A Beginner’s Guide to Writing Literary Fiction
Welcome to Writing Tips Oasis’s guide on the one genre that a lot of writers secretly wish to excel at: literary fiction. Literary fiction is widely considered to be superior to genre fiction – wherein genre fiction is considered commercial.
In other words, many writers consider literary fiction to be true form of art, while genre fiction seems to fall into another category – a piece of fiction that is not art. Some even go as far to consider genre fiction a money maker, while literary fiction has worth that goes beyond that.
We here at Writing Tips Oasis believe that each genre has its own merit – and as such, we decided to tackle literary fiction and add it to our growing collection of writing guides.
First and foremost, and most importantly, literary fiction is a genre – and like any genre, you need to understand what the genre is, what are the unwritten rules of the genre, what are the readers’ expectations of the genre, and more. Because of that, we decided to dedicate the first part of the guide on understanding literary fiction.
Another important note we wish to make is that all tips about writing – found in books, in articles online, including Writing Tips Oasis, need to be adapted. As in, every tip you ever read that worked for a different writer, will need to be adapted and modified to fit your own personal storytelling and writing style and method.
So, let’s continue to the guide. Keep writing – and good luck!
Table of Contents
- Part I: The Truth about Literary Fiction
- 1. What is literary fiction?
- 2. What is NOT literary fiction?
- 3. Literary fiction myths
- 4. Treating literary fiction as just another genre
- Part II: Writing a Literary Fiction Novel
- 1. The importance of plot
- 2. The importance of characters
- 3. How to create a character driven plot
- 4. Prose and fine writing
- 5. Purple prose and excessiveness
- 6. Common literary novel structures
- 7. Finding your own style and voice
- Part III: Finalizing a Literary Fiction Novel
- 1. Literary fiction demands
- 2. The importance of the title and cover
- 3. Themes, ideas, and stories
- 4. Thoughts, reflections, and opinions in literary fiction
- 5. The main differences between genre and literary fiction novels
Part I: The Truth about Literary Fiction
In order to understand literary fiction, first we must get to the truth about it. In these modern times, a literary fiction author is considered to have published a literary fiction novel – and that is usually viewed with regard by the publishing world and the academic world, regardless of whether the literary fiction novel has generated a lot of sales for that author or not.
In addition to that, when a novel has literary merit stemming from social, philosophical or other commentary that can be found among the prose of the novel – it is considered a literary novel. Again, regardless of sales. Often, the authors of such novels are professors at universities, or in other jobs related to academia and, often, the publishing world as well.
However, if a genre novel, let’s say, a mystery one, or a thriller, which has a tight plot, a good story and vivid characters – and, social and other commentary as well – it is bumped up into the literary fiction category, even though the novel is primarily a genre novel.
That, in and of itself, poses the very important question (and this question has been debated by many authors and writers and professors) – what, exactly, is literary fiction?
1. What is literary fiction?
Let’s say that you’ve decided to write a literary fiction novel. However, you also have created vivid characters and a tight plot. In fact, that plot is so action packed that your agent is wracking his or her brains trying to figure out whether to try to sell your novel as a literary novel or as a genre novel. Which way would you go?
The best way to go for it is to always research the demands of the genre, if we’re taking a look at literary fiction as just another genre (and we will talk more about this later). However, the terms “literary merit” and “commentary” and “philosophy” and all the others are quite vague. If you have one profound sentence in your novel, does that make your novel literary?
If you show scenes of real life, if you have characters learn to improve themselves throughout your novel, but the philosophy is never spelled out in profound paragraphs and sentences, does that mean that your novel is not literary?
If you’re mixing another genre with literary commentary, does that somehow devalue the literary merit of your novel?
The answer to this is not simple, especially because there are so many opposing opinions at hand to choose from. In the end, write the novel that you want to write. If your mind – and if your characters’ thoughts – tend to go in a philosophical direction, then feel free to write it as it is. In the end, if you decide to go away from the literary fiction and label your novel as a genre novel, you’ve done nothing wrong.
Among the most successful literary novels, you will find titles that also belong in the more commercial genre category. And, if your novel has literary merit, your novel will definitely be bumped into the literary fiction category – regardless of its commercial success.
On the other hand, it is very easy to define what is not literary fiction.
