Monday, October 4, 2010

Writing Myths #1

I'm no publishing expert, so take this advice for what it's worth (or not worth). It just seems that on my meandering path to publication so far I've seen some contraditions (or maybe misinterpretations is a better word) between popular writing advice and reality. I thought it would be interesting to explore some of these ideas.

The Myth:

Don’t write to trends.


By the time you finish a book, do the agent hunt, the publisher hunt, and the publishing process, it will be a minimum of (realistically) eighteen months before your book hits a store bookshelf. If you’re writing for the trends on the bookshelves right now, you’ll be so two years ago before your book gets there. Also, books written to fit a trend can feel forced. The story that comes from your heart will be the one most likely to be the best book you have to give.

The Reality:

While all the above is true, trends do matter, especially in this economy. Editors are looking for certain things. More important (at least from what I’ve found), the sales and marketing people are, understandably, super picky about what is selling right now and what is not.

On the over-popular side of things, the “but my vampires are different” plea might work at some points in a trend, but there comes a tipping point when vampires are “over” in most editors’ minds, no matter how different they are.

At the other extreme, unpopular genres or out-of-the-box books that are incredibly written still have hope of finding a home somewhere, but for most of us mere mortals, trends will impact whether or not we sell.

The Solution:

Buy a crystal ball on eBay (I wish). Short of that, like with every other area of writing, the best solution is to read, read, read. Know your genre. Know what is and isn’t popular right now. Look for recurring themes that could be two books away from becoming a total cliché.

Think about where these trends might lead in the future…Like, vampire, vampire/werewolf, werewolves to demons, angels, dragons and zombies. Ghosts, ghosts/mediums, mediums to psychics, witches, dream-catchers, fortunetellers and knowers of death. Fantasy, fantasy/dystopian to time travel, sci-fi and ?

Figure out where your manuscript/WIP/fledgling idea fits into that market or potential future market. Or, if you’re still trying to figure out what to write next, let that possible future market be your brainstorming tool. Just make sure it’s still a story you can write from the heart.

How about you? Any experiences/advice to add?


  1. I'm not published, yet (waiting on first query), but I can definitely say that I did not follow the current trends. I wrote from the heart, and mybook is more sci-fi than fantasy.

  2. I write what I would want to read it is the only way to maintain interest in the wip ;)

  3. I never thought of it that way. it makes sense. I guess writers have to be very in tune with the trends and be ahead of the trends.

  4. Michelle- Sci-fi is starting to come in now (thankfully, since my WIP is sci-fi), so without trying your timing could be perfect!

    Elaine- Everyone should write what they want to read...write from the heart, always! All I'm saying is that doing that with an eye toward emerging trends could up your odds of getting published.

  5. Jennifer, you bring up such a tough question to answer! No, we dont' want to write to trends but, I guess, hope we hit one or start one. ;)

    I don't think we can always write we love to read because obviously writers that love vampires and demons are still writing it! I see the pitches in contests all the time. I guess we need to dig deeper than the premise of books we love to what actually made us connect with the story and characters.