For years I’ve written what is generally considered “literary” fiction. My personal definition of literary: the writer pays as much attention to crafting language as he or she does to crafting story.
Some of the writers in my circle don’t believe this label can apply to genre fiction (thrillers, mystery, horror, paranormal, etc.). From their perspective, literary is a separate category. They make a few exceptions, but are always sure to point out that they are, in fact, exceptions. They would expand on my definition of literary to include the idea that anything to do with plot, story, or action is less important than language, and may even lose you that “literary” stamp of approval.
I still write literary fiction, and I’m in the process of rewriting a novella I recently finished. As usual, I sent it to several critique partners to get their thoughts. The emailed document went out with a warning. This is different from my usual stuff, I wrote. It’s a bit gory. It’s actually a novella of horror. Yes, monsters are involved. No, there aren’t any vampires.
Reactions were mixed, but one person’s response hinted that I was in fact selling out by writing something so commercial. God forbid a literary writer make money from book sales, rather than dwelling in artsy poverty or hoping to win an award with cash attached.
I didn’t set out to write a story that appealed to the masses. I set out to write the story that wanted to be told. And I’m a reader who enjoys the works of Poe and Bradbury, and other dark classics I find to be quite literary. I read Dracula as an adult, and don’t feel the need to bury it in the back of my bookshelf. I read other genre fiction, too–things I don’t consider “literary,” but still enjoy. Yes, I’ve read each book in the Harry Potter series.
I’ll never stop caring about language. I’ll never cease honing my craft. But I won’t let myself be limited by someone else’s definition of which stories are worthy of being told.