2. What is NOT literary fiction?
Genre novels that do not have any kind of literary merit are easy to distinguish. They’re often considered brain candy, or, novels that serve only as entertainment and an escape. In other words, when you’re done reading a genre novel that doesn’t belong in the literary fiction category, you will feel like you read a pretty entertaining novel, but it doesn’t leave you with a really profound feeling of having been on a hero’s journey of your own.
In other words, you don’t really learn anything from those novels. That doesn’t mean that these novels don’t have value of their own. Quite the opposite, in fact. People read novels for many reasons, and entertainment and escapism are among those. A really deep literary fiction novel can make you think and leave you with a profound feeling that you’ve discovered a new insight into human nature, however, would you really constantly be reading novels like that? At some point, are you reading stories or are you reading philosophies?
The readers always decide for themselves. Your job is to write the story you want to tell (and, literary fiction is still fiction – and fiction means stories, not just philosophies).
However, this doesn’t mean that there haven’t been literary fiction myths that have built up over the years. And we cannot talk about writing literary fiction without busting some of them.
3. Literary fiction myths
Here is the most common myth about literary fiction: literary fiction doesn’t need a plot. That is wrong. Plot is not something that can just be excluded from a story. Plot is the backbone of the story, the blueprint of it and it is what gives the story a proper beginning, middle and end. The real truth is that in a literary fiction novel, the plot can be both action-based (or plot based) and character-based. In most cases, a literary fiction novel will have a plot that is based on character. It means that the events of the plot itself are internal – however, they will be caused by parallel external factors.
Another myth is that literary novels cannot be mixed with other genres. For example, it’s a myth that you cannot write a literary fiction novel that also belongs in the science fiction genre. What if you create a science fiction world, place your characters there, and have your protagonist change profoundly throughout the novel? What if your writing and your prose belong in the literary genre – but the story doesn’t?
However, on the other side of the coin, one can find the myth that literary fiction novels are the luxury brand of literature – and that while literary fiction novels are widely acclaimed, they also would not sell well. This is for all aspiring literary fiction writers out there: a good novel will find a way to break through and sell. Do not shy away from writing the literary fiction novel you wish to write just because some authors and writers believe that literary fiction does not do well in sales. In the end, what you need is a really good story, even if that story is represented in a literary fiction novel.
4. Treating literary fiction as just another genre
Many authors will claim that it is impossible to look at literary fiction as just another genre – however, that is just another myth in and of itself. The belief that literary fiction is on a level above genre fiction is also a myth – especially because when you look at literary fiction as just another genre, you will be open to all the possibilities of genre bending and mixing that you wouldn’t have otherwise.
In other words, treating literary fiction as just another genre enables you to write a science fiction literary novel, or a mystery novel that will also belong in the literary fiction genre.
On the other hand, it is also perfectly fine to keep looking at literary fiction as a step above commercial genre fiction. If that suits your purposes during the writing of your novel, then go for it. In the end, you need to perceive your novel in a way that you want to perceive it, regardless of what other writers and authors say about literary fiction.
What we can easily conclude from all of this is that the way you perceive your novel – and the way that others will perceive it, both authors and readers – will be different. You might think you’ve written a good genre novel, and all of a sudden, the writers’ community is praising it as literary.
On the other hand, you might believe that you’ve written a good genre-bending novel that can be both a literary and genre novel, only to have readers shy away from it because it’s too literary – or maybe even not literary enough. Every novel that you will write will feel like a gamble – you did your best, but that doesn’t really guarantee you anything, especially in this day and age.
Remember, getting acclaimed rewards doesn’t mean getting sales and popularity as a writer (not that they don’t help). But, if you have a good story and a good novel, and you have a lot of sales and commercial success, it doesn’t mean that your novel will not be accepted and appreciated by the writing community. In other words, just because your novel is genre bending and can be sold as a genre novel, it doesn’t mean that it will not receive literary fiction awards – especially if it has literary merit and is an excellent novel.
Part II: Writing a Literary Fiction Novel
Now that we (attempted) to define literary fiction in a more rounded way, it’s time to take a look at how to write the literary fiction novel. Just because the expectations of the literary fiction are a bit difficult to define, that doesn’t mean that they cannot be defined. If the marking of a good literary fiction novel is literary merit, then we can try to break down this merit into edible bits and pieces and tips that you can use to your benefit.
And because we also want to enable you to write the story that you want to write, we are talking about writing a literary fiction novel in the same way as writing a novel in any other genre. And just like any other genre, this means that the basis of your novel will fall on plot and vivid characters – everything else, including the social commentary or philosophy that you wish to share with the world – becomes second to the plot and the characters. So, let’s take a look at how you can build a literary fiction book that will please the critics – but still entertain your readers immensely.
