Three Lessons Commercial Fiction Authors Can Learn from Literary Authors

Following on from last week’s post about how literary fiction writers can learn from commercial fiction writers, I want to turn the tables. Commercial fiction writers can be envious of the kudos that literary fiction writers get from critics and the awards they win for their books. Again, there are certain lessons that commercial fiction writers can learn from their literary counterparts.

Here are three things that commercial writers can do to make sure that their writing stands out in their crowded genres and earns them the respect they deserve.

Choose Language Carefully

Commercial fiction writers don’t like to complicate things. They get on with telling their stories, in simple, uncomplicated language. But there are times when it pays to pay attention to how you tell your story, to the language they use. Literary writers are very precise in their descriptions and think hard about how what words will fit. They also take care to shape their sentences for a polished effect. Even though commercial writers emphasise content over style, they can invest a little time making sure that their sentences flow and that they create vivid descriptions that live in a reader’s mind.

Show, Don’t Tell

When you read a literary novel, you often have to work at it to figure out what the author is trying to say and who the characters are. While this means a little extra work, the effort rewards the reader. People often read commercial fiction to escape rather than to tax their brains, but commercial fiction authors still need to trust that their readers will enjoy your book more if you hint at what’s going on, rather than spelling everything out

Create 3D Characters

Commercial fiction authors can sometimes fall into the trap of creating stock characters, who conform too strongly to their genre, whereas literary authors tend to go for flawed but fabulous characters who are recognisably human. It can be a challenge for commercial authors to stand out, but creating fully rounded characters who have a quirk in them that stands out is certainly one way to do it.

So what other lessons can commercial authors learn from literary authors?

2 thoughts on “Three Lessons Commercial Fiction Authors Can Learn from Literary Authors

  1. I unconditionally boycott all fiction that is written in the show-don’t-tell style; consequently, I will not, under no circumstances whatsoever, write in na such an ugly style, regardless of how hard you try to force us to do so.

    Likewise, I unconditionally boycott all fiction relying on non-flat characters or on simpleton language; this kind of fiction is outright distateful.

    Consequently, I boycott all capitalist publishers and their works.


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