A few years ago I was lucky enough to attend the Sanibel Island Writers’ Conference. It is put on every year by the wonderful folks at Florida Gulf Coast University. That year I got to attend seminars with some really great authors, but my favorite was with Benjamin Percy. He has written some really great novels like The Dead Lands (2015) and Red Moon (2013).
The first thing you need to know about Ben Percy is that he has the deepest voice this side of Barry White. There is a You Tube video of him reading Goodnight Moon that will give you the Vincent Price chills. But I digress.
There were two pieces of writing advice that I took away from this seminar. The first is that a beautifully written book does not have to be short on plot. Literary prose can be paired with a ripsnorter of a story. In fact, it totally should. If you read any of his books you will immediately see what I mean.
The second piece of advice relates to the first. Literary fiction often describes in luscious detail, but you need to know when to expend that detail. The example he gave was a scene set in a diner where the protagonist has just ordered lunch. Instead of waxing poetic about the corned beef and sauerkraut it would be better to describe the ninjas that just vaulted through the door and are now fighting across the lunch counter.
In other words, choose wisely.
I want to leave you with some other words of advice he gave me about dealing with rejection: “Keep hammering! Every time you face rejection — and it will come regularly to every writer — say ten Hail Marys, three fuck yous, slam a shot of whiskey and get back to work!”
I so need to embroider that on a throw pillow.