Author Topic: Do you have to write "serious" fiction to take yourself seriously?  (Read 1619 times)  

Offline kw3000

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Or is taking yourself seriously as an author a silly idea anyway?

I tend to gravitate toward writing silly shorter stories, most of my story ideas that come to me are for silly or satirical things, but whenever I write them I tend to feel guilty and think I should be taking this gig more seriously, that I want to be 'taken seriously' as an author "someday", and that I should be writing "substantial" books in "serious" genres.

Is this the wrong way to be thinking about all of this?

I ask because I'm torn on what to write. Any words of wisdom are welcome.

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Offline MelanieCellier

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Re: Do you have to write "serious" fiction to take yourself seriously?
« Reply #1 on: May 17, 2018, 09:01:48 PM »
I do get where this sort of feeling can come from, but I definitely think taking writing seriously has to do with your attitude going into it rather than your content. After all, surely Terry Pratchett and Douglas Adams would be writers people take seriously.

I also think that taking writing seriously and taking publishing seriously are two separate things that often go together but don't have to.

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Offline Skip Knox

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Re: Do you have to write "serious" fiction to take yourself seriously?
« Reply #2 on: May 17, 2018, 09:26:08 PM »
I never take myself. Seriously.

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Re: Do you have to write "serious" fiction to take yourself seriously?
« Reply #3 on: May 17, 2018, 09:30:47 PM »
I write what I find entertaining in the hopes others will also find it entertaining. I take my craft seriously, but the content of my stories is far from serious. I'm also working on taking my writing business more seriously. Each step I take towards that goal helps me take myself as a writer more seriously. But it doesn't change the content of my stories.

Offline LilyBLily

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Re: Do you have to write "serious" fiction to take yourself seriously?
« Reply #4 on: May 17, 2018, 09:35:36 PM »
Even when I write lightweight fiction it ends up serious. I have to slap myself to keep it from being dark. That's why I don't write thrillers or suspense. I think I'd end up killing off everybody.

But am I serious about what I write? Sure. I was impressed in college by how E. M. Forster would write attractive, seemingly innocuous, romantic stories, and yet they were quite serious. I try in my own poor way to do the same: put some meat in every story even if there's a big helping of sugar coating on top. (Often, there isn't much sugar. See: dark, above.) I'm dedicating a fair portion of my remaining life span to this endeavor. If I'm not serious about it, why am I doing it? If there's something more important I should be doing, and instead I'm just goofing off writing novels, that's a problem.

But you could say that's the Puritan work ethic by which I was raised, and that I'm supposed to be doing "leisure activities" and acting like those "smiling retired people" in sales pitch photos. Nope. Not for me. 

Also, come to think of it, my first novel was satire. Oops. It had some serious themes buried in it, I promise. But you had to know where to look.

Bottom line: Don't worry about it. Write what you feel like writing. There's bound to be somebody out there who gets you.



Offline Jeff Tanyard

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Re: Do you have to write "serious" fiction to take yourself seriously?
« Reply #5 on: May 17, 2018, 09:46:21 PM »
I ask because I'm torn on what to write. Any words of wisdom are welcome.


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Offline notenoughcoffee

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The more you care about whether you're writing the "right" things, and/or how people will perceive you, the less you'll write, and the more you'll regret.

Offline joyceharmon

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Re: Do you have to write "serious" fiction to take yourself seriously?
« Reply #7 on: May 17, 2018, 10:55:54 PM »
Even when I write lightweight fiction it ends up serious. I have to slap myself to keep it from being dark.


Ha! Even when I try to write serious, funny bits creep in. I have some action-adventure concepts I want to write someday and I think I just have to accept that the funny bits will always be there.

But to the op's question - "I tend to feel guilty and think I should be taking this gig more seriously, that I want to be 'taken seriously' as an author "someday", and that I should be writing "substantial" books in "serious" genres." -- well, what do you mean by 'someday'? If you went back to, say, the 19th century, there were 'serious' writers who were the respected poobahs of their day, and today none of us remembers any of them. The writers we still remember were the ones who were considered to be hacks writing potboilers by their contemporaries.

So I guess it depends on whether you want to be 'taken seriously' while you're still alive or after you're dead. It would probably be nice to have your Serious Novels taken Seriously by Serious Critics, but then on the other hand, those Serious Novels sell less over a year than a Steven King sells in a day. (And who do you suppose the 22nd century will still remember?)



