Thursday, May 15, 2008

From the "No Duh" Department

Please don't describe your book as a fictional novel, science fiction novel, or autobiographical memoir. Pretty please.

18 comments:

Ryan Field said...

Good luck with this one :)

Brian Jay Jones said...

What about my project that I'm trying to peddle as "True Non-fiction"?

Jonathan Lyons said...

or true crime mystery...

Jaye Wells said...

How about non-fiction novel?

Anonymous said...

Can I ask what's wrong with describing something as a science fiction novel? It's not a science *fiction novel*, it's a *science fiction* novel. Am I missing something?

Jonathan Lyons said...

How can science fiction ever not be a novel?

Kristin Laughtin said...

I had to laugh at "science fiction novel", because that's the genre I write in primarily and I'd been thinking about how to phrase future queries. "Science fiction novel" sounds awkward, but writers should be able to come up with genre descriptions that don't.

Anonymous said...

What about "fantasy novel"? Or "mystery novel"? "Romance novel"?

When we write "I am seeking representation for my science fiction..." what would you like to see there? Manuscript? Obviously it's a manuscript, too.

Jonathan Lyons said...

Manuscript is better than novel. So is work, book, project, etc.

Do what you want Anon, but I know plenty of agents who reject queries as soon as they see "science fiction novel."

Anonymous said...

Science fiction collection, science fiction novellas ...

Anonymous said...

That's fascinating. I find it bizarre, but this isn't really about what I think of the phrase "science fiction novel". Thanks for the clarification.

Anon 11:27 AM

Nancy Matson said...

I gotta say I'm a little surprised about science fiction novel being a problem, any more than any other descriptor attached to novel -- like young adult, say, or mystery. I see what you're saying, but sometimes you need a noun. A work of science fiction, perhaps?

Totally on board with the rest of the post, though!

Julie Weathers said...

I'm assuming from this, manuscript is the preferred description of a person's work?

Just an off-the-wall question here since we are sort of discussing genre. Should a person describe their work as "epic fantasy" or just leave it at fantasy. Epic fantasy sounds so grandiose to me.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, I'm Anon 1:03, not the same Anon as the others. (I know it gets hard to tell us apart when we're all dressed alike.) I didn't mean my question to be rude. I'm honestly boggled about this. I understand how "fiction novel" is weird. I just can't wrap my mind around "science fiction novel" being the same. But if people don't like it, I won't use it.

I really was curious about the other genres, too. Do you feel the same way when you see "fantasy novel" or "mystery novel"?

- Anon 1:03

adam said...

Hold on a second jonathan, is the problem using the word 'novel', or that you think sci-fi are not novels? In one of my six queries so far I called mine an epic because it is long. Is there a problem with that too?

Jonathan Lyons said...

A novel, by definition, is a fictional prose narrative. So what you're saying when you say science fiction novel, is science fiction fiction prose narrative. You're saying it's fiction twice. I think it makes more sense to say science fiction narrative, or science fiction work, or science fiction epic, etc.

Anonymous said...

"Science fiction novel" isn't a pleonasm like "fiction novel." I'm writing a science fiction novel, and I plan to query agents. Is this a widespread agreement among agents? I would hate to be turned away for this reason.
the definition of "science fiction" has nothing to do with novels, and "novel" is not synonymous
with "fiction." In the phrase "science fiction novel," "science fiction" is the adjective describing "novel," the noun. Though the other suggestions, "science fiction manuscript" or "work," are accurate, they are not as precise as "science fiction novel," since the other two nouns don't imply "novel." A "science fiction manuscript" or "work" could be a short story, screenplay, stageplay, poem, epic, etc.

Anonymous said...

I was doing some other research, and according to Gardner's Modern Usage Dictionary, I think that "science-fiction novel" is the correct form. The hyphen links the phrasal adjective in the singular definition of 'science fiction.' That way, 'fiction' can't be misconstrued as an adjective acting alone to describe 'novel.'
Also, Jaye Wells wrote in jest earlier, "a non-fiction novel." The correct form, were this not a misnomer, would be "nonfiction novel." Prefixes in American English don't require hyphens.