Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Trends: Who Gives a Rip?


I always notice people talking about trends in regards to writing and what's hot. I say who gives a fig? That's still kinder than how some agents have spoken to friends of mine who asked that very question, but you get the idea.

These agents were right though, its not about what's hot because if you aren't writing from the heart and telling the best story possible-who is ever gonna care? Let alone you have to write the story well too.
I am convinced that when you try too hard to be cutting edge or what is hot at the moment, the soup du-jour as it were, all you do is make your art look dated-and thereby making it irrelevant shortly thereafter. You don't want that do you?

So when it comes to trends, I am convinced you have to be a leader and not a follower. Can you name any follower who is better known than the leader of any genre? I can't.
Stephen King lamented in On Writing any book with "In the Tradition of..." upon their cover. I can tell you right now that I own a passel of books with "In the tradition of Conan" on their lurid pulpy covers and the only thing I remember about any of them is the cover-the stories aren't up to par. At one time S&S novels were very hot and people jumped on it. Now its Vampires and Steampunk-great.
I wouldn't touch a paranormal romance with a garlic dipped, fifty foot crucifix-it ain't my thing, but how many writers are out there right now trying to sell theirs, because its hot? I'm not saying don't even try but as PYR editorial director Lou Ander's said in a recent interview "You have to be better than brilliant."
That goes for anyone writing anything. I won't write anything if its not from the heart (scary I know).

I say, who cares about following trends-be a leader do something blazingly original.

And I don't wanna hear about everything is taken-we reinvent the wheel all the time-the cycle of what people like always comes back round again eventually, who would have guessed that as Ann Rice waned Meyer would wax so strong with the Dark Side?

In the late 70's who would have thought a quasi fantasy-sci-fi epic would get so big? But it was the right time for a great story that resonated with people. Little things like making it look like a "Used Future" also helped-genius in my book. I think its pretty fair to say, it was quite different from the sci-fi that came before.

And even when it comes to your literary heroes-IF you don't take up the mantle-How will you ever climb from their shadows?

Write what matters to you, write it better than anyone and reinvent the wheel. Be a leader.

39 comments:

Nicole MacDonald said...

I agree a hundred fold!! My story is mine and was inspired by my friends - not what's in style at the moment.

http://damselinadirtydress.blogspot.com

Graham Bradley said...

I hear you. I stopped working on my fallen angel book mostly because I didn't feel like it was all that marketable. I mean I liked it and I felt passionate about it, but it was definitely a trend book. I've since gone back to other things I'm passionate about.

Good post.

Charles Gramlich said...

The only time I've really written what was "popular" at the time is because 1). I wanted to write it anyway, or 2). they paid me quite a bit to write it.

KarenG said...

Where's your tweet this button David? I want to share it. Oh well, guess I'll do it the old fashioned way and copy & paste the link. Great post. With you all the way on this one.

David J. West said...

Hey Nichole, thanks.

Graham-looking forward to it-keep up the submissions marathon.

Charles-can't blame you there-but I had no illusions of you being an independent soul.

Thanks Karen. I appreciate that.

Elizabeth Mueller said...

David, I so agree with you. Trends make me sick. Always have. I love setting the mark of newness ever since I was in middle school. I don't like being a cookie cutter copy of someone else.

Sometimes agents don't like things that are too, how can I say it, different?

Isn't it a trend for writers to box themselves into single POV MCs as well as a avoiding adverbs and using 'said' speechtags at all corners? (I know what you're talking about though, I just had to mention THIS).

I always write from the heart. Otherwise, it feels hollow, empty, dead. ;)

There's a fine line to everything.

Great post, I love where it's going!

Morgan Ives said...

I have mixed feelings on this. And those feelings vary by the day.

Some days, I think, "who cares about trends! I'll write what I love!"

Then other days, I see agents posting about how they don't even read anything that sounds like the current trends (http://bit.ly/9AhVB3).

For me, it's never been a question of following the trends. Rather, I worry that what I write will become trendy and kill any chance I have at being published. I think writers need to watch trends, but to avoid them, not follow them.

David J. West said...

Elizabeth-agents like anyone are always going to have different tastes-find which ones like what you like. And yes I knew you would be true to yourself.

Angela-I'm not worried about you being too trendy. Your ideas are unique.

Annette Lyon said...

It's a tricky balance for sure--if you write solely for yourself w/out any regard for saleability, you probably won't sell. But then you can't write entirely for the market, or you write crap. It's a funky line to walk.

David J. West said...

Thats true Annette, people have to be interested, but I am sure that if you have heart and quality people will pick it up.

Th. said...

.

This post seems to be getting a lot of comments.

I think I'll write one just like it.

eeleenlee said...

Its like what someone said about ice hockey- who gives a flying puck?

David J. West said...

Th, its the hot new trend.

eeleenlee-yes very much so.

Melissa J. Cunningham said...