Offline Dpock

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Re: Do you have to write "serious" fiction to take yourself seriously?
« Reply #8 on: May 17, 2018, 11:39:29 PM »
One of the funniest books ever written is Candide by Voltaire, a satire. It's funny as hell. Many find it eye-opening and life-changing and it's barely a novella. If you lean toward satire and have a gift for it in your writing, consider yourself lucky and take your talent seriously.

Let others decide for themselves whether you produce serious works.


Offline Kal241

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Re: Do you have to write "serious" fiction to take yourself seriously?
« Reply #9 on: May 17, 2018, 11:58:19 PM »
I write the story how it wants to be told. If it wants to be serious, it will be. If it wants to be silly, it will be.

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Offline Itsro

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Re: Do you have to write "serious" fiction to take yourself seriously?
« Reply #10 on: May 18, 2018, 12:10:44 AM »
Just write what you enjoy. Don't get all soap opera-ish on us. :-*

Offline kw3000

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Re: Do you have to write "serious" fiction to take yourself seriously?
« Reply #11 on: May 18, 2018, 12:26:22 AM »
I do get where this sort of feeling can come from, but I definitely think taking writing seriously has to do with your attitude going into it rather than your content. After all, surely Terry Pratchett and Douglas Adams would be writers people take seriously.

I also think that taking writing seriously and taking publishing seriously are two separate things that often go together but don't have to.

Thanks, you've raised a good point re: writing vs publishing. I think maybe part of my issue is that I see the silly shorter things I write as being less likely to succeed financially than if I were to work on something meatier, i.e. longer and in a popular genre that I also enjoy reading and writing. That could be a source of where the guilt comes in, like I'm wasting time on something less likely to sell (and selling is a goal I have) than if I were to spend that time on something more "substantial". At the same time, you're right, Adams and Pratchett wrote hilarious books, but were also terrific writers. I can't write like they can, but they proved you don't have to write "serious" fare to succeed.

I write what I find entertaining in the hopes others will also find it entertaining. I take my craft seriously, but the content of my stories is far from serious. I'm also working on taking my writing business more seriously. Each step I take towards that goal helps me take myself as a writer more seriously. But it doesn't change the content of my stories.

Yes, so it sounds as though you're similar to Adams and Pratchett where their craft was seriously good, but the content wasn't serious. The business side, as I'd said in my other reply above is perhaps where my guilt comes in, I want to know that the time I'm spending writing is the best use of it in terms of progressing toward one day being a "selling writer".

Even when I write lightweight fiction it ends up serious. I have to slap myself to keep it from being dark. That's why I don't write thrillers or suspense. I think I'd end up killing off everybody.

But am I serious about what I write? Sure. I was impressed in college by how E. M. Forster would write attractive, seemingly innocuous, romantic stories, and yet they were quite serious. I try in my own poor way to do the same: put some meat in every story even if there's a big helping of sugar coating on top. (Often, there isn't much sugar. See: dark, above.) I'm dedicating a fair portion of my remaining life span to this endeavor. If I'm not serious about it, why am I doing it? If there's something more important I should be doing, and instead I'm just goofing off writing novels, that's a problem.

But you could say that's the Puritan work ethic by which I was raised, and that I'm supposed to be doing "leisure activities" and acting like those "smiling retired people" in sales pitch photos. Nope. Not for me. 

Also, come to think of it, my first novel was satire. Oops. It had some serious themes buried in it, I promise. But you had to know where to look.

Bottom line: Don't worry about it. Write what you feel like writing. There's bound to be somebody out there who gets you.

Thanks for replying. I would hope there'd be readers out there who would 'get' what I was writing, but something else you'd said struck me...the goofing off thing. That's sometimes what I'm worried I'm doing when I'm writing these sillier shorter books, and then I think I should probably stop and work on something longer and that would qualify as an actual novel people would actually be interested in reading.  :-[


What sort of books do you like to read?  What's your favorite book?

This is tough because I'm all over the map.

The most recent books I've read, and I'm not kidding: 'Get Shorty', 'Flowers in the Attic', 'The Old Man and the Sea', 'Rico Slade Will ****ing Kill You', and 'A Confederacy of Dunces'.

But if I had to name my favorite book, it's an unbreakable four-way tie between: 'Carrie', '1984', 'The Road', and a satirical novel called 'How I Became a Famous Novelist'. I love those books.

