Friday, June 4, 2010

The Classics

I went to my bookshelves for an inventory of "The Classics" and this picture portrays what I came up with at a quick glance. Past masters of the craft, Jane Austen, Leo Tolstoy, Margaret Mitchell, Charlotte Bronte, William Makepeace Thackeray, Emily Bronte, and Louisa May Alcott were taken off my shelf. No I haven't read them all, maybe half, but their pages tell stories of how much writing has changed in centuries and decades gone by. These authors have stood the test of time and some still can be voiced as household names.

How times have changed. Authors of today cannot afford the same freedoms these men and women had with their pen. We must adapt to the "rules" of todays publishers in order to have any chance at getting our work that we've sweated and toiled over even considered.

Yesterday, writers could change POV within the same paragraph. They could put as much "fluff" in as they pleased. They could submit their work without being edited with a fine-toothed-comb.

I am working on a novel. I am aware that I cannot just pore out my heart onto the pages, but I must surrender myself to these rules every step of the way. I submitted a chapter to my writers group and was critiqued by ladies with far more experience then I. It was only a rough draft but it was pulled apart as it should be, to make it fit for a publishers eye.

Why is this? Why such a dramatic change in the classics of yesteryear and the hot selling, New York Times Best Sellers List authors of today? The reason I have been pondering seems crystal clear. Competition. In the past, there were not as many writers out there. Today, publishers have their "slush piles" overflowing on their desks where only the strong survive.

In the meantime, although I do appreciate the novels of today I always love a good classic. Where the author had the freedom to paint a picture of a realm of his or her own making. Forthright, unchecked and uninhibited by the demands of the day.


  1. makes me want to read a classic.

    Great post, and great point.
    Thanks for sharing.

  2. Interesting post, Christine. I'm reading an alternate book by our book club author because I couldn't get the "real" one right away. And, strangely enough, in A THREAD OF GRACE, Mary Doria Russell is writing in present tense and switching character POV faster than you can say, well, Dreamers of the Day! And, it is very interesting and I like it. The good news is that once you've learned the rules thoroughly - you can break them!!!!