1. The importance of plot
Many writers think that it is not plot what makes the readers sigh when they’ve finished a novel, but characters that are vivid and realistic, characters that have become our own avatars in that story, and through those avatars, we’ve also lived the story and learned from it. And while it’s true that vivid characters we can relate to enable us to live the story, it is the plot that gives us that sense of satisfaction – the sense of having read a rounded story that has a defined beginning, middle, end – and most importantly – a point.
The difference between the plot in a regular genre novel and the plot in a literary novel is that the plot in a literary novel is character based, while the plot in a genre novel will be action based. The regular genre novel focuses more on what happens – external plot, while in a literary novel, the plot focuses more on whom it happens to – internal plot. And constructing a plot is most easily done in three steps:
- Inciting Incident: the incident or event that sets the story in motion.
- Plot Point 1: when the protagonist makes the wrong decision within the story.
- Plot Point 2: when the protagonist makes the right decision near the end of the story, which leads to the resolution.
2. The importance of characters
Characters are important – as previously concluded, they are the avatars through which your readers will experience the story. Regardless of which point of view you use to tell the story, the readers need to be able to connect with your characters. In a literary novel, where the plot is mostly internal, the side characters that appear can be:
- Major secondary character that accompany the protagonist throughout the novel.
- Minor characters that appear in an episodic fashion: when they’re needed.
Ideally, every character in your novel will have a character arc. In a literary novel, many characters can have their own stories and arcs that usually relate to a theme. However, you can only cram so many themes and ideas into one novel, and one thing to keep in mind is to ensure that these complement each other. In addition, beware of using too many of them – you can only tackle so many themes in a way that leaves the readers satisfied. For example, if you’re trying to tackle difficult themes like domestic violence and rape, make sure that you give them their due. Otherwise, many readers who have actually experienced these things will be left feeling unsatisfied – or even worse, hurt and misunderstood.
Remember, your characters and their vividness in a literary novel falls second hand to what these characters represent. But both of these things fall behind the importance of their role: if a character doesn’t add to the story, then that character doesn’t belong in the novel. For that reason, you need to know, at all times, what are you trying to say with each character, and then, you need to give those characters their own backstories and their own stories within the course of the novel – especially for the major secondary characters. On the other hand, even the episodic characters need the same. Then, when they slowly fade into the background, the readers understand that these characters have completed their role in the story, and are being replaced by other characters.
3. How to create a character driven plot
In a literary novel, the plot will most often be character driven. If we take the guidance we previously presented on building a plot, then we would have the inciting incident, plot point one – where the protagonist makes the wrong decision, and plot point two, where the protagonist makes the right decision. Ideally, the inciting incident happens in the middle of the first act, and plot point one is the end of the first act. The end of the second is marked by the second plot point, and the third act is the resolution. In a genre novel, the inciting incident and plot point one can happen a lot earlier, with most of the novel focusing on the second and third act.
In a literary novel, however, where the plot is driven by character rather than action, the inciting incident and two plot points will be completely internal. Here, we do not care much about what happens – the focus is rather on the result of that event within the protagonist. You need to send your protagonist on a spiritual journey – or a journey of the mind – and while this journey should be caused and influenced by external events, the crux of the plot is focused on what the protagonist has learned along the way.
Genre bending novels, or novels where the literary genre is mixed with other genres, like mystery or romance, have plots that are a perfect blend of action and character. The protagonist goes through both an external and an internal journey within the course of the novel, which is what sets apart these novels from genre novels.
4. Prose and fine writing
Here is a truth about literary fiction: if you promise, you need to deliver. That is, if you want to label your novel as literary fiction, you need to deliver prose and fine writing that taste like fine wine. There is no definite formula as to what fine writing exactly is – and in a lot of ways, appreciating prose and fine writing is a very subjective thing.
Most writers would describe it as poetic writing – although this doesn’t necessarily mean that you need find ten different ways to describe pouring rain. While the genre novel writer can write in a simpler way, the literary fiction writer must pay attention to how he or she constructs sentences and paragraphs. For example, literary fiction prose will be peppered and riddled with metaphors, and the characters will speak in a manner that’s engaging and intelligent, yet deep and profound. In literary fiction, you can witness how syllables of different words complement each other to make a sentence seem like a piece of well-composed music. And yet, within it, it’s very easy to give in to excessiveness – which, inevitably, leads to purple prose.
