Wednesday, February 12, 2014


If you’ll glance to your right, you’ll notice I’ve added the cover for Slayer for Hire to our list of books. This is my spinoff from Belonging and Legacy; one of the leads is the son of the Legacy threesome. It’s also YA and has no sex scenes. It’s perfectly safe for anyone 14 or older. Oh yeah, there are vampires, and a couple of people get attacked and killed. But nobody has on-screen sex. That’s far more important to a lot of people, including my library’s content filter. Go figure.

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I didn’t write Slayer because YA was really big at the time. Ditto for the inclusion of vampires. It was a story I wanted to write, and nagged at me until I committed it to paper/screen. That’s pretty much how all my books and stories come into being. Some idea gets into my head and keeps kicking my brain and demanding, “Write me write me write me.” So I do. If the nagging lasts long enough for me to get it finished, off to market it goes. If not, it goes into the closet for exhumation at a later date. If it stays in the closet, the idea probably wasn’t that important to me to begin with.

I don’t write to trends. I’m not even aware of trends. I can’t see them coming, and every time I jump I miss the bandwagon. I’m like Hollywood. By the time I notice a trend, it’s over. I write whichever idea hits, and it takes me forever to finish it. Sometimes I get lucky and one of my ideas turns into a trend by the time I finish the book. Then the book comes out just in time to hit the wave. It makes me look smarter than I am.

For instance, I discovered I like writing M/M just as it was getting big. Some publisher put out an open call for angel and/or demon stories. So I wrote about an angel and a demon, both male, who discovered they really, really liked each other. It wasn’t intentional. My mind just happened to skew in that direction. It didn’t sell to that publisher but did to another, and all of a sudden I was trendy.

I didn’t switch from SF/fantasy to romance because romance was big. I just felt like writing romance for a while. I may switch back, especially if that horror/fantasy I exhumed from the closet sells. Or I may switch over to straight horror. Stephen King doesn’t write the kind of stories that made him famous any more. Somebody should step in to fill the void. Maybe I can start a new horror trend, just like he did when he started publishing.

Because that’s the secret to trends. You don’t want to follow one, or try to anticipate or guess what it’s going to be. You want to start the trend. Let everybody else follow you.

Everybody’s always looking for the “next big thing.” What’s going to be hugely profitable six months to a year from now? Lots of money and people’s careers hinge on guessing right. Editors and agents put out lists of what they’re looking for, things they want to see. Writers pour over these lists and write what they think the market wants.

Until one writer (name not given, so I can’t properly credit him/her) put everything into perspective with a single Tweet: “Remember, nobody was looking for Harry Potter.”

So how did J. K. Rowling become a megaseller and kick off a massive feeding frenzy for middle grade/young adult fantasy? By writing the book she wanted to write, and doing a damn good job of it. Readers responded to her belief in her story and characters, and the rest is publishing history.

Ditto for Stephenie Meyer and Suzanne Collins. I doubt if publishers were looking for teenage vampire romances or YA dystopias until Twilight and The Hunger Games crossed their desks. Now the market’s saturated and you can’t give the damn things away. On to the next trend.

Which will be … what? Hell, I don’t know. Your guess is as good as mine. I can tell you how it’ll start, though. Some writer will write the book that’s pounding in their brain. They’ll eat, sleep, and breathe their characters’ lives and world. It may share tropes in common with countless previous books, but be told in a way that makes it new and unique. It will have that something, that magic, in the writing that speaks to the heart of the reader, and readers will respond. The publishing world will look at some surface aspect—“Oh, it has oppressive governments/magic/vampires/spaceships/lesbian tarantula wranglers”—and declare that the Next Big Thing. And so begins the trend.

Who knows? One of you may write that book. You may be writing it right now. I can pretty much guarantee it’s not like anything that’s currently on the market. It’s the book you have to write, even though it isn’t part of a trend and nobody says they’re looking for it. That’s because they haven’t seen it yet.

So why are you sitting there reading blogs on the Internet? Get back to kicking off the latest Big Thing in Publishing so the rest of us can ride on your coattails. But hands off the lesbian tarantula wranglers. I’ve got dibs.


Savanna Kougar said...

Good one, Pat. Yeah, oh those trends. *Good going!* to anyone who starts another one.

I have a number of mss that would have started a whole new trend, but most likely that ship has sailed. After all, that trend can only occur if the book gets out there to become the next big thing. By whatever miracle manages to happen.

Think of ALL THE MSS out there that would have hit the bigtime that were never published, that got the REJECTION letter. Of course, Indie and small ebook publishers have helped the playing field over all. And are now on top as far as the moneymakers.

But, it's like one famous author, whose name I can't recall now, said, to paraphrase... the best writing never sees the light of day.

I have one story idea that does fit one current trend, which I'm going to try like heck to get finished fast... but, who knows, the trend, or my particular story, may still not be a big seller... or life could intervene like it does frequently.

However, even if I write 'trendy' I only pen the story I really want, not what I think would sell... and, really, like you say, that's a guessing game for most of us.

Pat C. said...

Add to the list: Star Wars. Nobody was looking for it. Nobody was expecting it. All George wanted to do was pay tribute to the movie serials he watched as a kid. Why did it take off? Who knows? It had the world's oldest plot, stock characters and clunky dialogue. Yet the whole world went nuts over it, and it's still popular to this day. It kicked off trends in SF (Battlestar Galactica, etc.) and Hollywood's search for blockbuster movies, as opposed to good ones.

Having Harrison Ford in the cast probably didn't hurt.

Savanna Kougar said...

STARS WARS was a landmark movie experience for me, and hit me at a deep level. It was like living in a world I knew at one time. Lo, come to find out, George wrote it partly based on Hitler and the politics that brought him to power, so he says. Also, after all these years, there is hidden-suppressed evidence which suggests that the stories in the series are based on our actual ancient history. Which could explain how many people identify with it.

Pat C. said...

I think Lord of the Rings, which pretty much established the "rules" for epic fantasy (and trilogies) was also based on WWII and Hitler's rise to power. I'm not sure if Tolkien ever confirmed or denied this, but I know he was a war veteran.

Since Lucas was writing a fairy tale, I know he did his research on myths and legends, especially Joseph Campbell's theories on the Hero's Journey, which is why the plot feels so familiar. Almost every epic story follows this same pattern.

Oh, and it had Harrison Ford. Did I mention Harrison Ford?

Savanna Kougar said...

Lord of the Rings was based on ancient documents Tolkien found while recovering from an injury. They revealed the real past, and have also been suppressed. We're not supposed to know about our magickal-power heritage -- one reason all this fiction is written, instead of 'truth'.

I don't believe Lucas was writing what's considered to be a fairy tale. And certainly my experience of STARS WARS was NOT a mere reaction to a familiar plot, given I've certainly read a lot of similar hero's journey plot.

imo, people only resonate that deeply because there's 'truth' in the story that goes beyond the obvious explanations. But it's ONLY MY OPINION.