my use of language.

      I am very interested in your thoughts on this. Where do you place The Brevity of Roses on the Barnes and Noble shelves?

      • I would place it in general fiction. Yes, it’s character driven, and yes there’s a love story, but I’m also concerned with the use of language. My writing is not on a “high literary” level, but neither is it purely commercial. My aim is layered writing. There is a surface story for those readers who only want to be entertained, but there is more beneath the surface if you care to look for it. Maybe I’m not quite there yet, but I will be.

      • pennyjars says:

        I love layers. Can’t wait to pick up my copy soon, Linda.

  6. Karen sosnoski says:

    Interesting discussion. I agree, keep writing and you’ll have your readers. I almost don’t think most of us have a choice about how we write. If I thought could “sell out” and write non literary fiction, I just might at this stage in life when my financial needs are growing. Sometimes I read non literary fiction to remind me of the possibilities in my own writing for dramatic plot. I get annoyed though by what seems like false consciousness in womens voices in more mainstream fiction (or at times in my own fiction when a character splits off from more nuanced attributes and becomes entirely mainstream and annoying…). Thanks for your thoughtful insights and overview….

    • pennyjars says:

      Karen, thanks for your comments. I like this, “I almost don’t think most of us have a choice about how we write.” Like you, I would love to jump in the selling ring, but honestly, I can barely follow a sponge cake recipe. I’m trying to learn the story aspect of writing, trying to get better at plotting out rather than just pantsing my way through life, but… I love the poetry of experience, a kind of word painting maybe. Whatever it is, that’s where it’s at, for me, as if there isn’t a choice.

      (Big fat) However, I read wide and far from what I write. Again, like you, I argue at books when characters and plots feel forced or false, but there’s still fun to be had living in their other skins.

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