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A Secret of Great Literary Fiction Stories as Art

Editorial Opinion
William H. Coles

We live by stories, descriptions of people and events, real or fictional, that inform or entertain. Stories are ubiquitous as air, essential as a heartbeat, and as varied in the telling as there are humans to tell.

The story as a fiction art-form in prose has evolved over the past few centuries, but recently has declined as literature, a regrettable fact emitting from failure of contemporary authors to strive for "art" in their "creative" writing. What is lost? Imagined fiction and literature as written works considered to have lasting artistic value. The loss of written story as an art form distresses few and those enriched by fiction-story as art increasingly must reach back to past authors. So what makes a literary story so unique?

Virginia Woolf, in A Common Reader, helps sort out the values of literature as art; in essence great literary fiction is about understanding humanity. Charlotte and Emily Brontë's books are Woolf's prime examples, classics of English literature. Charlotte, when she wrote about Jane Eyre, said the passion of " 'I love', 'I hate', 'I suffer' ", although more intense, was on a level of her own (Charlotte's passion). Having quoted this, Woolf proceeds to point out the difference to Emily's Wuthering Heights. In both books, settings carry emotion and "light up the meaning" of the books as powerful symbols of "vast and slumbering passions in human nature" that fulfill the needs of a reader better than words or actions "can convey." But it's humanity that dominates the telling, and it's where Woolf discovers differences between the two sisters that are revealing of the process of created fiction.

Woolf considers Emily the greater poet and points out the stature of her talent. "There is no 'I' in Wuthering Heights. The love is not [just] the love of men and women. The urge to create Wuthering Heights was not her [Emily’s] own suffering or her own injuries. "She [Emily] looked out upon a world cleft into gigantic disorder and felt within her the power to unite it in a book. That gigantic ambition is to be felt throughout the novel–a struggle, half thwarted but of superb conviction, to say something through the mouths of her characters which is not merely 'I love', 'I hate,' but 'we, the whole human race', and 'you, the eternal powers …' "

Woolf is quick to point out "that it is not strange that it should be so; rather it is astonishing that she [Emily] can make us feel what she had it in her to say at all." It is the "suggestion of power underlying the apparitions of human nature and lifting them up into the presence of greatness that gives the book its huge stature among other novels." Emily "could tear up all we know about human beings and fill these unrecognizable transparencies with such a gust of life that they transcend reality." An artistry that many contemporary authors of novels seem incapable of achieving! Woolf continues: "For the self-centered and self-limited writers have a power denied the more catholic and broad-minded. Their impressions are close packed and strongly stamped between narrow walls. Nothing issues from their minds which has not been marked by their own impress. They learn little from other writers, and what they adopt they cannot assimilate. "…a stiff and decorous journalism", prose that is "awkward and unyielding." And it's not unreasonable to suggest to today's proliferating plethora of writers of fiction that such deft thoughts (of Woolf) are the necessary nourishment, now lacking, of every contemporary teacher of creative writing, most of whom sequester in academics, and their students.

So there it is. A major void in the skill of creating great fiction that has, and is, marring the future of established value of literature in the written word as art. What do you think?

Thanks for reading.
William H. Coles

Reference:
The Common Reader, Virginia Woolf, in the essay "Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights." ISBN-13: 978-0156027786

Recommended
Illustrated Short Fiction of William H. Coles 2000-2016

Three award-winning, acclaimed, and popular short stories by William H. Coles
The Gift, The Necklace, Speaking of the Dead

gift necklace speaker

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Career planning for aspiring, literary-fiction-story writers.

Editorial Opinion
William H. Coles

Plan #1

Want to be an author?
Just do it and enjoy.
That's enough for most of us! Writing is a pleasure and we don't have to be the best for all readers or achieve some impossible measure of success.

BUT–

If you want satisfaction for: a) being the best author of the best story you can write that might persist for generations, b) creating stories that speak to contemporary and future readers about the complexities of being human, then you may want to write a fiction story as an art form that engages, entertains, and enlightens, and consider these questions to focus your writing career, even with modest expectations.

