Thursday, September 1, 2011

Trend Setters vs Followers

*WARNING:  This blog is lengthy...I didn't want to help myself.*

Helloooo September! So glad you're finally here.  I just hope you come barying better gifts then your *ahem* predecessor.  Let's just say August was not a particularly good house guest this year.  *whispers* I found August to be full of nothing but a lot of HOT air.

Any who...

To kick off the month of September I wanted to take some time and talk to you about something that's been swirling around the old basket on my shoulders.  Especially as I draw closer to submission time with the hopes of landing a total rockstar for an agent.  But a few questions weighing on my mind lately have been, what does it mean to be an original writer in a very trend driven culture?  Is it even possible to be an original writer in today's world? And how are we expected to navigate this crazy maze of sparkly trends (no Twilight pun intended) and recognize when its time to have the courage to step off the beaten path and pave our own way?

Many critics are concerned that the market is becoming saturated with pop sensation books rather than what they consider substance literature, and a part of me sometimes wonder if there's genuine basis to their argument.  We all see it, unless you've been castaway on some deserted island the last 10 years with a beach pebble named Bam-Bam as your only reliable companion, then you're most likely very aware of the type of books that are filling the bookshelves and exploding to the top of most bestseller's lists (especially in YA fiction).  Lots of vampires, werewolves, witches and faeries floating around, with the surfacing of more supernatural books dealing mostly with angels, fallen, and demons in the last few years, which so happens to be the base theme of my own series, THE CREED. Status: WIP.

But my concern isn't really much toward the critics and their complaints on what should or shouldn't get published.  My concern lays more with myself as a writer and the internal battle I wrestle with when I sit down to turn that flash of inspiration into a story.  On one hand I want to be original and have my own ideas and way of telling a story that's uniquely me, just Blaire.  On the other hand I also want to write about the things that interest me, things I like, which may also happen to interest a lot of other people, and a lot of other writers depending on the times. So in the end I find myself consumed with the pressure to not only be original and glamorously brilliant, but also reminded that this is in fact a business and if you don't walk the line you could risk being shoved into some writer's publishing abyss, aka the dreaded slush pile. That gloomy place of no return. It can be quite the buzz kill. Now while some writers take on the who cares! attitude and just write whatever you want.  I confess that there is a part of me, a little part called Blaire's pride, that wants to believe that I (ME the writer!) do in fact have something unique and special to offer to the world with my stories, and I get a bit miffed at the thought of being labeled as just another "follower" even though that just may be the case.

I'm sure in some ways labels are helpful, but more often than not (to me) putting a label on a writer or artist seems to act more like a cage than an aid for discovery, it restricts and in my opinion stifles growth and creative ingenuity.  But that's just my opinion.

So in the end I guess I'm still left with no real hard conclusive opinion, left or right, good or bad, on being a trend setter or a follower.  But what I do know and accept is that trends do exist, and that I'm a writer who wants to see my work published and read by as many readers as I can reach.  Now whether that's viewed as a good or bad determinant on my worthiness to write books? I don't know, I guess it would depend on who you ask. But trend or not, I love to write.  Trend setter or follower, I will continue to read AND write about the things that fascinate and interest me.  So ultimately I think it's more about my own journey and vision, and whether or not I'll choose to continue to pursue my dreams of writing and someday sharing my work with the world, despite what all the they may say.

But I still want to pose a couple of questions for thought, to which I gladly (really, I do) welcome your answers and comments...
  • Do you believe that trends in some ways enable writers/artist to be more original and creative in their work? 
  • Do you think pop culture literature is or can be just as relevant as social issue literature or mainstream fiction? If yes, how so?

Happy Writing & Happy Reading!


  1. What a great post, Blaire! You make some excellent points. My personal thought is that writing is a business. Any business in the corporate world knows that to succeed in winning customers, they not only need to find and ride the trends, they need to create some, too.

    Writing is really no different. If we, as writers, want to develop a successful following of readers, we must know what they want to read. The key is to make those trends our own, and perhaps even shape them into an entirely new one. So, yes...I think trends do help writers branch out and explore their creativity.

    In regards to pop culture literature, what better way to reach mainstream culture than through something many people want to read? Important messages about life and society come in many forms, not the least of which is an effectively written book.

    Wonderful topic!

  2. I used to struggle with this very thing. I tried to say "who cares," but then I realized, "wait, I do!" I do believe that you should write from your heart, regardless of whether or not you're writing something that follows a trend, but after you have it all written, look back on it and try to imagine if it is something people will want to buy.

    However, I don't believe in following a trend, simply for the sake of being a follower. Yes, writing is a business, but it is also an art, and you're not doing your inner artist any favors by writing to appeal to others if your heart isn't in it. (Quick note: "Love Song" by Sara Barielles was written when her record company told her she needed to have a love song for her album, or they weren't going to produce it.)

    Something else to think about: can you imagine how irritated literary agents and publishers probably were during the hight of the Twilight phenomena when they'd recieve endless submissions of books about vampires? Because the publishing industry is a slow one, you also have to realize that what is popular now, might not be as popular in a year or two (although, no matter what agents may think, people have always loved the vamps).

    Ok, sorry this has been such a long response, I'm just glad someone else has brought up this dilema, so I can share my two-cents. My last thought is this: if you get an idea for a book, and get really excited about the story, then odds are, there are other people out there who are going to want to read it, and will think it's just as wonderful as you do.

  3. Wow! I am loving the in depth feedback you ladies are offering & think a lot of great points have been made. Do trend setters and followers really even exist...maybe its just all about good business? I don't know. I lean toward the thought that maybe its a complicated blend of all of the above...trends, followers, business, passion, love of the art of writing. Who knows. Thanks ladies! Keep it coming!

  4. I am way behind the three of you, in the writing front, being only fifteen but I do understand what you mean.

    I think the 'trends' that have been created help writers but can also weigh them down. The 'trends' in YA fiction have been such a hit with young readers that it's so tempting to follow just because everyone likes them. Most writers, I think, are stuck in a constant dilema of whether or not to follow the masses.

    I believe it's important to break away and be a 'trendsetter'. You won't know if people will like it if no one has written it; it's a chance most won't take.

    I think i've gone off topic? Just writing and writing things here...

    Personally, I don't think the trends help with creativity and originality at all. They can pull writers off track.

    Erm, I think i'm going to stop now!
    By the way, lovely topic Blaire. Interesting read.