Wednesday, November 30, 2016


A popular post from November 2008

They all say it. Agents, editors, librarians, even readers. They chant it like a mantra, "I want the hot new thing."

Sadly, no one knows what the hot new thing is. Hot and new are totally subjective. This will be a short post today because I am working on a manuscript that has a deadline and I'm doing an edit. Throw in a Thanksgiving holiday where family members expect me to be present and pleasant and I'm rendered incapable of writing a long brilliant post about anything.

But short doesn't always equate to bad information, so bear with me. I've been to several conferences over the last several months. I've met lots of people who represent all ends of the literary spectrum, and my message today is to Write What Your Passionate About.

Forget the hot new thing. Forget the trends, and write what gives you the greatest pleasure. I sat in on a librarian panel where they talked about what they were currently stocking on their shelves. They talked about Gothic stuff, vampires, werewolves, fairies, witches, etc. They talked about books they wish they had on their shelves, from non fiction stories on Native Americans to stories that delve into various sciences.

The writers in the room scribbled furiously, taking notes on all the new possibilities of books they could write about.

But let's look at this logically: If you write a vampire story now in order to "catch that wave" it might take you six months to finish the book, another six (being moderate here) to find an agent and or publisher, and then another year (again, being moderate) to finally see it being stocked on bookstore shelves. Two years . . . . That's a long time. Will that wave still be here?

Maybe. Vampires were big for Anne Rice too. But here's the question you have to ask yourself, do you really like vampire stories? Are you writing it because it's the hot new thing? Or are you writing it because you want to be published and you're catering to a market want?

I have no problem with pandering to the public. I'm just shallow like that, but I do have a problem with writing what I'm not really excited about. I found I can pander and be excited over what I'm writing at the same time. So I choose wisely where I will pander. There are things I know I could write and get published, but I won't go anywhere near those topics because they aren't my thing. If I don't love my topic, characters, plot . . . every word I write will feel like I'm digging slivers out of my skin.

One of those writers said, "I could write a book on Native Americans. If the market needs it, then it'll be easier to get it published."

"Do you know anything about Native Americans?" I asked.

"Well no, but I saw the movie Last of the Mohicans."


Another woman had actually minored in Native American studies and was delighted that she might be able to write on a topic she loved. It had never occurred to her to write on this topic before and she was so excited to get started, she looked like a puppy who just figured out he had a tail to wag.

That's the difference. Are you writing because it's the hot new thing? Or are you writing because you love it?

You gotta love it, baby. Your readers will know the difference. If you don't love what you're writing about, if it does not fill you with fascination and joy, it won't matter if it is the hot new thing, it'll be fraudulent. Don't cheat yourselves by following the trends. Write the books you love, the ones you want to read, become your own hot new thing.


Julie Wright said...

Did I say that was going to be a short post? I told you guys brevity was not my strong point!

Annette Lyon said...

Getting excited over something you're pandering to . . . great way to put it! There's a difference between selling out and selling smart.

Charlie Moore said...

I agree. Writing has to be fun and somehow meaningful to the author, first and foremost. Any author will be more passionate about what they write if it stems from a passion they carry with them through daily activities. I write primarily stories that offer some kind of uplifting theme and generally involve the family. These things were taught to me as a child growing up and they've stayed with me.

One thing I would mention, Julie, is that staying true to your passion may result in few people other than family and close friends ever reading your story. That's what has happened with my published works, not many sells. Don't misunderstand me, I am not personally upset by this. I enjoy writing and am happy with my stories. But, just a word of caution. Be true to your passion, whatever theme is important to you, but be realistic as well to what may or may not become of your completed ms.

To everybody working on something of great personal importance that tells the story of your passion, good luck. Good stories are made great when a reader feels the author's passion.

Good post, Julie.

Charlie Moore

Danette said...

One thing about being passionate is learning to be patient with getting your book out there. I have one story that I wrote that holds a lot of my passion and I have learned how to mellow out about it. Luckily my other novels don't have the same emotion wrapped up in them and they are easier to handle. But I wouldn't change it either. Either way I agree about loving what you do and hopefully others will too.

Kimberly said...

Amen to that! I've always been fascinated by geology and when I found a way to incorporate that into a fantasy novel I was thrilled to bits.

It makes it fun.

Anna Maria Junus said...

I completely agree.

I was friends with another writer who wasn't able to sell anything, yet she kept encouraging me to study and take apart the Harlequin romances (they pay well) and write according to the formula including the sex scenes.

I think you can study a genre, but you have to have passion for it and you can't write things that go against your moral compass.

LC Lewis's "Hear Ye, Hear Ye" said...

Loved the post. I agree that good writing and a great story may not necessarily translate into wide readership. Authors can shoot and aim a hundred times to hit the "mass target audience" or they can write from their heart, touching whom they will, making a difference with words that inspire. Sometimes the two come together in a huge hit.

I think Elder Wirthlin's analogy of the orchestra works here. God did not send us here to all be piccolos. There are lots of people out there who'd prefer to hear from the rest of the orchestra.

hi, it's me! melissa c said...

I have a question. I am writing a book in first person. There is a second story line going on though that will meet up with the first later on in the book. That second storyline is vital to the story, in my opinion but I don't know what tense to write it in. Do I use third person or what? OR should you even have a second storyline going in if the book is in 1st?

Heather B. Moore said...

If you are switching to another character but want to stay in first person, you just need to make sure that the reader knows it's that new character in the first couple of sentences. I've seen this in several recent books I've read. In "Who by Fire" by Diana Spechler, she does this. When we are in the girl's point of view it's first person, present tense. When we are in the boy's point of view, it's in first person, past tense. Jodi Piccoult has some book that she's written in first person, and will change to third person for another character. Definitely diverging from the traditional path, but I'm seeing it more and more.

Crystal Collier said...

Writing to trends never works. It's true, you have to go with the story that's in your heart and pray to hit the market at the right time.