Plan #2

1. Why are you writing:
–to be known as an "author" or
–to write creatively and please a targeted group of readers?
No writer, no matter how great or accomplished, pleases even a small fraction of all potential readers, so perspicacious writers know who they want to please then develop their strategy for success with purpose. An enduring truth is creating great stories as an art form is no guarantee for fame and fortune, or universal appeal, but can be durably and reliably satisfying.

2. Do you have purpose to your writing? Do you want to enlighten, stimulate thought, create emotion, entertain?  Do you strive for your storytelling to be valuable for your readers rather than trying to impress them with the superiority of your intellect and creativity? Create excellence in your own way but maintain modesty.

3. Are you good enough to achieve your dream of becoming an author?  To avoid crushing your enthusiasm, try testing works-in-progress by seeking critiques by readers and teachers who are sympathetic to your writing style.  Submit for publication routinely but don't be surprised or depressed by multiple rejections that are the accepted norm regardless of an author's ability and, if considered selectively, can give insight to your level of achievement.

4.  Should you take courses?
            Creative writing workshops give mixed results; they depend inordinately on evaluations of your work by fellow students–novices, at times arrogant and condescending, who inflict imprudent opinion and detrimental criticism.  The value and reputation of MFA programs declines with the proliferation of conferred degrees in creative writing from academic settings struggling to survive financially. Consider carefully. Almost invariably, mentorship and/or self-study will value your time and accentuate your career far better than MFA programs with deficient teaching and time-consuming, defective scholarship.

5. Is your vocabulary commensurate with your aspirations? Improvement in vocabular is a necessary, lifetime endeavor for all writers.  Do you have the time and the will for improvement?

TAKE AWAY
For maximum, lasting pride and self-satisfaction in telling fiction stories, discover who you are as a writer, learn to imagine and create, know what you want to achieve, and focus intently on improvement of craft and storytelling.

Thanks for reading. William H. Coles

REFERENCES:

Essays on Writing
Mastering the Power of a Literary Fictional Story
How Literary Stories Go Wrong

New.  PODCAST. 33 award-winning short stories of William H. Coles for your listening pleasure. (Provided without cost.)

STORY IN FICTION PODCASTS

ccNonFiction 002

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Why Select Stories Succeed Best as Literary Fiction

Editorial Opinion
William H. Coles

Great literary fiction storytelling as an art form is not for all readers, and its success is not measured solely on volume of commercial book sales but rather the number of readers moved or enlightened by characters and story, usually about what it means to be human. Many of the literary stories that have lasted into new generations of readers have important, common characteristics; here are the principles.

1. Characterization.
The fictional humans that populate successful literary fiction seem real to the reader, either in the context of the reader’s world, or the story world created by the author. It is the creation of these “real “characters to be moved by as well as to move story events that assembles character-based story and plot in most successful literary fiction.  As Virginia Woolf wrote, “. . . they [characters] live and are complex by means of their effect upon many different people who serve to mirror them in the round. . ." When considering “. . . the permanent quality of literature . . . think away the surface animation, the likeness to life, and there remains . . . a deeper pleasure, an exquisite discrimination of human values.

2. Author’s role.
Woolf taught us: “Always in imaginative literature, . . . characters speak for themselves and the author has no part . . .”  In effect, there is no “I” in most great literary fiction. Woolf, in  A Common Reader, gives Emily Brontë as an example; “. . . she was inspired by some more general conception. The impulse which urged her to create was not her own suffering or her own injuries. She looked out upon a world cleft into gigantic disorder and felt within her the power to unite it in a book. That gigantic ambition is to be felt throughout the novel [Wuthering Heights]— a struggle, half thwarted but of superb conviction, to say something through the mouths of her characters which is not merely ‘I love’ or ‘I hate’, but ‘we, the whole human race’ and ‘you, the eternal powers . . .’ ”

3. Narrative voices.
Contemporary stories depend on particular action to keep a story moving. In developing character, there is often a shift from “. . . the actual body with all its associations and movements . . .” to the general, [abstract], more poetic prose. Woolf suggests, for literary fiction, the need for a voice that combines action and poetics without interrupting the movement of the story whole, a voice “similar to what the choruses of Greek drama supplied–the old men or women who take no active part in the drama, the undifferentiated voices who sing like birds in the pauses of the wind; who can comment, or sum up, or allow the poet to speak himself or supply, by contrast, another side to his conception. Always in imaginative literature, where characters speak for themselves and the author has no part, the need of that voice [similar to a chorus] is making itself felt.

