Chasing the trend
How many times have you heard a beginning writer ask the questions: What genre should I be writing? What is the hot trend in publishing?
Of course, both of those questions are meaningless. Take the first one. What genre should you be writing? My answers are also questions. What genre do you like to write? What genre are you comfortable in? What genre do you like to read?
If you don’t like a genre, why write in it, hot or not? This is not an assignment or a punishment. Now, if a publisher gave you an assignment, that would be a different story. If you liked the publisher, liked the arrangements, had the time, then take the assignment, cash the check, be happy with that genre.
I know a writer who frequently gets a call from an editor who says, “I need a 40,000 word book on such-and-such a topic.” My friend considers the topic and accepts it or not.
But that’s non-fiction. We’re talking about fiction today.
The second question is frequently asked of editors, agents and publishers at writers’ conferences. What’s the hot trend? One problem with this is timing. For you to write a book, get is polished, submitted, and accepted is going to take a year. Then, with most publishers it is another year or more before it’s in print. So, you’re looking at two years or more down the road. Today’s hot item might be absolutely dead by that time.
You have to write what you like to write. You have to write what you are comfortable writing. You have to write in some area that you know a little about, or at least be willing to do the research necessary to find what you need to know.
Write a great book, and you set the trend.
There were no techno-thrillers when Tom Clancy wrote The Hunt for Red October. He made the trend with a great book. J.K. Rowling didn’t decide that the trend was witches and magic. But she did okay, even though a dozen publishers turned down the first book before it found a home. And certainly there was no trend for Jeff Kinney to follow when he wrote The Diary of a Wimpy Kid. He made the trend, first by posting daily entries on his website, gaining millions of readers. There are now seven books and three movies. His fourth book was the bestselling book of 2009. Now the lay down for his books is in the millions.
They didn’t look for the trend. They made the trend.
Now, you might well say you don’t have such a great idea as Clancy or Rowling or Kinney had. Probably true. But you have an idea for a book. Make it the best book you can. Make the characters memorable. That’s the theme of my book Character Development: the Heartbeat of the Novel, soon to be released by Oak Tree Press. Memorable characters make great books. People will talk about memorable characters, and word of mouth is your best advertising.
So, if you’re looking for a trend, let the trend be writing a great book with memorable characters. That’s a trend that will be around forever.
James R. (Jim) Callan