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Susie Wild is a poet, writer, journalist, critic, lecturer, festival organiser and editor based in Cardiff. Her debut poetry collection 'Better Houses' is out now through Parthian Books. 'The Art of Contraception' was her first book. It was long-listed for the Edge Hill Short Story Prize 2011 and won 'Fiction Book of the Year' in the Welsh Icons Awards 2010. Her Kindle novella 'Arrivals' was released globally through Parthian Books in May 2011. She edited the illustrated short story anthology 'Rarebit' for Parthian's 21st birthday, released December 2013. Illustrated by John Abell. She is Publishing Editor at one of Wales' Leading Indie Publishers, Parthian Books. @Soozerama

Friday, 15 July 2011

Has plot driven out other kinds of story?

"I often wonder if relentless focus on plot is edging something of value out of our literary culture. Creative writing students are frequently told to "show not tell", to "get into the scene early", and make sure their characters are never without motivation. All great advice, except it doesn't really reflect the way life is. Would-be novelists must submit three chapters and a synopsis of their manuscripts to the literary agents or publishers they approach: if these fail to "hook" early on they will almost certainly be rejected. So what would happen to NauseaThe Unnamable,In Search of Lost Time, or, God forbid, Finnegans Wake? I recently attended a talk where a leading London literary agent stated that, in his opinion, it is highly unlikely that Kafka would get published as a first-time writer today. Of course there's no way this can be verified, but if true it's a pretty sorry state of affairs.
There are always exceptions to the rule, and the popularity of David Mitchell and Roberto Bolano is encouraging, as was the excitement around the publication of David Foster Wallace's The Pale King earlier this year and Tom McCarthy's shortlisting for the 2010 Booker prize for C. McCarthy has said that "it seems to me that a lot of contemporary writers are shirking their duty to deal with the legacy of modernism and that many of them don´t care". Art has occupied the experimental space that literature did in the 1920s, "maybe because writing is too commercial". In order to be read widely, writers must go through the major publishers who are beholden to their shareholders, and therefore to market forces. What gets published, in other words, must please as broad a swathe of the market as possible."


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