To some extent, memoir and creative nonfiction have invaded the realm of imaginative literary fiction melding memoir and biography with fiction as literature. The dissapearance of classic-fiction stories is at least partially due to academics failing to educate writing students to the intricacies of the great, successful literary fiction of the past.

Thanks for reading. William H. Coles.

References: Virginia Woolf, The Common Reader ISBN 978-0-15-602778-6; Virginia Woolf, The Second Common Reader ISBN 0-15-602816-6

Nemesis
Illustration by David Riley for the short story “Nemesis”, by William H. Coles

ANNOUNCING NEW PODCAST: STORY IN FICTION by William H. Coles.
Thirty-four original stories read by the author.

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Genre Disses Contemporary Literary Fiction

Editorial Opinion
William H. Coles

At a recent writers’ workshop-conference for thriller and mystery writers taught by two bestselling authors in their genres, the state of contemporary literary fiction was dissed as being self-serving and small. Who wants to hear about another dysfunctional family or an abusive childhood, or my extraordinary recovery from drug addiction? Why is there no resolution in literary fiction? (There is often no conflict.) Why is contemporary literary fiction always, in some way, about me, the author, without objective storytelling and characterization?

Most literary-fiction writers in the audience silently agreed–a majority of academically-trained literary writers fail to create adequate stories . . . and fail to achieve narration that can engage and please any reader who is not related to or trained in academics (private or college/university workshops or MFA programs). In the discussions, genre writers and reviewers found fault in the "littleness" of contemporary “literary” writers' conceptualizations of story and failure to address the major issues of today's global society. Academic-generated “literature” writing has decreased the acceptance and respect readers have for fiction as literature as an art form and bears little resemblance to the literary fiction as evolved in the past.

Genre depends on strong plot and is viably commercially but does not develop character in-depth with literary, psychic, psychological prose, and plot, at risk of losing plot momentum, suspense, and thrills. Genre writers often describe characters and plots with catastrophic, or the threat of catastrophic, results or familiar tried-and-dependable plots that easily trigger emotions. And, to be sure, these hard-earned stories are worthy of praise for significant accomplishment.

In contrast, today’s few but dedicated literary-writers depend on the power of classic fiction techniques–Chekov, Tolstoy, Conrad, Forster, Homer, Austen, Hawthorne, Melville, and the like, when literary imagined-fiction did deal with broad, important human, social, and political issues of the times . . . stories created through meticulous character development, character involvement in plot momentum, and character and reader enlightenment as an equally effective, and often better, way for prose to deliver understanding of human change in well-presented social and political environments. Almost all published contemporary "literary" stories are written by academically-trained "literary" authors who believe they're writing works of lasting quality and artistic merit but are actually the source of declining interest and rejection of "literature." The fault lies with academic teachers who have generally failed in teaching the creation of enthusiastically-accepted, traditionally-created fiction in favor of, or at least in addition to, encouraging nonfiction, creative nonfiction, memoir, biography, celebrity platform-based writing (that is not infrequently labeled literary or general fiction). In academic teaching, there is an emphasis on me, the author, and writing by remembering events and people to describe rather than imagining and creating story and character. The literature-of-self. The commercial decline of "literature" is a result of weak storytelling touted as "literature" and marketed as "extraordinary" and "bestseller" but written by "academically" trained writers rarely, if ever, tutored in storytelling and characterization skills of past literary greats.  And if traditional publishers and agents could occasionally focus on: storytelling with character-based, dramatic plots; intense skillful characterization; and theme and meaning in the traditions of the past, literature might again be admired as art that would have longevity and could be commercially self-sustaining.