The more you care about whether you're writing the "right" things, and/or how people will perceive you, the less you'll write, and the more you'll regret.

See, this is something I feel I should know innately, and I would probably say that very same thing to another struggling writer and yet I can't internalize that advice for myself. But, you're right, caring about what others think is counter-productive. It's coming from a place of "will others buy this?" It's me thinking, "is this me trying my best, or is this me goofing off?" And I'm worried it's the latter. I guess that makes the answer easy then? Just stop goofing off? I don't know, it seems more convoluted than that to me, but maybe it isn't.

Ha! Even when I try to write serious, funny bits creep in. I have some action-adventure concepts I want to write someday and I think I just have to accept that the funny bits will always be there.

But to the op's question - "I tend to feel guilty and think I should be taking this gig more seriously, that I want to be 'taken seriously' as an author "someday", and that I should be writing "substantial" books in "serious" genres." -- well, what do you mean by 'someday'? If you went back to, say, the 19th century, there were 'serious' writers who were the respected poobahs of their day, and today none of us remembers any of them. The writers we still remember were the ones who were considered to be hacks writing potboilers by their contemporaries.

So I guess it depends on whether you want to be 'taken seriously' while you're still alive or after you're dead. It would probably be nice to have your Serious Novels taken Seriously by Serious Critics, but then on the other hand, those Serious Novels sell less over a year than a Steven King sells in a day. (And who do you suppose the 22nd century will still remember?)

By "someday" I suppose I mean, when I finally get my act together and really try to write substantial novels. You mention Stephen King, and I look up to him a lot. I love his books. I've often wanted to write horror novels like him, and I keep telling myself that someday I will and then when I do I'll start taking myself more seriously, but in the meantime I keep gravitating toward these silly stories that aren't novel length and are relatively easy to write. Maybe I'm subconsciously realizing what I should be writing and it's causing me to procrastinate by grabbing the low hanging fruit. I agree with you though, I think King's works will be remembered long after a lot of the so-called 'literary' works have been forgotten. Thanks for your reply.

One of the funniest books ever written is Candide by Voltaire, a satire. It's funny as hell. Many find it eye-opening and life-changing and it's barely a novella. If you lean toward satire and have a gift for it in your writing, consider yourself lucky and take your talent seriously.

Let others decide for themselves whether you produce serious works.

I bought 'Candide' not too long ago and it's in my reading queue, so I do plan on reading it soon. I'm even more excited to read it now given what you've said about it.

I suppose in writing I do lean toward satire, but I don't know if it's because I have talent there - in all honesty I don't think so - and that's not false modesty talking. I think I might gravitate toward it because the ideas that tend to come to me in that vein lead me toward writing shorter books that I can fly through and get off my brain more quickly than if I were to tackle something longer, that requires hard(er) work and that might have a better shot at selling decently in the Kindle Store.

I write the story how it wants to be told. If it wants to be serious, it will be. If it wants to be silly, it will be.

I guess then for me it's just a matter of nailing down a genre and sticking with it.

Just write what you enjoy. Don't get all soap opera-ish on us. :-*

Yes, I hear you, but I also would like to sell well at some point. I might enjoy writing short silly stories, but does the market enjoy buying 'em? Not so much, not to any great author-career-building degree anyway.

Hmm...maybe soap operas are where my hidden writing talents lie. Perhaps I could write the next 'Peyton Place'...for millennials...with vampires...who eat avocado toast listen to conscientious hip hop on vinyl and play ironic hide and seek on their iphones...in stores that sell tight pants.  8)

Ken Ward

Offline Jeff Tanyard

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Re: Do you have to write "serious" fiction to take yourself seriously?
« Reply #12 on: May 18, 2018, 01:45:25 AM »
Perhaps "comedy horror" is your thing.  (Or is it "horror comedy"?  Not sure.)  For inspiration:

List of comedy horror films

Popular horror comedy books
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Re: Do you have to write "serious" fiction to take yourself seriously?
« Reply #13 on: May 18, 2018, 02:45:27 AM »
Personally, I wrote a book as a fun escape. Then I wrote 25 more, mostly for the same reason. The more I made them a fun escape with some serious (and steamy) moments, the better they did.

