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?