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17 signs you’re a literary writer

October 8, 2017

 

Hooray for Kazuo Ishiguro winning the Nobel Prize. His award brings a full stop to the debate: genre writing can be literary fiction.

 

It confirms what readers already knew. Science fiction, fantasy, crime, romance and all the other genres can be beautifully written, can explore human truths (whatever planet the main character's from).

 

As writers, we must choose whether to use the L-word when describing ourselves. If we do, we claim styled writing, with psychological and emotional depth, plus serious commentary. It's a bit like saying 'I'm posh, I am.'

 

Just saying the L-word is a terror for me. Even with a long run up, it comes out sounding like 'literwarewee'.

 

So, how is a writer to know if they are literwarewee? Behold: a cheeky little checklist. Four or more 'YES' answers, and you probably are.

 

In which case, you might need more tweed and a floppy fringe.

 

  1. Do you consider the word ‘clever’ to be a compliment?

  2. Has it ever taken you more than a day to compose a sentence?

  3. Do you know what the pluperfect tense is, and are you prepared to use it?

  4. Given the chance, would you like to write for five minutes, without hesitation or deviation, on the subject: what is beauty?

  5. Do you use words in the warm, confident expectation that many readers will have to look them up?

  6. Have you written scenes in which the only thing that happens is inside your character’s head?

  7. Have you ever groaned, sworn, or thrown objects at ugly phrasing?

  8. Do your descriptions of split-second experiences take hours to read?

  9. Do completely unexpected metaphors give you a rush? 

  10. Does your main character’s arc take longer to explain than any other feature of the book?

  11. Would you choose one ecstatic critical review over a hundred thousand sales?

  12. Do you find it easiest to describe your work with a series of existential, social or political questions?

  13. Does the suggestion of self-publishing make you faintly nauseous?

  14. Have you ever forgotten your plot?

  15. Do you ever imagine a reader looking up from one of your pages, sentence-struck, seeing the world anew?

  16. Do you think symbolism is jolly good fun?

  17. Would you like your readers to congratulate themselves on finishing your book?

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