At the conference, two genre authors widely read and with impressive commercial success had identified a problematic fact without a solution and conference participants felt a loss of literature-as-an-art-form. If literary writers are to assist in establishing literature as art again, they will soon have to seek better training in creating effective prose and learning compelling storytelling. And those writers will not be judged alone by commercial success but by the significant impact of story and character on receptive readers. Writers seeking success in literary achievement will need to analyze and determine how the great authors of the past they admire achieved memorability and significance and then seek a trained teacher who writes well and is a gifted educator willing to mentor the student in writing excellence in literature using the techniques of past generations adapted to the contemporary needs and wants of readers of literature.

William H. Coles

RESOURCES: (free) online essays.

Academic Fiction: A Distinct Genre
Why Contemporary Literary Fiction Fails to Achieve Excellence
A reviewer's perspective (Viga Boland)  McDowell 

Speaking Of The Dead by William H. Coles

Speaking of the Dead,” a short story (available online, free) by William H. Coles with a character-based plot, focus on characterization, inherent meaning about being human, and a theme of forgiveness.

Illustration by Betty Harper

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When is a fiction story a literary art form?

Editorial Opinion
William H. Coles

Literature is written stories considered superior and of lasting merit–an art form. Fiction portrays imagined events and people. If you're a writer, you can't know what stories from today will be the literature of tomorrow, but you can write the best story possible using the techniques of past writers who've reached literary status: Austen, Flaubert, Chekhov, Homer, Tolstoy, Melville, Hawthorne, Woolf, Henry James, Babel, Twain, and the like. In the main, these authors have common, basic elements of story construction that may, for the contemporary writer, mature into meritorious longevity.

Who cares? "Fiction writers continue to evolve and their works may very well be literature without the 'contrived' constraints from the past," many might say. But in reality, literary fiction stories structured for artistic characterization, meaningful purpose, and enlightenment about the human condition, are infrequent, rarely published, and are increasingly difficult to access when they are available. Unfortunately, the "literary fiction" of today mostly masquerades as memoir, autobiography, "creative" writing, and the literature-of-self. How can literary fiction regain distinction? Here are important literary STORY ELEMENTS contemporary writers should assimilate if not master:

First, expert CHARACTERIZATION is the essential of a great literary fictional story; well-formed character traits reveal desires and motives that drive meaningful plots. Equally important is STRUCTURE with Aristotelian principles that allow transfer of ideas and images to enlighten readers, usually about the intricacies of human existence. DICTION must be clear and well-written to vitalize prose and story. Lyricism–when story-specific and character enhancing–can enrich story effects without diminishing essential importance of in-scene action and dramatic narration.

Most important? Great literary-fiction stories as art are IMAGINED and CREATED, not just remembered and described. True, memory stimulates imagination evoking reflections on life and living, but a self-important writer believing events and characters described from personal experience are equal to imagined and created stories usually fails to reach maximum potential as an artist.

And what is an ART form?
Art, in literature, is expressed by human creative skills and imagination that produce beauty and emotional power. Beautiful stories emerge by character uniqueness; a narrator's reliability and perception of the human condition; the creation of accurate story-related imagery and metaphor; reader engagement to sense story is happening rather than being told; and from writers concerned with their art, not their wealth or fame.

A confessional memoir and autobiography published as "fiction" for catharsis or forgiveness rarely reaches the threshold possible with imagined and created literary fiction. The literature-of-self is created mostly from the author's world view and experience. By contrast, great literary fiction evolves from 1) the author's  study and understanding of the possible worldviews of other humans and characters, 2) experienced and observed compassionate understanding of humanity, and 3) as often as possible, enlightenment about metaphysical questions that plague us all–who are we? why are we here? what is justice? what is love?

You can read six imagined and created SHORT STORIES (FREE) and a NOVEL, examples of literary stories that explore the complexities in the facets of LOVE (not just romance but the broader implications of affection, caring, and bonding that all humans experience with varying skills and extent).

"ON THE ROAD TO YAZOO CITY"
"THE GIFT"
"THE PERENNIAL STUDENT"
"THE AMISH GIRL"
"THE NECKLACE"
"THE MIRACLE OF MADAME VILLARD"
"THE SPIRIT OF WANT" (novel)

Thanks for reading!
Literary Art Form

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How do unsuccessful novel writers build houses?