5. Purple prose and excessiveness
Where do you draw the line between fine writing and purple prose?
The easiest way to determine whether you’re going into purple prose territory is to choose your favorite passage or chapter from your novel – and give it to someone to read. More importantly, listen to their feedback. If they failed to comprehend and understand what you wrote, then chances are you’ve given in to excessiveness, which resulted in purple prose.
Purple prose is not necessarily a bad thing for a literary novel. After all, literary fiction is praised for fine writing. However, you need to decide on what is more important: the actual prose or the readers who are supposed to enjoy your novel and (hopefully) learn something from it. If purple prose prevents you from doing that, then maybe you need to rethink your writing style – and maybe kill a few of your wordy darlings in order to achieve this.
6. Common literary novel structures
We’ve already established that literary fiction novels also need a plot – with the sole difference that it’s character based. In addition to this, there are two other types of structures often found in literary novels: the coming of age, and the picaresque structure. Many writers also consider coming of age and picaresque to be separate genres of novels, however, both of them belong under the umbrella of literary fiction as a whole.
Coming of age as a structure is very easy to understand (even if it’s not so easy to portray): we follow the protagonist throughout his or her life, from childhood to adulthood, and often, the protagonist engages grand philosophical ideas throughout his or her life, and we get to engage in those ideas as well. Among the most popular examples of this include The Catcher in the Rye and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.
The picaresque novel, on the other hand, often features one protagonist, while all the other characters appear in an episodic fashion. The picaresque novel has been around since the 1500s, even though the term wasn’t coined until the 1800s. The mosaic-like novel often depicts characters of lower standing, and often, the depiction is comic and satirical.
However, one of the best things about literary fiction is the freedom in choosing your own structure. The slow pacing of the novel itself, and the character-based plot gives you the freedom to construct it in any way you wish. You may construct your novel in a rose pattern, where each part of your novel will unfold a new revelation for the characters and for the readers, breaking all other structures – and still managing to engage the readers and keep their attention glued to your words.
7. Finding your own style and voice
All writers have their own writing style and writing voice. Moreover, writers have different voices and styles in different novels – different series, and this is also true for literary fiction. Your first literary fiction novel will be different than your second one, and so on.
So, how to find your style and voice? Moreover, how to ensure that your writing style will pass the “literary prose” bar?
The best thing to do is to read literary fiction, not just the classics like Catcher in the Rye, but newer literary novels as well, like Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado, Exit West by Mohsin Hamid and others. Remember, everything you read, you absorb within you. You will find yourself regurgitating favorite phrases that you read in your favorite books, even though you’re not conscious of doing that. For that reason, the second step is always to write, and then keep writing. When your aim is a literary novel, then you need to try to emulate a literary style. The more you write, the better you will become at it. You will notice it in your sentences – you will probably even notice it in speech.
In addition, try to work some writing exercises in your daily writing routine. In these exercises, your task would be to write paragraphs, sentences, and titles that are both creative and read beautifully. Try using more metaphors and similes, rather than writing everything in a straightforward manner. While straightforward prose is good for genre fiction (and we will get to the differences between genre and literary fiction in the third section), literary fiction demands fine writing and beautiful prose. And it is your task as the writer to deliver it.
Part III: Finalizing a Literary Fiction Novel
The reason why we named this section “finalizing” is because the best way to write a novel is to write it in the way that you want to write it. Use any kind of aid you can possibly think of to improve upon your prose, however, the story, the characters, and the things you wish to tell in a novel will be told best when you do not think about the demands of literary fiction as a genre.
For that reason, it is during the editing process when you should focus on those demands. Ideally, the first editing will be on a macro level, where you need to read through your novel (even better: get a beta reader – another pair of eyes will help you see problems in plot, characterization, world consistency and continuity).
Now, the second level of editing goes beyond the story and should focus on the writing. When it comes to editing a literary novel, this would be the edit when you need to make sure that your novel delivers everything promised by the label of literary fiction. For that reason, we’ve dedicated this section to the demands of literary fiction, the incorporation of ideas and themes, how the title of the novel and the cover will help you set your novel apart from genre fiction, and the differences between genre novels and literary novels.
1. Literary fiction demands
Here are some of the most common rules that pop up about literary fiction:
- Character-based plot;
- Slow pace that allows for relation of themes and philosophies;
- Beautiful prose;
- Purple prose – if it suits your writing style and you know it will suit your target audience;
- Creative use of language, metaphors, and similes;
- A cover and a title to set your novel apart.
