Chasing Trends – Write or Wrong

Posted by: Alexis Harrington

Working on: What I’m Good At

I’m sure it’s only coincidence that this post appears on Dreaded Tax Day. Now that I’ve filed my extensions and thrown myself on the mercy of the IRS and the State of Oregon with down payments, we’ll address this trends thing.

I don’t think there’s any business that doesn’t leap on trends and force-feed them to the buying public until the next “hot” idea comes along. Think back—how many TV and prints ads have we seen in the past for, say, cleaning products with orange scent or color in them? For a while, orange was everywhere, in dishwasher detergent, floor cleaners, air fresheners, etc. Before that we had the antibacterial jag. I even remember an instance of antibacterial toothbrushes. Now we can mix our own cleaning products from concentrates and be “green.” And let’s not forget the “minerals” makeups. “Bare,” “Real,” Miracle,” “Basic.” And how about those antioxidants? Probiotics? Prebiotics? A year from now, who knows what Madison Avenue will be trying to sell us?

So mass-market fiction has its trends as well. There was chick-lit; publishers couldn’t get enough, and then writers couldn’t give it away. Lately, we’ve seen a lot of erotica, vampires, and werewolves. Enter the latest twist, which should satisfy readers across several genres: historical, Regency, and paranormal, with a dose of satire thrown in. I saw this and thought it was riot (although Jane Austen fans might either embrace it or explode over this lese-majeste committed against their beloved author).

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith. Maybe Jane had a good sense of humor that will carry her through this. Or she could be spinning in her grave.

One of the difficult things about the publishing business is its trend intensiveness. The biz notices that a particular book or two have hit it big with some readers, and suddenly that’s all they will buy from any mid-list writer. If an author has a knack for creating sizzling hot sex for a good erotic story, it’s not a problem. Or if she can conjure a reluctant, tortured vampire hero who is also good at sizzling hot sex, yow, that’s even better. But if a writer can’t do either of these and do them well, she’s at a disadvantage because there are actually some readers out there who’d like something else. Just like I didn’t want orange Windex or Cascade, so lucky for me the old non-trendy varieties remain on the grocery shelves. Not so for those yearning for an old-fashioned historical or a feel-good book that doesn’t fit into the inspirational genre.

Eventually, these trends glut the market and run their course. Publishers sigh, roll their eyes, and say, oh no, not another vampire book as if they don’t know how in the world it happened. Until the next trend shows up in someone’s mail and it begins anew.

But if the story doesn’t come from a writer’s heart, it shows like a piece of toilet paper stuck to the bottom of an $800 designer peep-toe shoe. The whole outfit, assembled by a skilled couturier, was beautiful before that trip to the restroom. Now it just doesn’t work–it has an added effect it didn’t need and couldn’t use. And writing what you don’t enjoy becomes downright drudgery.

So I’m sticking with what I know. I can write a good American historical. That’s my specialty. I can also write a good American contemporary. I might even have a knack for writing a paranormal YA series. Or not. In any case, it’s good know that regular blue Windex is still here on the shelf.

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