Editorial Opinion
William H. Coles

You get a backhoe and dig a BIG hole. You back up a cement truck and pour three BIG mounds of cement. While cement hardens, you cut down two giant oaks, strip the leaves and throw the trunks with limbs in the big hole on top of the cement. You pour, 100 gallons of glue, a quarter ton of bolts and nails, five porcelain toilets, and three bathtubs. You add 800 light bulbs of various sizes throughout the growing muddle. You mix three hundred gallons of paint in different, preferable incompatible (noncliché) colors, and splash the paint at random over all you’ve assembled. Let the mess simmer for five months during a horribly hot summer, if possible. Add 3800 roof tiles–no need to remove from the packaging. Voila! A house.

Whats the point? Authors of literary stories need to be in control of their thinking and their imagination and then create story by mastering the elements of fiction prose and storytelling. Here are three of the important ideas to conquer:

*Structure–beginning, middle, and end.
Writers need structure, an overall outline that directs happenings, action, emotional arcs, and prioritizes ideas and timing of information transfer. Literary stories have images and movement that are delivered logically structured on a timeline. Author ideas and thoughts generated by chance and randomly applied to story, no matter the quality of idea or thought, are not as effective as imagined elements structured into coherent, logical web the supports story momentum.

*Purpose.
Fiction writers need altruism and must: not write for fame and fortune, not write to be published to claim “author” at social gatherings, but write to engage, entertain, and enlighten readers by creating and telling a story well and building characters specific for story understanding and meaning.

*Creativity and imagination.
Writers need to imagine and create, not remember and describe. Imagination for fiction does not come from sitting alone in a dark, sound proof, unheated room until memories emerge from author life experiences like sea creatures from a peat bog. In fiction, scenes are imagined that move the plot, build characters consistent with the timeline, and relate to purpose and theme of the story. Authors who default to their own worldview and life experiences often fail to reach advantages of imagined fiction available to the world beyond self.

*”The Miracle of Madame Villard” is the story of a boy on a mission to find a cure for his dying mother. Set in the 18th century France, the story and all elements of story are imagined. You can read it online free.
http://www.storyinliteraryfiction.com/original-stories-william-h-coles/the-miracle-of-madame-villard/
The Miracle of Madame Villard


If you find these ideas ring true, WOULD YOU SHARE THIS POST? LITERARY (character-based dramatic plots, theme and meaning, unique characterization) FICTION (imagined) needs writers who train in traditional successful literary techniques. I’m trying to spread the word.

You could SHARE THIS LINK too for original story examples, essays, interviews, a workshop, and illustrations. storyiniteraryfiction.com. (free)
And thanks.

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Why is narration perspective important? Isn't understanding point of view sufficient?

Editorial Opinion
William H. Coles

Great memorable fiction stories that pass to future generations for learning and enjoyment are quite rare, and the authors who create such stories have unique and varied attributes as writers. What separates the great fiction writer/storytellers? One trait seems to drive great writers to create great stories of significance and sustainability. Look to Austen, Homer, Forster, Conrad, Flaubert, Chekhov, De Maupassant, Babel, Melville, Hawthorne, Munro. The great storytellers, with few exceptions, wrote selflessly to engage and entertain a reader and the quality of the story produced significant enlightenment about living and being human.

Lesser writers seem intent on fame and fortune and the seriously mistaken belief that to be great, instinctively writing solely for the catharsis, aggrandizement, and ego of the author is sufficient. These writers create literature-of-self that often ignores the in-depth understanding of humanity; broad objective incorporation of the world outside an author’s worldview; a respect for a reader’s gracious exertion in reading by striving to entertain the reader; and striving to provide new thoughts about human existence in the world we live in.

Memoir, autobiography, authorial dominated “fiction,” and creative non-fiction all have contributions to literature, but the imaginative created literary fictional story reaches unique excellence in significant storytelling. Understanding the complexities of narration and developing narrative skills by learning and practice are an important start on the path to great fictional storytelling.