I have sometimes had similar feelings. It made me feel guilty, the first couple years, to make so much money doing something that felt so frivolous. But I wrote books for the woman I was when I read the most romance: an overburdened woman carrying family, career, friends, and everything else. Trying to be a good wife, a good mother, a good friend, a good sister, a good daughter, a good lover, a good boss, a good employee...

It's exhausting. At night, I just wanted a few minutes to read a book that was fun but not stupid, hopefully a little funny, a little steamy, a little heartwarming, that would help me remind myself of the woman beneath. As a writer, I want to help strong, caring, loving women to flip that switch for themselves and get to feel  romantic, flirty, sexy, sweet, desired, and loved. Not always easy. I wanted to be "Calgon, take me away."

The Nobel Committee ain't warmin' up the jet. But I'm a good writer, I love what I do, and it has given me and my family a really nice life and maybe brought some pleasure into other women's lives. Close enough. 

Offline C. Gold

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Re: Do you have to write "serious" fiction to take yourself seriously?
« Reply #14 on: May 18, 2018, 02:55:47 AM »
I have these weird ideas pop into my head and I write them down because I know not doing so will make them fester. Some are even poetry, like Midwest Mosquito Ambush (A Poem). That one is a Poe-esque poem based on a true life event. There's no way, shape, or form, that poem is ever going to earn me money, but it was fun to write and exercised the writing muscle (and rhyming one, too). So it's not a waste since I am creating words. I don't think it's healthy to look at your art as if it must have a price tag or else it's not serious, not worthy. Even adults need to play.

I take myself quite seriously as an author out to earn money for my books even as I post my bizarre, short creations on my website, free for all to look at and get that OMG face going when they see what comes out of my sometimes weird mind. At least A Hitchhiker's Ride Through the Galaxy... and Beyond! about an immmortal jellyfish is science fiction.

If you can accumulate a collection of your funny shorts, turn them into an anthology and give it a marketing go. Otherwise, you can do like I do and use them as additional content on your website to entertain anyone who visits. Or give them to newsletter subscribers as a bonus.

Write what you enjoy the most because that way you'll be excited enough to finish. And maybe, just maybe, if you are really passionate about it, you could extend it to a longer story. Worth a try anyway. ;)
« Last Edit: May 18, 2018, 02:58:25 AM by C. Gold »

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Re: Do you have to write "serious" fiction to take yourself seriously?
« Reply #15 on: May 18, 2018, 03:03:45 AM »
Whether I'm taken seriously or not ranks below whether I'm wearing matching socks, and I don't think I own two socks of the same colour.

About thirty years ago I discovered comedy was my thing. I love writing funny stuff, and I write it well enough that people not only pay me for it, they say nice things about it too.

I do like to be taken seriously when it comes to my software projects, however. "You just lost all your work, ha ha only kidding" is not a message box people want to see, even if I put a couple of smiley faces next to the "Aaarrghhh!" button.


Sierra Bravo all but done. Robot vs Dragons is next!

Offline C. Gold

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Re: Do you have to write "serious" fiction to take yourself seriously?
« Reply #16 on: May 18, 2018, 03:07:19 AM »
Whether I'm taken seriously or not ranks below whether I'm wearing matching socks, and I don't think I own two socks of the same colour.

About thirty years ago I discovered comedy was my thing. I love writing funny stuff, and I write it well enough that people not only pay me for it, they say nice things about it too.

I do like to be taken seriously when it comes to my software projects, however. "You just lost all your work, ha ha only kidding" is not a message box people want to see, even if I put a couple of smiley faces next to the "Aaarrghhh!" button.
We definitely need more comedy in books but definitely not in the software! Though I admit to enjoying the software pranks I pulled on myself.
I admire people who can write humorous stuff because it's so hard to get right.

Offline Laran Mithras

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Re: Do you have to write "serious" fiction to take yourself seriously?
« Reply #17 on: May 18, 2018, 03:25:13 AM »
I intersperse "silly" stories in with my serious ones about a rate of 1 to 5.

Strangely, I approach the "silly" books more seriously. I'm not sure why that is except maybe that "silliness" ("Handjobs Aren't Cheating") is a little outside my normal "safe space" as an author. Or comedy is outside my comfort zone?

Despite the increased care and concern in writing a silly story, I am not feeling an increased sense of taking myself seriously due to it. So, to answer your question, yes.
 

