Labelling Fiction

I am currently plugging away trying to write my third novel. When I first started out I didn’t really care about categories of writing, I  was just writing what I wanted to write. Now, it seems everything is category driven (from blogs to book  stores) and you have to be aware of what “market” you are writing for. I used to think in terms of readers, now you have to think in terms of demographics. I find this depressing and I wonder how it is going to effect my work. Do I abandon the novel I’m writing because I’m not sure it will fit into any particular market? Do I go off and write a crime novel because, at least, the booksellers will be able to put it into that much more popular area (than that avoided area “literature”)? And just what is “popular” literature?

I never thought THE QUAKERS was “literary” but, then, one of the first questions a radio interviewer asked me was whether I thought the front cover made it look like a Young Adult novel? I’ve had 60 year olds tell me that they loved the book, as well as 14 year olds. Why does everything have to be so vigorously labelled? Is it because we don’t have enough time to spend on finding what we want to read? (But what are we doing that is so much more important – renovating our houses??) And when has reading a book that didn’t turn out to be exactly what you thought it was going to be done anyone any harm?


One thought on “Labelling Fiction

  1. Steve says:

    It’s human nature to classify and to label. Writing is just one realm that shows how short-sighted that tendency can be.

    As a lifelong fan of so-called “genre fiction” I find it so frustrating when people try to put SF, fantasy and horror into separate categories. The French just call that sort of writing “fantastique” without fretting over which section of the bookshop it belongs in, and they have a point. The speculative nature of all three almost always requires some sort of overlap. As Clive Barker puts it:

    “The only difference in the world of literature, it seems to me, is between the guy who writes out of a perceived reality and the guy who creates one for himself. One day, in a more enlightened age, Marquez and Borges and King and Machen – and probably Dickens- will all be studied on the same syllabus, because they are all authors who reinvent the world.”

    I can rant about this sort of thing on cue if required, but that’s more than enough for now :).

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