Readers benefit from knowing what is true, credible, and reliable in the story world. Narrative perspective guides the reader’s understanding and emotional acceptance, and involvement in the literary story, and allows eventual comparison and application to the reader’s real word existence.

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A Wannabe's Guide to Literary Fiction Success

Editorial Opinion
William H. Coles

How can a wannabe become a literary fiction writer? Traditional commercial print publishing is becoming less reliable source to find readers of literature and online publishing has yet to establish what the future will provide for authors. Still, the future is clearly becoming the present when the internet can provide a writer’s works’ content free or at low cost to millions of international readers instantly, an opportunity never before imagined. Will those authors similar to Chekov and Flaubert and Melville, who have given us lasting literary fiction, emerge today through traditional, costly, inefficient print publishing or through the new internet channels–without middlemen and profiteers– that may have greater potential for recognition and even profit in the future?

If you look to the internet as the prime way to establish yourself as a literary fiction writer, consider these guidelines:

*Learn to write prose well.

*Learn essentials of good storytelling.

*Write with a purpose to your writing that does not include adoration and acceptance. Write for your readers’ pleasure and enjoyment; adoration and acceptance will come through your honest, selfless approach to your writing.

*Publish online—(opportunity to reach hundreds of thousands of readers instantly).

*Make fame and profit secondary to engaging, entertaining, and pleasing readers you target and respect.

*Build confidence in quality of your work by submitting to contests and journals, but don’t take rejection as proof you don’t have readers waiting.

*Teach others selflessly. It establishes you as a writer.

*Use, but don’t rely on, traditional publishing when opportunity presents. Don’t succumb to giving away your talent, especially exclusively, for others to profit if you can establish large readership volume that can potentially make you money without working from inside the prison of corporate and private publishers for free or royalties at an unfair percentage of gross income from sales.

*Accept that working as an author to be read and appreciated through the internet will soon make the scorn of not being accepted in the world of traditional publishing with inflated and inaccurate sales records as the measure of your fame and success obsolete.

Although a majority would probably disagree that literature survival will never depend on traditional commercial publishing, the world is changing. Stories in prose will be less expensive, and readers will have unlimited access to writers’ works. And to struggle to scale the barrier wall of publishing houses (and academia) will soon be a humorously decadent way to fail in a writing career.

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Effect of Discursive Narration on Literary Story

Editorial Opinion
William H. Coles

Narration of literary fictional stories today allows wide latitude for authors on technique and style. Traditional, successful, memorable, literary stories depend on strong imaginative characterization, dramatic plots with conflict and resolution, and identifiable purpose for the story being told so some enlightenment occurs about the human condition gleaned from the story presentation. In the past, stories were structured for momentum and engagement, and there was careful attention to story logic and credibility for the story world created. Authors wanted to please readers. Prose was dedicated to accurate use of the language, attention to the advantages of correct grammar within story context, and readability with acceptable punctuation and rhythmic flow. But this storytelling has faded.

Contemporary writers have little or no conscience to follow traditions in literary storytelling. Stories with beginnings, middles, and ends are becoming less common and fiction has shifted to memoir about authorial self with a few falsehoods to be called fiction, simple character sketches, or description of events-happened with journalistic rigor void of imaginative influence. Authors reject dramatic conflict at all levels of story delivery for character development and story pleasing plotting. And even in fiction, the author often dominates the storytelling with subjective intrusion rather than using an objective narrator or character delivering balanced credible story and character detail in dramatic scenes. Descriptions of people or events that happened does not produce the same effects on readers as creative imaginative storytelling that engages, stimulates, enlightens, moves, and entertains.

Contemporary writers commonly default to discursive rumination for the major portion of “story” delivery, a technique that may divert attention, meaning, momentum, or understanding of authorial purpose for the story. And when using discursive rumination, authors will often abandon story to soliloquize, seek authorial catharsis, or proselytize.

Modern writers often restrict storytelling to first person point of view and narration. This places limits on internalization, credibility, veracity, size and quality of world view available to the narrator, and expansive imaginative writing. Not all stories are suited to first person narration, and the quality of fiction published and available to read has dwindled.

