Original writing is a lost art

As a writer, I have long felt like it was my responsibility to remain an original writing voice in the world. It’s a lesson we learn at an early age in school, finding your voice through your writing.

But as the years pass and the competition in the industry is amplified, every writer has to make a difficult choice: Follow the proven, successful storytelling strategies that seem to sell to a broad audience, or remain a unique, singular voice? For many, the decision can be very difficult to make.

Writing in an original style is a risk. Will it resonate with readers? Will publishers and agents be impressed? There also seems to be a negative connotation around the term “literary” books. People see them as boring or slow or deep or depressing — not always the type of book we’d like to settle down with after a long day at work.

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What interested me was the explanation the University of Michigan Helen Zell Writers’ Program uses for the portfolio work it accepts from applicants:

The reason we tend to have relatively few dedicated genre writers in our program at any given moment is simple: we are most interested in vital, singular voices—writers producing work that only they could produce. Meanwhile, genre writing—by definition, at least in its most straightforward form— tends to adhere to clearly established tropes and conventions.

Is that just an elitist attitude from academia, or is it a valid argument? Maybe a little of both.

So I’ll ask you: Do you try to be more original or to deliver to readers what they want? There are certainly pros and cons for each strategy. It’s a dilemma I’ve wrestled with for years now — remain writing literary books, like I did with Between Two Slopes and Somewhere More Than Free, or find a genre niche. I’ve certainly been inspired to write both types of novels over the years.

But to this point, I have yet to brave the world of genre fiction. What say you?

Published by Ed A. Murray

Ed A. Murray is an author, freelance writer, digital marketer and blogger dedicated to impactful storytelling. He writes about writing, books, marketing and life, and has published three books of fiction.

12 thoughts on “Original writing is a lost art

  1. Very interesting post! What I like to read isn’t necessarily what I can write. I’m kind of in the middle between literary and genre with a love of detail, but certainly don’t write to fit into a genre – there has to be more freedom in the process for me. Then when the novel is finished I can decide where it might be suited best.

    Stephen King is someone I can read to free up my own writing, although he is classed as horror, he develops his characters so well, and I find reading him compulsive. If I’d been told a few years ago, that I would become an SK fan, I’d never have believed it – as they say. It was through a friend, whose opinion I respected, that I first read him. And yes, On Writing, is brilliant. Thanks for the post, Ed!

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  2. What a fascinating post.
    As an aspiring author, I am presently working my way towards a goal of completing an 80,000 manuscript. Yet even as I progress my story, I struggle with the decision to give it a USP and my instinctive voice, as heard in my blog posts, or keep it more Mills & Boon formula – tried and tested and more likely to be received favourably.
    Thank you for the thought processes and the links 🌸

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  3. This is an interesting blog entry. You’re indeed an inspiring writer Ed. You know the art and I felt that you have already mastered it. I’m happy that you’re one of the people who followed my personal blog. By the way, I moved it from WordPress to a new platform. It is now http://www.superlauofmidgard.blogspot.com. You may visit the new website, and do not forget to click “subscribe” and enter your email address.

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