This is what I think of when I think of trends. Hurry up and wait. Hurry up and write to a trend and then wait for that trend to die. We can all get caught up in it, but if it’s not what you’d be writing without the trend, chances are, it’s not the right writing for you. At least not long term. Okay, at least not for me. I had an agent ask me if I’d consider writing suspense. (Had this person read anything I’d written? Yes. So this clearly was not a match.) I said yes, meant no, and nothing went any farther than that. I can’t write to trends, although I can take what’s popular now into account when I’m writing a book that will come out THREE YEARS FROM NOW.
So, my friends, writing to trend might be a little more like a dog trying to catch its tail than we’d like to admit.
And like my dear friend, Tina Ann Forkner says, perhaps we should focus on being the ones who set the trends.
I’m with her.
How do you feel about today’s trends in women’s fiction and how do you feel about writing to trend?
Welcome Tina back to WFW, and let us know your thoughts in the comments!
Setting Your Own Trend in Fiction
By Tina Ann Forkner
Over the years I’ve seen a lot of writing trends. If you’re a reader or a writer, you’ve no doubt noticed them too. A book about a particular topic becomes a bestseller and almost overnight a bumper crop of similar themed books pops up out of nowhere. As a writer, it frustrates me because I know some of those copycat books are going to sell loads of copies, but truth be told, most won’t. Instead of trying to write to a trend, why not write a novel that is completely original?
I’m not saying that every book with a shared theme falls into the copycat category. There are plenty of books that were already written before one like it took off and will be written after, but have a completely different spin on the theme. If the authors of those books are lucky, they will benefit from the comparison. That’s the best kind of luck an author can have and we should all be so lucky, but that sort book publishing magic can’t be manufactured.
Writing to a trend is always a perilous undertaking. By the time an author finishes her story and manages to get it published, the theme’s popularity might disappear, leaving the author with hours of wasted creative time. There is also a mad rush associated with writing to a trend that could produce poor writing, so it’s best to avoid the whole thing unless you have unlimited time. If you’re really a writer, or if you’re human, you don’t have time to waste, so why are writers tempted?
I have to admit that sometimes I’m tempted to jump on a bandwagon too, especially when I write about something that isn’t very popular. When I created a stepmom character in my latest novel, chose to do so because the topic of blended families was, and is still, close to my heart. In fact, I’m a stepmom, so the book is probably as close to my personal life as anything I’ve ever written, but in case you haven’t heard, being a stepmom isn’t all that trendy in fiction. I’ve never seen a call for proposals on stepmoms.
Obviously, I didn’t decide to write about Manda, a brand new stepmom, because stepmoms are the latest trend. In fact, no matter how many stepmoms are out there and despite movies like Stepdad and Blended, stepfamily novels have never really been all the buzz. Just look around you. The stepparents are almost always bad in literature. For all I knew, publishers might have preferred I wrote to the trend of evil stepparents. Good stepmoms in storytelling are usually evil, incompetent, or just plain silly. Just look at Snow White’s stepmom. Not a nice lady, but very popular.
I assure you that as a stepmom, I’ve never considered banishing my children to the woods, only the time-out chair. If my theme of a complicated love story between a man, woman, and their blended family doesn’t help the portrayal of positive stepfamilies become a trend in fiction, I’m still glad I wrote it. So, next time you’re trying to figure out what to write, forget about the latest trend. What stirs YOU? Because whatever stirs you up, might also stir the hearts of readers. That’s the kind of trend you want to write for.
Tina Ann Forkner is the author of four novels including The Real Thing, a novel about a woman who marries her dream cowboy and becomes the stepmother of his children only to discover that being a stepmom is almost as difficult, and rewarding, as being a rodeo cowboy’s wife. Her novel Waking Up Joy was a 2015 HOLT Medallion Award of Merit Recipient for Romantic Elements and she is a member of Tall Poppy Writers. Tina lives in Wyoming with her husband and their three children. Learn more at www.tinaannforkner.com