So let's talk about writing literature, instead of reading it. Except that I'm not writing literature, at least not anymore.
When I started to write my novel I was firmly entrenched in my third year Can Lit class at the University of Toronto. I was having heart palpitations from reading greats like Sinclair Ross, Margaret Atwood, and Joy Kogawa. I'd grown up with a healthy appreciation for Can Lit - L.M. Montgomery was like a mother to me. So of course I wanted to write the Great Canadian novel.
So I wrote one. Or, so I thought. But as it happens, being 20 and a bit flaky, I wanted to write about relationships, and in the most emo fashion possible. I think this was during my Alkaline Trio phase. There were attempts at metafiction. There were attempts at symbolism. But mostly, my characters wanted to get in bitch fights and seduce each other.
I continued to write the book, off and on, over the next five years. And it's funny for me to see how much better the writing gets as the book progresses. Because here's the crux of it: real writers read. Widely. And when you're in university, you read in a vacuum.
Perhaps U of T had a more conservative English program than most but reading Doris Lessing was as modern as I ever got. Occasionally I would spy flashy books in Chapters or the library, the kind with foil, the kind people actually read, but they barely registered in my consciousness.
It wasn't until just over three years ago that I yanked my head out the proverbial ass of Jane Eyre re-reading and crying over Lord of the Rings and started to read contemporary fiction. What a wake up call.
[Side note: it's sad to discover that not every book is at the calibre of a classic. The average writer does not sit down and spew out The Portrait of a Lady. But it is nice to know that you can meet the authors who write your books and that they would know what a blog is. Hopefully.]
When I picked my novel back up recently after a year and a half break I was delighted to find out that it was not literature, oh no, it was very much YA (young adult). I actually know what YA is now, hence I am able to make the distinction. You'd think there's be more caterwauling, because I lost my chance to write the Great Canadian Novel.
But I think the GCN is going to be just fine without me because I suddenly feel very comfortably at home with YA. I get it now: you're supposed to write your book, not the book of your heroes, not the book that wins critical acclaim, maybe not even the book that you think sells (though writing for yourself is selfish, and by God I don't mean that).
The fact of the matter is that I'm not a literary writer. I like to write about relationships in that first person, overly intense fashion that YA thrives on. I like to write long spiels of flirtatious dialogue. I like picking out my characters' outfits. OK SHUT UP. (It's fun!) And I thoroughly enjoy celebrating all my early-20's angst, that time when my personality and feelings were more mutable.
I'm laughing while I'm editing now, because I'm letting my prose be as bitchy and irreverent as it wants to be. The beast is out of the cage. And it's wearing Hot Topic.
Have any of you suddenly realized that you aren't writing X genre, but Y? How did you deal with this realization? Comment below!