Novelists Chasing Fads?

It’s trendy. It’s a hot topic. But should it be the subject of your next novel?

We authors want to connect with our readers.  But the question is: Should we follow trends and fads to do this? Is writing to fit into a trend a formula for success?

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?

Castle drawing by Marie Lamba...click on this image for an excerpt of her newest novel DRAWN

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?

But that’s exactly how my newest novel Drawn came to life.  I’ve had the idea simmering in my mind for years: A girl channels a hot medieval ghost through her drawings…then she meets up with him and their lives intertwine.  So when paranormal romance started to emerge I thought, yeah, it’s a sign (a paranormal sign?), and time to put this novel onto paper. So the story lives, and books are timeless. A fad helped bring it to life, and, since readers and editors are still loving paranormal, this will hopefully help bring my novel into readers’ hands very soon!

On the flip side, if I’m in the beginning stages of a novel and I hear that it’s absolutely dead because 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. You should see my shelves.  Stacks and stacks of half-written manuscripts. Doesn’t mean I won’t finish those books some day, but just not today.

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!

*This post also appears on The Liars Club blog

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10 thoughts on “Novelists Chasing Fads?

  1. I really enjoyed this post. It got me thinking.
    I would love to know more about your personal journey to becoming an author. I feel very stuck and I’ve lost my belief and creativity. My ideas have run dry. Yet I have a passion for reading and writing. I’m 30 years old, so this puts a very realistic spin on much of this.
    I agree that its best to go with the novel that you, yourself, feel you must or desire to write rather than follow trends (because they will come and go). I admit I have some fears about going into the vampire-mode because of this. But if my mind and creativity finally cooperate with me and something strikes me, then I would I suppose write it anyway.
    Such a difficult process. I have no education in writing field and I’m quite disorganized in trying to approach this in an organized and efficient manner. I think I need a daily schedule that will be effective. I spend more time confused about what to do and inevitably reading (procrastination) novels instead of writing.
    SOrry for the long response. Very enjoyable post.

    • Hi Anne,

      Thanks for checking in here! I think most writers have been where you are at some point. Feeling so unfocused, untrained, wondering which way to go next. Even uninspired!

      There are so many resources out there, though. And it can take time for you to get where you want to be, but as long as you keep moving forward through reading, writing, taking classes, attending workshops, striving to write better and better…you will find your abilities growing and your focus sharpening.

      Check out the “For Writers” tab on my site, where I link to my writing related articles. Also, the Liars Club has a great “For Writers” page which is updated weekly (liarsclubphilly.com). Resources that have been invaluable to my development include subscriptions to Writer’s Digest, and The Writer (your library probably has back issues you can take home), and, for YA and children’s writing, joining SCBWI (www.scbwi.org) and attending their events and learning from their info. Also for YA/children’s, I send everyone over to http://www.verlakay.com to click on the Discussion Group link and join “the blueboards” discussion pages.

      As for my path? Lots of trial and error. Lots of self-critiquing and working harder and harder to learn as much as I can and to write the best that I can. Ten years on a novel that was never accepted for publication, and then finally hitting my groove! But still working to write better each day. It’s definitely a process.

      Nurture your creativity (daydream, journal, take long thoughtful walks), and sharpen your skills, and write write write. You’ll get there!

      🙂
      Best,
      Marie

      • Thanks for such a nice reply.
        I do wish I could take classes, etc…but no money (at all). I hope something becomes unstuck. My trouble with perusing magazines and websites is all the information. I don’t know if I should study it, write it down etc…or just skim , etc. GOsh it can be overwhelming.

      • Hi Anne,

        Step by step… And see if you can find a writer’s group in your area to join. Look at your local library or in local bookstores to see if there are any that meet there, or any writing-related events coming up. There’s much to learn, and one of the best (and cheapest) ways to learn is by reading and by writing.

        Best of luck!
        Marie

  2. I am writing a vampire novel. If it were 20 years ago, I’d be writing a vampire novel just the same and if we time travelled 50 years, I’d still be writing a vampire novel. Why? Because I feel it’s the kind of vampire novel only “I” can write. I love vampires and always have. I was told by an agent that you have to work extra hard if you’re writing about something that has been done so many times. I don’t believe we will ever tire of a vampires. They have always been vampire novels, but then, we’ve had rubbish Twilight to ruin vampire fiction with the notion of sparkly wimpy vampires…gag me and that’s probably what’s made a lot of people sick of the undead 😉

    • Hi Agatha82!

      Definitely write what you love. Yes! Right on. Or, write on!!!!

      Somehow I had a feeling that when I hit publish for this post, that mentioning vampires might result in some comments. But vamp books have been around for a long time, and will certainly live on (pun intended). Actually, my bud and NY Times Bestseller L.A. Banks is one smokin’ vamp novelist, and she was writing her titles before Twilight hit the market, and is writing them still. Yeah!

      I singled out vampires, because, well, when you go into bookstores these days the number of vamp titles are almost overwhelming. How many of these titles look too similar to each other from their cover designs, to their titles and even their premises? Can they all thrive in such a setting? You are spot on when you say that writing for such a popular trend means your book has to stand out and be very strong. But you are writing what you love, so OF COURSE your book will be a stand out title. Don’t feel deterred for a moment.

      But I would also suggest that, if you haven’t already, you do market research of your own. Go to the bookstore and look at all those titles. You need to be able to tell your agent and potential editor your book will appeal to readers of xxxx, and that it is unique because of yyyy.

      I look forward to seeing your book on the shelves 🙂
      Marie

      • Oh yes, been doing my research and your friend has written very interesting vampire novels. Haven’t read them but I was looking them up online as I’m always on the look out for good vampire fiction 🙂

  3. I could write something for hire, sure, and have already had one offer to do just that (an urban fantasy serial-anthology).

    But the books I like writing the most are the ones that are MINE.

    Concerning what Agatha said, only she can write HER vampires.

    Me, I didn’t realize it until recently, but my current WIP has a vampire in it. It’s ~my~ vampire. I didn’t even recognize it at first.

    I believe anything that is well-written, interesting, with strong hooks and a solid voice, will sell.

    Of course, being aware of what’s on the market helps get and stay published…

    – Eric

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