The message is not trivial. Many contemporary readers enjoy modern “literary” writing dependent on discursive rumination, but the true value of literary story development with imaginative structure and characterization is often lost. The writers careful to avoid obvious authorial dominance and intrusion in the storytelling add imaginative and meaningful enhancement to their work that authorial dominance and intrusion does not allow. Of course, authors are always present in some way in a literary work of fiction, but the most effective authorial presence is transparent, like a hint of mint in a pitcher of tea, the touch of orange/red diffusing through the blue sky above the horizon just before sunrise, the sound of an individual cello in full orchestra . . . sensations present and enjoyed and always gently and uniquely pervasive . . . but never rife.

Readers preferring traditional storytelling seem to reread the classics today. Traditional literary fiction is being written, but it is rarely accepted by agents, editors, and publishers; as a result, great stories in the traditional sense are not available and as a culture, we are losing an art form, a loss that diminishes the creative heritage of our generation.

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Letter to a Student: Career Advice

Editorial Opinion
William H. Coles

Dear Patricia,

I've made no comments on The Tangerine Affair, a delightful story that you've presented very well. To critique it would imply something is wrong with the novel or the writing. Consider your novel finished. Put it away or send it out. Don't tinker with it anymore and give full attention to your next work. As your career progresses, you'll change and you'll look back at this as an early piece and you might find things you would have done differently. But that's okay. That's what making your career as a writer is all about—continuous improvement. Don't get trapped into endless mostly useless adjustments of completed work when your talent should be focused on new, exciting projects.

As you move on into the next stage of your career, remember these principles in writing fiction we've discussed. Does something happen? Too many stories get stuck on musings, internalization, or lengthy descriptions or subjective opinions. The result is static prose fiction.

One technique overused is authorial treading water. Things like. "He wouldn't have done this on any other day. He wasn't that sort of person. And he wouldn't have looked at Leonora the way he was now. That would be out of character." OR "No snowflake is the same. That's what he'd been told. Trillions of snowflakes and not one like the other. Well, those little unique devils were falling at this very moment, and he stuck out his tongue to catch a few and let them melt. They all tasted the same! (Nothing happens here. And the sentences don't build character sufficiently or advance plot at all.) Treading water is a common way for bad writers to fill up a page when the words and thoughts have no clear relation to story.

Is the timeline clear? Look for stories fitting into a recognizable timeline that progresses logically and fits to story length, style, and content. In general, you can't tell a saga in two paragraphs with success. And it's difficult (even though tried fairly often) to put a few minutes of story time into a full-length novel. There are subtleties, learned by practice, in thinking about a timeline that fits a story that the writer should be aware of for his or her specific story.

Are emotions primarily shown rather than told? Find places where the impact of a character's emotion on the reader can be enhanced by concrete action. For example. "She cried." (A nonspecific general statement, rather abstract, and could be boring in many contexts.) What if something like this were done? "With her head down, her eyes hidden behind her hands, she choked back a sob to hide her pain." [Not great. But note the specifics. A try for imagery too. It does improve the reader's experience by showing . . . providing more for the reader than telling in generalities such as "she cried." Showing takes more story time and is not always the best choice when uptempo story pacing is needed; still, when appropriate, action to express emotions should be considered.]

Is the pacing right? Pacing is a rhythmic sense to the writing that makes reading and understanding of story and prose easier. Ask: is the writing well paced? Are the events well paced? Are even the emotions changing in the story well paced? In determining pacing, it's helpful to think about importance to story and characterization and amount of time spent on a segment. (I think you'll always do this naturally.) Is a point where action or emotional shifts are too slow or too fast? Are there illogical plot deviations? Is there a clear progression of happenings in the plot and subplots and does every action have a purpose in the story. Don't succumb to deviations from story no matter how well written you think a deviation is.

CAREER ADVICE

Patricia, you've progressed very well in the tutorial, and I hope you'll continue to focus energy and passion on developing the career you want. Everyone is different in what they desire, what they can achieve, and the ways they'll use to be successful. But here are some thoughts I hope will be useful, thoughts to help you make your decisions about what to do and how to do it your way.

