I’m currently taking a Philosophy class, as well as a class regarding publishing (it seems to be publishing in relation to award-winning literature). One would not think these two subjects would readily intersect, or at least I did not think so. It seems, however, that once I am in the “philosophical” mindset I find all sorts of ways to apply this to my publishing class. My poor professor, I may need to apologize to him before I begin asking him all my questions.
In all seriousness though, when one reads literature it at times seems as though the author is striving for a “sound” like Nathaniel Hawthorne or Charles Dickens. This is, of course, well-written material but also sometimes seems a bit forced. I don’t think any author should negate their own voice or style of writing by trying to imitate another’s writing. Writing is subjective, and part of the beauty of it is the author’s distinct flavor. If it sounds contrived, all of the best words in the world will not save you, nor will the awards. It seems (to me) that the evaluation of what is literature, resists anything which is different from the accepted norms established by notable authors of years gone by.
One could say, “what makes something good literature”? The answers may vary, some might cheekily say “awards”. Others may refer to the usage of obscure and rarely-used words plucked from the bowels of a dictionary. Still others may say that it is the content, and not necessarily the execution which determines whether something is considered literature. Fiction, in my opinion, gets the toughest break of all. It automatically seems to be devalued since the subject matter is not of a historical nature. Children’s writing seems to more easily command awards than other mainstream adult fiction. I believe the quality of writing lies in the message, how the message is delivered, and the quality of the syntax. While we are sometimes overrun by mediocre fiction, I am sure that there are many authors who are deserving of mainstream awards (not just the special fiction-related awards, but awards such as the National Book Award).
I may, eventually, get to the point in my writing career in which I can effortlessly blend fiction and social concerns in a way to warrant an award. Strangely enough, that is not my goal at all. I’ve already said that writing is subjective, I merely have a story to tell and desire to tell it in the way only I can. Others may be better equipped to tell my story, and may do a much better job even, but it would cease to be my work and would lose its very soul.
Can you tell that I read my Philosophy book right before I went to bed, and consequently carried on philosophical discussions the entire night while I dreamt? Mmmhmm, thought so. Now that my synapses are all fired up, off to read more philosophy.