Million Eyes, Million Eyes - Latest News, News, Short Stories, Writing, Writing Advice

Commercial fiction vs literary fiction + story updates


Good evening Earth. This week I’m talking about a popular conspiracy theory that President-elect Trump was assassinated by a coalition of Western governments before he could destroy Mexico’s economy, give guns to toddlers, and nuke the Middle East.

Wait—what? There’s no such conspiracy theory, you say? President-elect Trump hasn’t been assassinated?

Ah, okay. Sorry, must’ve been a premonition/dream/desperate hope I had.

Instead, I’ll give you a round-up of story updates and some tips for writers on understanding the differences between literary and commercial fiction.

Rachel Can Still See wins the Hyde Cup 2016

hyde-cupYesterday I received a nice little boost for my recently completed short story, Rachel Can Still See. It won the Hyde Cup 2016, an internal Rushmoor Writers competition, organised and judged each year by the members. The story got great feedback, so my plan is to start submitting it immediately to publishers and short story competitions.

This story is one of the Million Eyes Short Stories and a sequel to Rachel Can See (though it can sensibly stand alone). Rachel Can See has just been published in Metamorphose V2 (more details below).

I won £25 and a little cup for my mantelpiece. Whoop! 😀

Million Eyes

I’m down to the last couple of chapters of my novel, Million Eyes. My copywriting busyness has skyrocketed, so I’m getting through it slowly. Planning a good old sesh over Christmas, so my hope is that I’ll have reached the end by the time we draw the curtains on 2016. Then I’ll be ready to start the final edit next year.

I’m planning to go on a writers’ retreat in the New Year for a couple of weeks and get a large portion of the final edit done. I’ll probably be going to the South House Retreat in Dorset (if anyone’s been there, please let me know!), UNLESS my application for a residency with the Jan Michalski Foundation gets accepted.

I haven’t mentioned this before, but the foundation offers writers (working on all kinds of projects) the chance to go and stay in a treehouse in the Swiss Mountains and actually get paid to write. I suspect acceptance as probable as winning the lottery, but it was too bizarre and brilliant an opportunity to not at least apply.

Rachel Can See published in Metamorphose V2

cover-angleIf you’re up to date with the blog, you’ll know that my short story, Rachel Can See, has now been published in the second volume of Metamorphose, a journal of ten sci-fi and fantasy stories from new authors. Metamorphose V2 is currently available with a 25% discount and a free PDF of Metamorphose V1. Once Metamorphose have sold 1,000 copies, they’re donating 50% of all profits to ADAA to help people suffering from anxiety and depression in America (which could be tens of millions now that Donald Trump has just been voted the next president).

Rachel Can See received an honourable mention and there is a sneak peek available to read here. Enjoy!

My Spaced Out Radio interview

On 25th October (well, 5am on the 26th for me), I did a three-hour interview for Spaced Out Radio, talking to host Dave Scott about a ton of (particularly wacky) conspiracy theories. The main topics covered were Princess Diana’s death, Flat Earth Theory, the ‘Paul McCartney is dead’ legend, and claims of a massive time travel cover-up. I also offered some exclusive titbits about Million Eyes.

It went really well and Dave wants me back on the show in the future. Here’s a YouTube video of the interview. You can also download it for free on iTunes. Have a listen while you’re tidying the house or in the car and want to hear about some really off the wall conspiracy theories!

That’s almost it for Million Eyes and blog news. However, another one of the Million Eyes Short Stories has been accepted for publication and I’ll be making an announcement about it next week! 😀

Literary fiction versus commercial fiction

Identifying whether my writing is “literary” or “commercial” fiction is something I’ve had to do for the purposes of submitting to short story competitions and magazines. But it’s not that easy to grasp. Some publishers give you an idea of what they mean by literary and commercial fiction, and it’s different to what another publisher is saying.

In my endeavour to nail down the main distinctions between the two, here’s what I’ve found.

  1. Writer Annie Neugebauer says, “The aim of commercial fiction is entertainment. The aim of literary fiction is art.” Generally, literary fiction is more concerned with style and language, whereas the language in commercial fiction is cleaner, less complex and easier to read.
  2. Literary fiction is more about characters. Commercial fiction is more about plot. With that in mind, literary fiction tends to be slower-paced. Commercial fiction has more events, higher stakes and more action. It is plot-driven; characterisation, though important, is not as central to the story.
  3. Commercial fiction sticks to genre precepts, while literary fiction plays with them. In other words, commercial fiction is easier to pigeonhole.
  4. Publishers expect to make a much more substantial profit from commercial fiction than they do from literary fiction. (I suppose the clue is in the name!) Audiences are, generally, much larger for commercial fiction than they are for literary fiction.

Examples of literary fiction authors are Toni Morrison, Margaret Atwood and Ernest Hemingway.

Examples of commercial fiction authors are JK Rowling, Dan Brown and Stephen King.

So how would I classify my own work? Personally, I would always argue that I’m writing commercial fiction. Million Eyes is a plot-driven thriller designed to entertain, not a character study designed to be literary art. So are the Million Eyes Short Stories, in my view.

Having said that, the publisher that most recently accepted my work (which I’ll tell you more about next week) is a publisher of literary short fiction. I was surprised to get an acceptance (for several stories) because I never considered the Million Eyes Short Stories to be literary. It could be the fact that they’re not easily boxed into one genre, and this publisher is specifically looking for ‘genre experiments’. Both Million Eyes and the Million Eyes Short Stories have thriller, conspiracy, mystery, sci-fi and historical elements. This is perhaps why they struck a chord with the publisher.

Of course, the four distinctions I’ve mentioned above are generalisations with probably tons of exceptions. Still, hopefully it gives writers and readers a slightly clearer idea of the two types.

Now excuse me while I go back to contemplating the President Donald Trump-shaped apocalypse.

Happy Thursday!

Next week: Is Osama bin Laden actually dead?

2 thoughts on “Commercial fiction vs literary fiction + story updates”

  1. All complete nonsense! Most commercial fiction is character-driven, especially in the romance genre and urban fantasy.

    Idea-driven fiction is unsellable, thus will never be accepted by commercial publishers.


    1. Thank you for your comment and your opinion, but I have to disagree. Although the definitions of literary and commercial fiction are fairly fluid, most writers and readers who’ve attempted to define it point out how, in general, plot development is more important than character development in books designed to be mass market and fit a particular genre. Still, it’s not a strict definition, as I mentioned in the article, and I don’t know much about the romance or urban fantasy genres – perhaps those are exceptions.


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