Confessions of a writer – a storyteller – but not a literary expert

I have a confession to make.
I love books. I love to read. I love to write.
I’m a writer. I’m a reader.
I dream about being a best-selling novelist.
You could say, if you can excuse the cliché, I’m passionate about writing and reading.
I’m a lot of other things as well; a mum, business owner and enthusiastic home cook.
All of the above statements are true but hardly confessions. What I really need to confess is that I’m not a ‘literary expert’…or at least not by traditional standards.
It’s strange when you consider that I have written for a living. I’m not talking about just the occasional scribble, I have written A LOT. I have worked as a journalist and communication specialist for more years than I care to admit. I also have done my fair share of creative writing.
I read everything from non-fiction and textbooks to thrillers and classics (who doesn’t like a bit of Jane Austen? And if you don’t, you and I need to sit down for an intervention led by my beloved high school English teacher Mr Gibson).
Then there are my all time favourite genres – historical fiction and fantasy. Yep, I will read just about anything.
All in all, I consider myself reasonably well-read and not-too-shabby a writer. A literary expert though? I’m afraid not.
This leads me to wonder if it is possible to be a successful novelist without being a literary expert.
Can I write a great novel without it being a literary masterpiece?
It all depends on your definition of literary masterpiece. Oxford Dictionaries describes a masterpiece as ‘a work of outstanding artistry, skill, or workmanship’. Other definitions say a literary masterpiece is a piece of work that can withstand the test of time.
The latter definition is what trips me up. ‘Withstand(ing) the test of time’ is a big call. Does it mean ’til the end of time. Does it mean ’til the next great book you read. It’s not a measure I personally use to determine whether a book is good or not. It’s not how I evaluate my own writing.
My test of a good book (and my own writing) is the following question: ‘Is it a good yarn?’ – that’s probably the old-school journalist in me.
I often hear of books being slammed by critics because they lacked literary brilliance or that they just weren’t clever enough.
Most of these people are literary experts who have honed their craft over years of study and practise. They analyse and understand literature in ways that I don’t. I applaud them but can’t be them.
I don’t, or more correctly, can’t dissect and analyse individual sentences of a book and search for evidence of literary genius. I’m not sure I have the patience, inclination or capability to do so.
Is this the wrong attitude to have? Should I re-focus my efforts on writing a literary masterpiece? Should I try to pose as a literary expert?
Over the course of my reading career I have probably dissected and analysed writing and books without even realising. But have I dug deeper in my analysis? No.
Just like I can’t pick a ‘buttery note’ in a glass of white wine, I can’t give you a true literary analysis of a book. I can tell you which wine and book I like and why. If pressed I could probably form a pretty compelling critique but it wouldn’t be an in-depth analysis.
Does that make me a literary dunce and mean my book writing career is doomed? I really hope not. I’m terrified my writing won’t pass the literary test but I can’t change my approach to reading and writing. It’s just not me.
So I may not be a literary expert but I do have my own craft and I am something…a STORYTELLER
I am dedicated to my style of reading and writing. My approach is to read and write for enjoyment.
To win my heart and mind, a novel needs to be a good-yarn. It needs to be well-written; for me this means the writing is clean, simple, direct and honest. It still needs an engaging plot and characters but it doesn’t need to be a literary masterpiece. And for the same reasons I won’t restrict my reading to literary masterpieces, I won’t set out to write one.
I don’t need to write something that changes the way people think about the world. I don’t need a Man Booker Prize; though I would really, really like one; pretty please, one day.
I want to write good yarns. I want people to enjoy what I write. I want my novels to be published. I want favourable reviews. And if the publishing gods look on my favourably, I want to be a best-selling author.
Yes, I’m aiming for the stars, but if I write how I know, I stand a chance. If I put all my efforts into trying to write a literary masterpiece, I am doomed to fail.
So I will write what I enjoy.
I may never write a literary masterpiece, but that’s okay (yes it’s okay, even for a self-proclaimed perfectionist).
I will continue to write. I have no choice. I am a slave to the words in my head; the same words that demand to come to life on a computer screen and in print.
The next step is to be brave, bare my heart and soul and share my words with the world. And share them I will. I will share my writing with anyone willing to read it. This blog is just the starting point.
So stay tuned if you are interested in my thoughts on writing, reading and my personal writing projects.
I hope you enjoy my words and don’t feel the need to analyse them…well at least not too much : )
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Kylie Fennell
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