However, the term literary is very subjective. Some readers enjoy reading literary novels, others will read a literary novel for the story and not see your novel as literary. In the end, the term literary fiction only matters to critics and academics, and authors who aim for literary fiction awards. If your aim is the same, then the best thing you can do is to try to emulate the literary fiction novels which have been hailed as such by the critics and which have received awards for literary merit.
Keep in mind, though, that even the critics are subjective. You might have written the best literary novel of all times, however, there is always a chance that the literary critics will just pass it over and not consider it to have literary merit. Here, we will mention a beta reader again: especially if you can find someone who has read many literary fiction novels and knows the most common markings of a literary novel. That beta reader can give you the kind of constructive feedback you need to ensure your novel shows literary merit and deserves a spot in the hall of literary fiction.
2. The importance of the title and cover
Here is the thing: in the digital age, genre novels can have beautiful covers that are worthy of all literary fiction covers. However, the cover of a literary fiction novel will still set the novel apart from the rest. This means that you need to pay special attention to the font used on the cover, and the illustrations on it as well. Both of these need to match the themes that will be found between the covers. For example, with regards to illustrations, if a key theme in your literary fiction story is the breaking up of a family that was once unshakable, appropriate imagery on the cover needs to depict this occurrence. Moreover, literary fiction is usually published in hardback or trade paperback – which means the book is published in paperback, but it is the same size and quality as hardback books, rather than mass paperback (which are smaller and printed in larger quantities, reserved for genre books).
Now, when it comes to the title – the title will set your novel even further apart. This is where your ingenuity and creativity need to come to the forefront and deliver not only a straightforward title, but a title that will also relay an idea. For example, here are some titles of genre novels:
Egomaniac (a romance novel by Vi Keeland)
Dating You Hating You (another romance, by Christina Lauren)
And here are some literary fiction titles:
What It Means When a Man Falls from the Sky (by Lesley Nneka Arimah)
Sing, Unburied, Sing (by Jesmyn Ward)
The Ninth Hour (by Alice McDermott)
While there are genre novels with wonderful titles, the literary fiction novel titles always carry with them the theme of the novel. The title gives us a glimpse not into the story itself (as it is with genre novel titles), but into the underlying theme as well.
3. Themes, ideas, and stories
Every novel needs an idea and a theme, and every story relays something from the real world. Whether your novel is a mirror into your characters’ souls, or it is a window through which your characters see the world, it doesn’t matter – what matters is that there is an underlying theme or idea that will be shown throughout the novel. This idea or a theme needs to be both on your character’s mind (or your protagonist’s mind) and within the story. Otherwise, there will be no connection between the story and the idea – there will be no cause for the protagonist to be focusing on that theme, and as a result, your novel might lose the literary merit you’re aiming for.
In any novel, readers enjoy reading the plot that’s on the surface. However, in a literary novel, there is always the underlying theme that shows what the meaning of the novel is about, that is, the underlying theme gives the literary novel its meaning. And readers of literary fiction expect the theme to show itself through both the events of the plot and the thoughts and changes in the protagonist, and his or her character.
There are many themes that you can tackle in literary fiction, from taboo themes like the relationship between a professor and a student, to dark themes like family violence, rape, death, and so on. When it comes to tackling these themes, please keep in mind that you need to do them justice – because chances are, many of your readers will have gone through the same experience.
4. Thoughts, reflections, and opinions in literary fiction
Here, we wish to talk about preaching.
Any writer who aims for a literary fiction novel aims so because he or she has something to tell to the world. Maybe you wish to share your own philosophy on what real love should feel like, or maybe you wish to show your readers how a real human being deals with the death of a loved one.
What you must never do is preach. And it is very easy to slip into preaching mode when you’re writing a novel, especially if you feel that the things you have to say are important. The best way to ensure that your voice as the author doesn’t slip into the voices of your characters is to ensure that each character, first and foremost, talks differently. Second, you need to ensure that the things that the characters are saying make sense – as in, that character would say that, because those words stem and come from his or her personality. For example, you cannot have a 10-year-old child talk like an adult and philosophize about life. A 10-year-old child will philosophize about life, true, but he or she will do it in a childish way, using the words of a child, not the words of an adult.
