by Julie Eshbaugh
Writing trends… the things of myths and legends. Every writer has heard a story or two about an author who hits a trend just right, and their book, which might’ve been a moderate seller a few months earlier, explodes into a chart-topping bestseller.
Most writers who write for publication hope and dream that their manuscript will be a success. And by “success,” I mean that it will find representation, win over an editor, and eventually appear on bookstore shelves. (A truly awesome cover often enters into these writerly fantasies, as well, but I digress…) But what if you really let your imagination fly? Wouldn’t that bestsellers list enter into the fantasy at some point, if you were to really let yourself go and let your fantasy soar?
Discussions about “writing success” often eventually include words like “trends” and “timing.” These two elusive terms, meant to describe some seemingly all-powerful phenomenon of pop culture that is far beyond any one person’s understanding and control, seem to come back to writers again and again, haunting us with their promises of success and their threats of utter failure.
How should we, as writers, approach the subject of trends? Step into the bookstore and the power of the trend is undeniable. So should we take trends into consideration when deciding what to write? Or are trends simply the results of writing success, and not the cause?
Recently, we writers at LTWF got into a discussion about trends. And well… I had a confession to make – I once wrote a novel in response to a trend. Here’s my (sordid) story:
I wrote my first novel years ago, and started the querying process, but dropped it before I found an agent. I wasn’t getting rejected outright; I was getting requests for fulls and it really felt like it would eventually get repped, but there was one key problem. I wasn’t in love with the book. I didn’t even plan to publish it under my own name! I had written it basically because legal thrillers were hot, and I work in the legal field. So I went with the trend. And in the end, it wasn’t timing or the market that killed it; it was my lack of enthusiasm for it that killed it.
Okay, in other words, (brace yourself for a writing cliché…) “Write what you love.” If you love it, it will haunt you until you see it published. When I go outside at night, I look up at the stars and I say hello to my characters and I tell them I love them and they can count on me to get their story out. That may merely prove that I’m in need of psychiatric help, but I don’t know if I could go through the heart-wrenching process of querying, revising, waiting on submissions, and REJECTION(!!!) if I didn’t feel like the stakes were really REALLY high. So whatever you do, write something you are passionate about. Because, at least for me, it’s not worth all the emotional strain if you don’t care desperately about it.
That’s my personal take on trends. Let’s hear how the other ladies answered the question, “Should a writer take advantage of trends? For instance, there is a current trend focusing on paranormal romance. If a writer enjoys paranormal romance, should she write one now, considering the popularity the genre is currently enjoying?”
There’s been a lot of talk about this on various blogs, and the consensus I read is that while Paranormal is ‘hot’ right now, writing paranormal can actually make it harder to get published, given the market saturation.
Additionally, the paranormal craze is, we might say, at its peak… and it could take you five years or more to actually get a book out. So, if you start writing based on what is ‘hot’ RIGHT NOW, you’ll be way behind when you actually are ready to get it published.
So, you can either try to predict the next trend, or write what you feel called to. Good writing will always trump trends, though it’s nice if you manage to hit the market right.
From what I’ve heard, it’s incredibly hard to chase trends. If you start writing something now, it might not get published until three years down the road, you know? And then how frustrated would you be if the trend had died by then, or the market had gotten over-saturated or whatever?
I think it’s hard enough to write a book that you really, really want to write–let alone write one that you’re writing because you think it will sell, but you might not have a real “Love” for it.
I’ve got nothing to add that others haven’t said, other than how cool would it be to START a trend?
That would be super cool, Billy! I can’t really think of a trend to start, though.
And I have pretty much nothing to add but that a lot of agents seem to be sick of paranormal romance right now. It’s just gotten so saturated that it’s become a much harder sell. The new trend’s dystopian, isn’t it? I’m writing a dystopian now, too. But I swear it’s not about the market, haha. I really do love it 🙂
— (The mysterious) Vahini Naidoo
Chasing trends probably is a pretty bad idea unless you see one developing and already have a novel written that fits it. Dystopian and steampunk are the two trends that people think are on the rise, and dystopian is a bit more ‘in’ right now. I’m looking forward to the steampunk!
Additionally, our very own Mandy Hubbard, author and literary agent, posted a fabulous article on this over at her livejournal.
What do YOU think of trends? Do you think they can be helpful or harmful to a new writer? Should they simply be ignored? Or is it smart to try to predict the “next big thing”?