I agree with you. I never follow trends. They aren't usually what I'm interested in anyway. Plus, the trend is over by the time you get there! LOL

David J. West said...

Exactly Melissa.

Jayne said...

Great post! I came by via Karen G's blog BBQ. :)

I can only write the story in my heart. I cannot bend my tales to squish in a vampire if the vampire is not supposed to be there. So I guess I am not a follower of trends - I follow my own plow!

Ann said...

Great post! I am a fledging writer and really do not feel my standard can outdo those that have gone before me. So I stick to what I know.

I stopped by via KarenG's bbq. What prompted me...you are bringing the cutlery. As an Irish woman who moved to the US a decade ago, I still find it difficult to understand the American insistence on only one knife and one fork and one spoon for a whole meal!!!

Summer Ross said...

I really enjoyed this post. I'm anew follow coming over from Kareng's BBQ

Matthew Rush said...

Hi David. I came here from Karen's BBQ blog post, and since I love meat, I figured I'd visit your blog and become your newest follower.

Nice ta meet ya!

Today's guest blogger is Emilia Plater!

David J. West said...

Jayne-cool, you have to go your own way.

Yes Ann-you have to be prepared.

Hi Summer.

Hey Matt-good to meet you.

Nicki Elson said...

Yay, David! Well said, and I'm so happy to have read it. When I wrote my first works I was blessedly oblivious of all these things things I'm learning about the industry since I've been published. And what I fear is that too much industry knowledge is going to seep deep into my cranium and ruin all the fun of writing for me.

You've just given me permission to write what I want to write, and fig everyone else. "Fig 'em all. Hehehehe...

Catherine said...

Found your blog via Karen G's BBQ - agree about these genre books that ape others in their "tradition". As in the Vampire books now so ubiquitous - but then their target are adolescent and tween girls who crave conformity - I should know! I like your acerbic take on trends. I blog about everything and anything, including book reviews for various book clubs and none. Drop by/follow. I will too.
Catherine.

JW said...

Hear! Hear! I am all for writing from the heart. I have a lot to learn, and I realize there is a solid reason to know technicalities and what-not, but if it sounds good to me, I am willing to bet it might sound good to at least one other person on the planet. If it sounds good to more, hey... you got yourself a trend. :) Have a great weekend, I stopped by to mingle from the BBQ party and I will be back! :) Janelle

David J. West said...

Heh, thanks Nicki.

You bet Catherine.

You have a good weekend too Janelle.

Shannon O'Donnell said...

Hi, David! I popped over from Karen's BBQ. Thanks for bringing the meat - I love a good marinated steak! :-)

David J. West said...

Anytime Shannon.

Laura Kaye said...

I agree (well, with the exception of I lurves me some paranormal romance, but to each his own!)--I write what I love, what calls to me (whether it's part of a trend or not), and hope the rest will follow. Dropping in from the BBQ and following!

David J. West said...

Laura Kaye-nothing wrong with writing what you love. I'm just talking my preferences.

Clarissa Draper said...

Great blog. I'm a follower now from Karen's blog BBQ.

Clarissa Draper from Listen To The Voices

David J. West said...

Hi Clarissa good to have you.

KarenG said...

David at long last you hit 100 and beyond. You can thank me later. I'm glad you left this post up for the massive BBQ Blog Party, it's one of your very best.

Vicki Rocho said...

passing through from the BBQ

I agree completely! I took a writing class at the beginning of the year and the one guy in there kept asking how to know what was selling because *that* was what he was going to write.

I think the things that resonate with us whether it's a book, a song, a movie, or a piece of art do so because the creator did it from his/her heart. It meant something to them and we all respond to the genuine.

*stepping off soapbox* who's next?

David J. West said...

Thanks Karen.

Vicki-naw, you can stand on the soapbox anytime you want.

Jennie Bailey said...

I prefer to be the trendsetter myself! What a great post! I find a lot of my friends are trying to write what is "hot" right now (a few at their agent's request!). I can't do that. Any good story comes from the heart, not the hot. At least, any good story I write. Glad I stopped by from KarenG's. Nice to meet you!

David J. West said...

Good to meet you too Jennie. All trends began at someones heart first.

Kaitlyn said...

Hi! Stopping by from the blog BBQ to say hello. I'm your newest follower =D

-Kaitlyn
http://nocturnalreadings.blogspot.com

David J. West said...

Hi Kaitlyn-thanks glad to have you.

Dayana Stockdale said...

I'm writing a mermaid novel, buts its not a romance. All these mermaid novels are coming out and I'm like holy crap!!!! I've missed the boat. Mermaids are trending without me! But you know what? It doesn't matter. I have to finish this story anyways. Writing for trends is silly because you can't tell if you'll ever be right on time.

David J. West said...

Dayana-write from the heart and don't worry about it. You're right, we'll never know when the timing is gonna play out so do your thing.