On the other hand, always remember that your readers will understand that these are your words. It is very easy for our own personality to slip into our words, and as a result, your story might not show the readers what you think about the world, but who you are. A racist character that doesn’t change within the course of the novel implies that you believe that racism is okay. And while the previous example is crude, it gets the point across: your story shows who you are, regardless of how explicitly you relay your opinions.
5. The main differences between genre and literary fiction novels
We already talked about some of the differences between genre and literary fiction novels. Here in this section, we want to put them all in one place.
Genre fiction has action based plot, while literary fiction focuses more on character. In genre fiction, the actions of the protagonist move the story forward, while in literary fiction, it is the thoughts of the protagonist and his or her personality as a character that are more in focus.
Genre fiction is usually written in prose that is straightforward. You will not find ten different ways to describe snow in a genre novel. But, you might find a paragraph in literary fiction that only describes someone’s laugh. In genre fiction, descriptions are more straightforward and short. In literary fiction, the act of a breakup can mean the character starts thinking about being unraveled among the stars above. Metaphors and similes are the marks of literary fiction prose, while a more straightforward prose dominates genre fiction.
Genre fiction has an underlying theme, true, but this underlying theme may need to be teased out of all the action. On the other side, the theme in a literary fiction novel is always there and tangible to the reader.
The main difference is the aim: genre fiction novels tend to entertain, to offer a place where you can escape from the real world. Literary fiction novels aim to engage the readers’ minds. Literary fiction novels tackle themes about life that wouldn’t come up in a regular genre novel. In other words, a literary fiction novel might not be the ideal place to escape the world, because literary fiction tends to portray real life. This means that there will be a little bit more chaos to the story, characters that are a little bit too realistic, themes that may hit a little bit too close to home. As the writer, you need to decide just how close to home you wish to hit. Many writers go for deep impacts that leave the readers both emotionally and intellectually affected after reading the novel. Other writers go deep into the philosophy of the themes, and their novels leave you thinking about those themes for a long time after finishing the last page.
Some literary novels have themes that are so positive and good that reading those novels feels like therapy. This cannot be achieved with a common genre novel that only offers entertainment and a means to escape (although, this in no way diminishes the worth of genre novels – in fact, sometimes, being able to escape reality in a book is therapeutic, while reading a literary novel with a theme that hits too close to home can just make the reader spiral into desperation at being unable to solve his or her problems).
As we previously mentioned, the title itself, and the cover itself, of a literary fiction novel will set that novel apart from the genre novel. Moreover, bookstores dedicate separate sections for literary fiction.
It is worth noting that we live in the digital age of e-books. Previously, in order to be able to publish a literary novel, you needed certain credentials: perhaps a teaching position, or something else that would be used to distinguish yourself as an author. Nowadays, however, you do not need any of this to publish your own novel, be it a literary fiction novel or not. Yet, at the same time, anyone can self-publish e-books on Amazon. As a result, today, unless a big publishing house stands behind your literary fiction novel and publishes it, you will need to work really hard on the marketing aspect in order to ensure that your book will be picked up by the right audience. In fact, this is true about genre fiction as well.
How to begin the process of writing a literary fiction novel?
First, we would advise you to determine whether literary fiction is something that you really want to do. Because often, there is a stark difference between the novel you wanted to write and the novel you actually publish. In fact, many published authors say that the first draft barely even resembles the final one. Many writers tell of the pain of having to kill all the things they really loved about the novel – because they were not necessary to the stories. Since we talked about theme, will the theme match the events in your novel? Will it make sense for the characters to be thinking and speaking about things that almost never happen in the novel?
More importantly, how much of the plot is action based, and how much of it is based on your characters? If the plot depends on action, do you go for a genre novel, or do you change the plot to fit the literary fiction limits?
Have you considered writing a genre-bending novel? A novel that has both literary merit, and action-packed plot? As we said at the beginning of this guide, the rules that determine the literary merit of a novel are not clear and are quite subjective.
On the other hand, if writing a genre bending novel that has both a mystery plot and literary merit due to how much you also focus on your characters and your protagonist will bring more readers to you as an author, then is the ‘literary fiction’ label really that important to you?
In the end, the best advice we can give is this: write the story you want to tell. Write it in the style that comes most naturally to you – be it straightforward, workmanlike prose (usually found in genre fiction), or purple prose sprayed and riddled with metaphors that are both profound and beautiful at the same time. And then, if the literary fiction label really means that much to you, then do your best to ensure that the cover, the title, the themes, and the prose in your novel will match the so-called rules of the literary fiction genre.