Who you are as an author? I see writers with two different motivations. First, writers want to be published, famous, make a living doing what they like to do. Second, they want to become the best writers and storytellers they can become. This striving for excellence is a lifelong endeavor for those with talent. But writing solely for fame and wealth can work against writing to write great stories to please readers. The need to be famous, or even present oneself at a cocktail party as a "published author," can consume one to a point where the desire to be a great writer writing excellent fiction is buried. In reality, few of us will be famous or rich from our writing, so it is important to not let the desire for recognition keep us from always improving, force to market, and impel us to embellish our worth and success in embarrassingly inappropriate displays. Not to be too discouraging, the quest for being really good but never letting recognition dominate our career can be the most rewarding goal if we can keep ourselves in balance. We have to erase any trace of narcissism, and look to selfless dedication to the creation of writing fiction as an art. Surprisingly, for many, striving for excellence can bring the fame and fortune we all want and have every reason to persist in obtaining as long as it doesn't injure our quest for excellence.

Be confident. Believe in yourself. But always strive to keep getting better. Don't rest on admiring what you've done, and don't let obstinate arrogance erase any chance of your being recognized as a good writer.

Rejection. About your fear of rejections. I hate rejections and negative comments about my work. We all do. I have had hundreds of rejections for short stories, and been turned away by more agents and publishers than I care to remember, but I've learned never to believe a rejection is proof that I'm no good. All writing affects people in different ways. Every writer has a readership. The trick is finding those readers. And while you're trying to find your readers, don't let a rejection make you feel bad. Rejection probably means your searching for publication success in the wrong places with the wrong people. I've approached agents and paid for individual conferences with editors and agents at a writer's conference, for example, to be rejected and discover the agents had a "complete" list and were not seriously looking for new clients. Even more perturbing, many of these agents attend the meeting for money and free travel. And there are thousands of other reasons for rejection. It doesn't fit the goals of the editors, subject matter isn't liked, too tragic, I-like-happy-endings, etc. All things that have nothing to do with you the writer. So never take rejections from from the majority of agents, editors, and publishers to heart. Send work out expecting rejection, and accept that most rejections fail to address what you're trying to accomplish for your specific reader. In the main, submit, expect rejection, throw rejection out of your mind, form a new plan, and move on.

Publishing: a rapidly changing industry in decline. Commercial publishing is in a mess. Books are too expensive. Fewer people seek entertainment and information in print. And publishers have a poor reputation about their selection and treatment of authors whom they often abuse. It's hard for an author to get recognized, picked up, and promoted. Many literary fiction works are published through who-you-know, word-of-mouth, cronyism, favoritism, etc. with little or no regard for writing or storytelling quality. An agent at a writer's conference on a panel to discuss publishing said: "You'll never get published if you don't have a platform [usually meaning fame, even notoriety, in a career different than fiction writing]." She continued, "I've just taken on an author who wrote a biography about his investigations that won him a Nobel prize. The topic was hot and time sensitive. But he would only accept me as an agent if I would publish his novel. A dreadful novel, but I wanted his sellable biography. And I sold his novel to obtain the biography." It was a discouraging revelation (outrageous really) about the state of commercial publishing (and integrity of agents) for the writing and reading of quality fiction. For fiction writers, finding a commercial publisher is harder than for other forms of writing.

But if traditional publishing is the way you crave to succeed, you'll do best by getting to know people who will refer you and introduce you. Of course write query letters, but consider composing and sending out queries is time consuming, and very inefficient. And today, the prominence of the internet is opening amazing possibilities for getting your work read and finding your readers, even while looking for a traditional publisher. The internet has not gelled into a predictable medium for writer's yet, but it's getting there, and I'd look at that possibility if you have time. For many, use of the web to distribute work is still not considered "legitimate" and may not deliver the personal satisfaction of having a traditional publisher (for some, even small ineffective houses suffice), but the internet can be unbelievably successful for having your work enjoyed and recommended. It takes time to find the possibilities that are best for you, but you may want to explore as many as possible.

All the best in your career. You're doing great and I know you'll achieve what you desire! And thanks for participating in the tutorial. It's been a pleasure to work with you.

All the best,
Bill Coles

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