Liars Club

Writing for a Fad and Fading Away…

by Marie Lamba on October 22, 2010

in Advice for Writers,The Writing Life,The Writing Process

Burning Question #12: How do market trends/fads affect your writing?

When you are writing magazine articles, the turnaround from conception to publication happens in a snap. Then you have to cater to fads and trends, or you may miss out.  But how do you pay attention to trends when you write novels?

Say you get a trendy idea for a novel. It can take you anywhere from 3 months (if you are extremely quick) to 2 years to complete it and send it out to an agent.  Then there is a lag between when your agent receives it (if you have an agent), and when it’ll get sent to publishers. (If you don’t have an agent, add another 6 months or more and a ton of luck into the mix, simmer and stew.) Then, once your agent finds a publisher who accepts it (and that can take time, too), it’s still not published.  Some publishers are working on books that won’t appear for 2-3 more years.  So, if you are talking about approximately 4-5 years before a book idea that you have goes into print, then why are we talking about fads and trends again?

Hm. The funny thing is that even though publishers are working so far ahead, you will hear that, say, paranormal romance is hot now, or that houses are suddenly hot for thrillers in an urban setting.  I think the message is that if you have already written one of these, the stars have aligned and you will suddenly have people looking at this work with greater interest.  Will this mean that a few years from when the trend took hold that there will be a glut of said trendy lit coming out way past its freshness date?  Cough cough, vampires, cough cough.

So, then, you would expect me to say that my writing IS ABSOLUTELY NOT AT ALL AFFECTED BY FADS. But that’s a lie. I don’t write to meet a fad, but if there is something about that fad that speaks to me, then what the hell? I’ll be more motivated to write on that subject, even if, by the time I’m done writing the book, it’s waned on the trendometer of hip. Crazy, right?

On the flip side, if I’m in the beginning stages of a novel and I hear that it is absolutely dead, and editors are sick of looking at stuff about that subject, well, if I’m not unbelievably married to that book, I’ll shelf it and work on something else.

Fact is, writing is a business, and we do have to cater to our consumers.  It’s not perfect. It usually doesn’t make sense.

Hey, welcome to the wonderful world of publishing!

Marie Lamba has just completed an extremely hip and trendy YA paranormal called DRAWN. She’s author of the young adult novel WHAT I MEANT… (Random House), and her articles appear in numerous publications including Garden Design, Writer’s Digest, and RWR – the national publication of Romance Writers of America.

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Elspeth Cross October 22, 2010 at 10:21 am

Good post. Also on the flipside, if you are writing a story in a dead genre that has been out of favour for some time, but the time you’re done you could be the one starting a revival trend. (A girl can dream, can’t she?)

Marie Lamba October 22, 2010 at 10:35 am

Hi Elspeth,

Dreams do come true! Story trends can be cyclical in nature. It’s like hanging onto those bell-bottomed jeans… Plus I definitely believe that if a story resonates with you, it has value and it will find its market, trend or no trend. But, of course, only if you keep on submitting.

Believe!

Best,
Marie

Aimee Walker October 22, 2010 at 11:35 am

Even those bell bottoms got a fresh update. The old style isn’t getting past anyone who’s paying attention. I agree with writing the books of your heart no matter what’s out there creating buzz. You’re spot on–a person can’t jump through hoops that fast, and I also believe it kills some of the joy in the process to try.

Marie Lamba October 22, 2010 at 2:42 pm

Ah, bell bottoms…

Aimee, you are so right. Forcing yourself to write a certain sort of novel can kill that joy. Nothing is as thrilling as getting lost in writing something you truly feel passionate about.

Best,
Marie

Catherine Stine October 26, 2010 at 3:10 pm

I’m not really into following trends, but I can be swayed. Never considered writing urban fantasy, but reading some authors who I respect in the genre has given me the nerve to start writing a sort of magical realist novel that I’ve been thinking about for a good eight years!
I also have dreams about writing and illustrating a YA. What do you think of the trend in illustrated books for the older sets?
Weigh in at:
http://catherinestine.blogspot.com/2010/10/text-art-and-virtual-world-new.html

Marie Lamba October 27, 2010 at 7:25 am

Hey Catherine,

“I can be swayed” I like the way you put that, and I feel the same way. Trends can influence me if I have something brewing.

I’m not sure how I feel about the trend toward illustrated novels for YA’s. I’m assuming you are talking about graphic novels? Even though I have a fine art background, and I love illustrations in midgrade works, graphic novels and comics for that matter, scramble my brain. Totally my own problem – I also can’t read busy menus.

Great seeing you here!
Marie

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