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Thursday, April 17, 2008

Trash Fiction vs. Short Fiction Demolition Derby

I've been doing a lot of what I call trash fiction writing: working on writing projects that have no particular future, at a low level of difficulty that require a lot of time and concentration but do not challenge my skill, language mastery, or general intelligence.

I go back and forth in my thinking over whether this is a problem. Yes, it's good to turn out material, even if it's not elevated, and even when you're writing something off hand, at least you're writing something and honing your craft. On the other hand, trash fiction writing is wheel spinning.

So in order to get back in touch with the literary me, the me that is inspired by language and story telling, I did a little memory lane search. I decided to see if an old writing professor, one who taught me quite a bit, had a blog. I took Rob Roberge's short fiction class at UCLA Extension last year; From his website I found a link to one of his short stories that was published in ZYZZYVA which happens to be one of my favorite literary journals, and one of my big time writing goals.

After all the trash fiction I've been writing, reading Rob's story felt like getting hit on the head with one of Wile E. Coyote's anvils. Enough trash fiction. This short fiction makes my heart lurch and my stomach clench in all the best ways. This is what I want to write.

So please enjoy Swiss Engineering by Rob Roberge. It's well worthy of the ten minutes it will take you to read it. It begins like this:
I enter Skip's Volvo into the Crawford Raceway's Saturday Night Amateur Demolition Derby. I'm dizzy from the heat and the fact that I've had maybe five hours sleep in the last five days.


stu said...

It's always good to aim for art, but even producing low grade stuff is better than doing nothing. Besides, it's sometimes easy to get so hung up on producing great art that it stalls you completely.

Stephanie said...

I think you're absolutely right, Stu. It's all about finding the right balance though. If I'm too caught up in and consumed by the throw-away writing, I'm not leaving any time for the other, more serious writing to develop.

I feel like I'm not differentiating properly between the two kinds of writing. I mean to say that the trash writing is for fun, and cannot be submitted for publication anywhere. It is of no real useful purpose. It is neither a short story, nor a novel.

The other writing is submittable, whether it be a literary short story or the beginnings of a pulpy novel.

Here's a metaphor: Let's say your hobby is working on old cars. You've got a beat-up sports car without an engine in the garage, and then you have a classic car in beautiful condition that you use to commute. But the classic car requires constant upkeep, and without it, you don't get to the office. So for a few months, your classic car has been out of commission, needing a part let's say, and you're taking the bus to work. Yet on the weekends, instead of saving money for the part you need to fix your classic car, you're tinkering around on the sports car in the garage. Yes, you'll enjoy it and keep learning about cars, but you're still gonna be taking the bus to work for the rest of your life.

Stephanie said...

Oh and welcome to the site Stu!