Should we write to trends?
→ Maddie Geary
Writing is hard. Annoyingly hard. I think many writers can agree that we are our own worst enemies, picking apart everything that is wrong with our words.
I have rewritten one character’s story four times now, or at least, the beginning of it. I rarely get past the 5000-word mark, before hating the plot because it’s not right, despite the days of planning I do for it. I think to myself, ‘Does this fit a genre? Would people even like it?’ I try to break genre conventions and tropes, to make them more unique, but always wonder whether I should just try to make it easier for myself instead of coming up with outrageous plots and characters?
There are two core issues happening to me here—one being I simply haven’t written enough. I am still an amateur writer, struggling to find where I want my future book to be in Dymocks. The second problem, is the one I want to talk about: writing to trends.
I see the question ‘Should I write to trend?’ a lot on writing forums. After all, it could be an easy pay check, or make your chances of being picked up by a publishing house more likely.
But is it easy money? In a sense. It’s not secret that romance and erotica do extraordinarily well as ebooks. They dominate sales, and a simple search on Amazon will give you thousands of results. A writer could bomb out a romance novel, chuck it up on Amazon, and boom, you’ve just earned yourself some pocket money (note: I say pocket money here, because the reality of self publishing is you will earn very little. The people demand free ebooks, or generally only will buy them at $2.99, any more than that and you better be a bestselling author).
So sure, writing to trends can shorten the wait time for payment. No doubt when Twilight became an international success, many other vampire love stories would have sucked the life out of Amazon. I’m also sure they would have made decent money, as people were still on that vampire-high and wanted more.
Okay, so writing to trends may work for ebooks and self-publishers. What about traditional publishers? Those amazing dudes who make your pieces of paper turn into a 400-page book, with the beautiful tagline: ‘by Début author [insert name here]’. Publishers make it no secret that they’re always looking for the next trend, the next author who will make them the big bucks. So if you pay attention to the market, the book sales, analyse how people are feeling and what they are wanting, you could write the next trend. You can even analyse agents on their websites and Twitter, who will often list all the manuscripts they will instantly toss away because of the genre.
So traditional publishing could work as an option as well. They want the new trends, they want the shining author who delivers it to them. But I’m not writing this to argue that you have to write to trend to get anywhere as an author. I claim the opposite is true.
As I read through writing forums, jealous of all these people who got their work published, while simultaneously procrastinating my own writing because I’m still not happy with it, that common question pops up again and again. And the common answer is: ‘You can, but eventually you’ll hate it.’
Writing is something we love doing. Even as I slave away over a story that I’m never happy with, I still love the process. I still love the character. And though it may not be completely conventional, able to fit neatly into a little box labelled ‘sci-fi’ or ‘fantasy’, the idea of removing those aspects that I love in order to fit that box—well, that I hate.
Writing to trends becomes repetitive work. You’re pumping out the same story, the same plot, over and over again. Sure the title has a new name, characters are called something else, but you know it’s essentially the same as the last story you did. That stumps creativity.
We are our creativity. That’s what we pride ourselves on. When your English teacher said you should be an author, you beamed. When your parents said they loved your short story, you hugged them (albeit knowing they may have lied, but you didn’t care anyway). When your friends awed over your words, you laughed. And when you won that first writing competition, be it large or small, you jumped up and down and proclaimed: ‘Yes, I am a good writer!’
Eventually, I will get this damn book finished. One day I will get past those infuriating 5000 words, and keep writing. And it doesn’t matter how ridiculous it is, or if it will never get published anyway, because it will be worth it. Writing to trends is easy. But we don’t like taking the easy route. We don’t want to take the bland shortcut on the street. We want the scenic route, the one that encourages us to stop and take a moment. And if we get to the party an hour late, who cares.
Everyone always arrives to a party late anyway.