Never Chase Buses, or Trends. You’ll Always Get Left Behind.

Whenever a specific genre story is published and becomes really popular, you see another dozen similar titles pop up, like pimples after a chocolate binge. The pimple analogy can be taken a step further, since these copycat stories are generally a little soft and filled with something unpleasant.

In my time attending the Surrey Writer’s Conference I’ve seen many such trends surge upward, like a plague of bad mushrooms. A dozen or so people see the mass success of a story like “Twilight” or “The Hunger Games” and race to complete a dystopian vampire novel, where the main character wears a braid and someone sparkles. These poor souls bring their newly minted manuscripts to the conference, filled with hope and an inflated sense of their own accomplishment, but are invariably smacked about by the agents and editors in attendance, when they say “We’re pretty much over Vampires”, or “I can’t read about another character with a braid.”

The other problem with these stories is that they are seldom any good. The reason: When you chase a trend, and try to write a specific kind of story because you think it might be lucrative, you separate yourself from your passion for the craft, and start churning out shitty words because you think it might make you a buck.

The most successful writers you see are writing about the thing that speaks to them, whether it be Vampires, teenage wizards, or barbarians who want to hack you to little pieces with an axe. They aren’t straining themselves to capitalize on the latest trend; they are telling their story the way they need to tell it, and it shows in the writing.

I might not be one to talk, because I write my own story my own way and it has gotten me next to nowhere, but at least I have a good time writing. I seldom get blocked or stuck on a story, because the story is something dear to me, something I believe in. My characters come easily because are alive in me and speak to me from the page; they are ready and willing to tell me their story, and I just kind of write it down and try to get the grammar right.

As my friend, kc dyer, tells me when I get myself into a snit “It has to be the writing that drives you,” and she is right. When you’re writing, especially when you’re just starting out, it has to be the craft itself, the love of the words, that motivates you, not the hope of a dollar. If you write someone else’s story, and not your own, it will ring hollow, and there will be no truth in it. But, if you work at the words hard enough, develop your voice, your character, your story, the success of publication will follow. You might even get paid (but likely not very much).

As I’ve said before, about a dozen times, not everyone is going to like your story, and that’s okay – I can’t stand Stephanie Meyer’s writing and look how good she’s doing. The important thing is that you get your story, the story that is important to you, on the page so it can be important to someone else, too.

Thanks for reading, and keep writing.

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1 Comment

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One response to “Never Chase Buses, or Trends. You’ll Always Get Left Behind.

  1. Ted Rypel

    A very savvy comment that’s doomed to be followed by almost no one, of course, in this largely fame-and-fortune-chasing game. It’s true nonetheless. It’s always been my experience that writing what you like is the only road to satisfaction in this difficult pursuit.

    After an early success with a fantasy series (which was in fashion at the time), I was repeatedly led by my agent toward other, more lucrative—and easier to market—genres in the ensuing years. This, despite my continued efforts in the genre I love.

    “You’re a professional writer—pros adapt,” came the advice.

    Well… yeah, technically. I mean, you don’t forget HOW to write when pressured to change genres or forms. But the fact remains that you do your best work when following the siren-song of your OWN interests rather than those of the marketplace and bestseller lists, however seductively they sing of “easy” sales. For most of us, that simply leads to disorientation and misery in an art and craft that once seemed like the shores of home.

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