Stirring the Pot

Over the weekend I stirred a small controversy when I replied to a post on Facebook. It was a link to a blog post by someone (and I’m leaving out the names to keep the guilty from suing me) who extolled “unedited self-publishing.” This phenomenon, the person indicated, was fresh and new, and this person preferred the name “alt fiction” or “alt lit” for such work. The important thing, the blogger indicated, was that more people were getting published and essentially thumbing their noses at traditional publishing.

Now, I’m all for making traditional publishing reconsider itself (I have self-published and will probably do so again.), but I commented on the Facebook status that I hoped the blog was a parody because reading unedited writing was a waste of my time and energy. Calling it “alt fiction” was just an excuse for not knowing how to write.

I got a long dissertation from someone–not the blog writer–about how narrow-minded I was. Didn’t I know language evolved? Didn’t I know grammar changed over the years? What followed was several paragraphs, un-punctuated and full of typos by the way, about how I was behind the times and too rigid. The whole “write as well as you can and use an editor” thing was a condescension to traditional publishing and why would we want to be like them anyway?

Okay, that’s a possibility. I’ll acknowledge that I’m pedantic about spelling, punctuation, and grammar because I don’t want to read crap. Experiment with language all you want, but if you have an entire book that is essentially a mis-punctuated, misspelled run-on sentence, you’re not breaking etymological ground. Call it “alt lit” if you want, but your readership will be small; and you’ll be lonely in your self-satisfaction.

And, yes, I’m aware grammar, usage, and punctuation evolve. I taught English lit, for Pete’s sake. However, evolution takes time and has to gain almost universal acceptance for real change. I mean, we’re still debating the Oxford comma.

The thing that gets me is that the resources to assure your writing is grammatical, properly punctuated, and makes sense are plentiful and cheap. Not wanting to use them is just laziness and marks you as uninterested in perfecting your craft. And that makes me uninterested in reading what you’ve “written.”

Believe what you will, but I still consider a poorly written, unedited work dreck, not “alt lit” or any other appellation attached to it as an excuse for, well, not knowing how to write.

7 thoughts on “Stirring the Pot

  1. ‘Alt Literature’? So anything written on the wall of a public bathroom stall can be considered literature?

    Writing is about craft. All story tellers work to perfect their craft. Comedians get boo’d off the stage if their jokes are poorly constructed. The oral storyteller who fills a 5min oration with um, ah, and like will turn their audience to the dark side. Bad writers might have an initial spike, but time will tell the truth.

    Great post!

  2. Good for you, Maggie. I can see where a well-planned stream of consciousness piece, for example, with intentional misspellings, could be provocative; but poor writing, alt lit or no, is poor reading, no matter what you call it.

I live for your constructive comments.

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