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I live in India and here light reads and "chick lit" have made a great impression. The youth are picking up such books like petrol on fire. Even non-readers are giving reading these genres a try. Titles like these have helped the publishing industry here to grow more than 100% in the last few years.

Is it a good idea someone who wishes to become a literary fiction writer to write such a book; does it fix his/her genre? Is it going to demean his standing as a literary writer from the readers' point of view? Does he or she come to be characterized as a Light read or "chick lit" writer who cannot write in another genre, especially literary fiction?

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3 Answers 3

You think too much. If you want to be a writer, you should write instead.

No, seriously, this thinking (and the resulting "decisions") will take you nowhere. If you read lots of chick lit and you like it, then write chick lit. If you read lots of literary fiction and you like it, write it. If you disgust chick lit, then avoid that genre. The readers will find out. Because they are not stupid. Which takes me to my next point.

Do you think your readers are stupid? Why should they "demean" you, because you write in different genres? If they really did, you would not want them as readers. Skip that thought, it's totally useless.

If you like both genres, write in both genres. But if you think, there is an easy genre (like chick lit), where you can make easy money, and there is this other reputable genre (like literary fiction) where you can show the world how great you are, then you are a snob and an idiot. So I really hope, you do not think that. Because there is no easy genre, there is no easy money. Everyone thinking that should stop writing immediately or never start at all.

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This sounds to me like an unnecessarily harsh answer. A person disgusted by a genre wouldn't seriously consider write in it. But if you like two genres, have ideas for both and have to decide, is it that subverted to take a strategic decision? Would you advice against being thoughtful in other career choices? And can you really dismiss pigeonholing that easily? As for "not wanting people as readers", really? Even if they are agents, publishers or critics? Couldn't the J A Tagala's concerns be reasonable, even if they turn out to be incorrect? –  Daphna Dec 30 '11 at 16:51
    
Thank you very much. I'm very clear in my thoughts. I asked this question on behalf of my friend who is a writer too. He has some serious issues with Light Reads, he fears, if he writes one, his genre will be fixed. His readers will be looking up to him as a Light read or "chick lit" writer. –  J A Tagala Dec 30 '11 at 17:26
    
Choose your audience, @Daphne. If you worry about what an agent, publisher or critic could think, before you have ever met him, or before he could be meaningful for your life or career, then I pity you. Even after you met them, you should be careful about their opinions. –  John Smithers Dec 30 '11 at 17:38
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@JohnSmithers - the point made by Daphna was valid insofar as there's no reason to be harsh in answering a question that has been asked in good faith. Any other comments about the tone of this can be taken to chat. –  justkt Dec 30 '11 at 18:46
    
While you make some good points, I agree that this answer is needlessly harsh. -1. –  Neil Fein Dec 31 '11 at 9:10

If you're worried about reader perception, use a pseudonym.

But I don't think that one genre is easier than another, which seems to be the assumption behind your question. I think each writer needs to look at his or her own strengths and interests, and work within those. Someone whose preferences and style run to literary fiction will have serious trouble writing a successful Romance, just as someone whose strengths are a good match for Romance will have trouble writing literary fiction.

What are these strengths and weaknesses? Well, I'm not sure--maybe it should be another question on this board! In my experience, Romance requires a strong understanding of characterization and the ability to write simple, clean prose. Romances may have the reputation of being the home of 'purple prose', but I think most modern readers shy away from over-written stories, and prefer more simple, straightforward language. Subgenres within Romance will have their own requirements, of course.

So, if you want to write Chick Lit, write Chick Lit. If you want to write in more than one genre, write in more than one genre, using pseudonyms as necessary. But don't force yourself to write something you're not comfortable with in the interest of increasing sales; readers of all genres want well-written work by someone who's an expert in the genre.

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If you write something "lightweight," and then something "heavy" or "serious" afterwards, the readers of your "light" book might give the "serious" one a try sooner than someone who never heard of you, because they like your previous work. So you're establishing a built-in audience. Can't see a downside there.

As far as the critics, it's their job to read the books to review them. If the reviewer can't be arsed to get past your name on the cover because your previous book was Burning But Age-Appropriately Chaste Desire in the Desert, the reviewer should be fired for refusal to work.

Write what you want to write. If it's good, word will get out. Don't worry about being pigeonholed.

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Ah, but reviewers who write for a literary audience won't review a book by someone who's known for writing light fare. I agree with Kate's answer: Use a pseudonym. –  Neil Fein Dec 31 '11 at 9:12
    
Disagree. It's hard to take seriously somebody's treatise on the inherant alienation in modern family units when you know that person's previous claim to fame is 200 pages of burning loins. Put it like this: I'm not saying that Albert Einstein couldn't cook or that Martha Stewart can't explain physics, but I'll still go to Einstein for a physics lesson and Stewart for cooking. Breaking out into one genre is hard; into two genres is harder; breaking out into a second genre while fighting preconceptions about existing reputation seems unnecessarily difficult when a pseudonym is so very simple. –  Standback Jan 3 '12 at 6:34
    
Am I seriously the only person who's heard of China Mieville here? en.wikipedia.org/wiki/China_Mi%C3%A9ville#Literary_influences –  Lauren Ipsum Jan 3 '12 at 16:57

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