Thursday, October 11, 2007

The Next Big Thing

So yesterday, I read a very long and heated discussion about this blog post, over on Donald Maass' site. Now, he's a BIG NAME agency, and so you'd think that he and his agents have a pretty good feel for the fiction market and what the next big thing might be. But c'mon:

"A literary romance with a heroine for all time and a tragic ending, preferably written by a man."

Really? Could you be a little more sexist in that suggestion? The assumptions are, of course, not only that most men can't really understand or write about romance, so one who can is an automatic star; but that most romance written today (by women) falls short of being truly moving/rich/worth reading. [And by the way, Donald, a romance without a happy ending isn't a romance, according to the traditional definition of the genre.]

I know, I know, maybe I'm over-reacting. I mean, his overall point is to urge writers to discover the "original premise" that will be the next best-seller. And if that gets people thinking creatively, I guess it's a good thing.

But I also wonder at what point authors stop being true to their creative muses and start trying to write solely for the market. One writer involved in the discussion admitted that his agent spent an entire weekend at a conference, talking to editors and publishers and other agents, about what the next big thing in fiction would be. He came back and sketched out the book he thought this author should write. Said author has never written anything in that particular genre, but he gave it a go. Now the ms. is being looked at by a couple of big publishing houses in NY, and his comment was that it was absolutely worth it, because he's almost 40 and "running out of time."

I thought that was interesting. I mean, it's great that he was able to write the book and have NY houses show an interest. But his motivation was to beat the clock?


Am I going to change what I write? I really don't know. [Since I just got my latest royalty statement, maybe :)] Am I going to explore new ideas and challenge the traditions of my genre? Yeah, I think I will. Stretching oneself is always a good thing. If it takes me into another genre, one I like and feel interested enough to spend a year or so writing in, then great.

Or maybe I'll just write a Huck Finn-like fantasy featuring a Muslim detective, investigating a ghost story that’s truly contemporary, set in New York-in-mid-Century. Oh yeah, and I'll submit it under a male pen name, just in case.

What do you think?


ollie1976 said...

I think that people should write what is comfortable to them. I write what is my mind and needs to be put on paper. I don't try to subject myself to a certain genre or the next new wave.

Mel said...

It may be that I'm not jaded yet by the publishing world, but I find it hard to write to the market. Because nine times out of ten by the time I write the book, find a publisher, go through revisions, promote the book, the wave has already shifted.

"Preferrably by a man." That's sexist and a gimmick that I've found to never work, but then again I just might start writing as M.R. Whittle.

Michael said...

I won't take them up on that, of course; romance just isn't my cup of tea - unless, perhaps, it has a fantasy element to it. I read a book by Amelia Atwater-Rhodes called Hawksong and I enjoyed it. I don't know if you'd describe as "fantasy with a romantic flavor" or the other way around, but there was just enough fantasy in the story to keep me interested.

I know I've always wanted to stretch the boundaries of fantasy conventions, but I still don't want to write much else - despite what the pros think will be the "next big thing."

MaryF said...

I have to write what I want to write. It's hard enough sitting down at the computer as it is, you know?

Out of time at 40? Please!