Offline katrina46

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Re: Do you have to write "serious" fiction to take yourself seriously?
« Reply #18 on: May 18, 2018, 03:37:23 AM »
Why don't you just combine both? Animal farm was a satirical book that got taken so seriously it's required reading in schools.

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Re: Do you have to write "serious" fiction to take yourself seriously?
« Reply #19 on: May 18, 2018, 03:48:14 AM »
We definitely need more comedy in books but definitely not in the software! Though I admit to enjoying the software pranks I pulled on myself.
I admire people who can write humorous stuff because it's so hard to get right.

I once wrote this hugely complicated factory management/accounting/shipping tracking software for the family business. Every Tue and Fri, a member of staff would put a batch of con-notes through the dot matrix printer, scan the first with a barcode reader, then check the last number matched what the computer said it should be. (Fan-fold paper, so if the first was #100 and you printed fifty con-notes, the last simply had to be #149.)

So the computer would pop up a question asking if the last con-note printed was '#149'

Once, only once, the staff member clicked 'No'.

And the computer responded ... "Well, you're ******ed then, aren't you?"

And, just to make things ten times worse, that staff member was my mum.

First and only time I put a joke in my software, I think.



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Offline Mercia McMahon

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Re: Do you have to write "serious" fiction to take yourself seriously?
« Reply #20 on: May 18, 2018, 04:10:29 AM »
As a sometime satarist I have to point out that it is very serious indeed and as an Irish person I rejoice in the serious silliness of Jonathan Swift.


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Re: Do you have to write "serious" fiction to take yourself seriously?
« Reply #21 on: May 18, 2018, 04:20:04 AM »
I write what I want to write & my books sell or they don't (mostly don't). :)

I've not even thought about the 'seriously or not' aspect.

I don't think it matters one iota.

Be you & do what you like to do, if it has to pay your wages, then that advice may not be good but apart from that, just enjoy it.

Offline MLouring

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Re: Do you have to write "serious" fiction to take yourself seriously?
« Reply #22 on: May 18, 2018, 04:23:06 AM »
As a rule, I never take myself seriously.
I am also taking a break from books that take themselves too seriously, yet I still consider myself a real reader  ;D
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Offline dgaughran

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Re: Do you have to write "serious" fiction to take yourself seriously?
« Reply #23 on: May 18, 2018, 04:35:05 AM »
There's a lot of people writing trash who take themselves seriously too!

More... seriously though, I wonder how much authorial intent really matters. Anthony Burgess dashed off A Clockwork Orange for a quick money grab, always viewed it as trash, but it was always rated much more highly than his "serious" historicals.
Stuff for writers thisaway

Offline VanessaC

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Re: Do you have to write "serious" fiction to take yourself seriously?
« Reply #24 on: May 18, 2018, 05:11:25 AM »
Personally, I wrote a book as a fun escape. Then I wrote 25 more, mostly for the same reason. The more I made them a fun escape with some serious (and steamy) moments, the better they did.

I have sometimes had similar feelings. It made me feel guilty, the first couple years, to make so much money doing something that felt so frivolous. But I wrote books for the woman I was when I read the most romance: an overburdened woman carrying family, career, friends, and everything else. Trying to be a good wife, a good mother, a good friend, a good sister, a good daughter, a good lover, a good boss, a good employee...

It's exhausting. At night, I just wanted a few minutes to read a book that was fun but not stupid, hopefully a little funny, a little steamy, a little heartwarming, that would help me remind myself of the woman beneath. As a writer, I want to help strong, caring, loving women to flip that switch for themselves and get to feel  romantic, flirty, sexy, sweet, desired, and loved. Not always easy. I wanted to be "Calgon, take me away."

The Nobel Committee ain't warmin' up the jet. But I'm a good writer, I love what I do, and it has given me and my family a really nice life and maybe brought some pleasure into other women's lives. Close enough.

What an interesting thread, and I love this reply - I don't write romance, but this is the sort of thing I'm aiming for, too - can I take my readers out of their lives for a little period of time.  Books, for me, have always been safe spaces for escape.  It seems (to me) that the majority of readers have similar views - if everyone wanted Serious Literature all the time, then they would be the best sellers.

I also like the distinction drawn between writing silly (if that's what you want) and taking your craft and business seriously.  Reminds a bit of the old saying "write drunk, edit sober" - you can have a lot of fun, but at some point the "grown up" needs to take charge, even if it's just behind the scenes. :)