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But we thought black was fashionable…

“We like her a lot. She’s pretty, funny, and smart. Really funny. But we’re not sure we’re going to let her in,” L. said.

“Why not?” the three of us asked.

L. put down her fork. “Well, she wears black all the time.”

“I wear black,” said JT.

“Yeah, but everything she owns is black. Everything. Really. Don’t you think that’s kind of weird? She wears black fingernail polish like all the time.”

“But you like her, don’t you?” one of us asked.

“Oh, she’s great. But do we really want her to represent us? Can she really fit in?” L. picked her fork back up. “It’s a hard decision.”

L. was talking about her sorority and rush. J., JT, and I weren’t in a sorority and didn’t want to be, but even as we rolled our eyes when L. pledged her sorority, we’d stayed friends. We just didn’t visit her in her sorority stairwell. Until the girl in black.

We dressed up all in black one night and traipsed down to her stairwell. We put on our most sullen faces and knocked on her door. The sorority girl who opened the door stared at us a second before she spoke. “Yes?”

“We’re here to see L. We’re her friends.”

L. was pleased she happened to be wearing all white.

Someone told me the other day I should be writing fantasy because that’s what is in. Seems to me that by the time us ordinary mortals know what is “in,” it will promptly be out. But how marketable should you try to make a piece of work? You want to sell your novel, don’t you?

The last novel I wrote goes in strange directions and may well be a niche kind of thing. Like the way David Lynch’s Twin Peaks wasn’t for everyone either. But if you’re a publishing nobody, who’s going to let you in far enough to carve out anything? Publishers need to make money after all.

How much do market trends influence what you write? Would you be happy to carve out your little niche? Or will only bestellerdom do the trick for you?

4 thoughts on “But we thought black was fashionable…

  1. With the exception of seasonal things such as the Olympics, elections, sports cycles, and similar tidal events, you’ve have to foresee the market about two years in advance so you might as well stick to what comes instead of trying to force what “they” seem to want. Direct answer to your questions: market trends never influenced what I acquired as an editor or wrote as a writer. In a short while, most fiction will be niche; I am happy to have found mine. Accidental bestsellerdom is the best, where it just happens. I don’t understand it, the late Dee Brown said when his book, Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, was published and hit the lists. It’s got the same elements as all my other books.

    In a real sense, the writer makes the market. Alice Seybold made it all right to break the convention that narrators were supposed to be alive. Nabokov made it all right to write about a man who craved much much younger girls. Before Melville and after, no one bothered much with whales.

  2. I think it’s too hard to predict what’s going to be in by the time I try to sell my book to agents. So I’ve got to just write for me. And try to make it the best it can be. However, I do think about an audience and if others will like what I write about.

  3. Maybe if I wrote short-short stories it’d be worthwhile to let myself be influenced by market trends. But sheesh, if it takes a year to write a book — given that market trends get turned on almost instantaneously (and arbitrarily) — trying to follow the pack makes no sense. (Jessica Faust of the BookEnds lit agency had an interesting blog post on this subject yesterday, from the POV of an agent.)

    This is one of the practical reasons why I’ve had second thoughts about writing anything “genre” (vs. generic mainstream/commercial/what-have-you). They seem to be breeding grounds for trends.

    Your mentioning Twin Peaks here nearly makes my day. We loved that series. Other DVDs we own (except The Sopranos) could almost certainly be junked, but TP is an essential media memory in our household. Just the theme song can send us into orbit. (Which I suppose means that I should do a blog post on the series sometime. [runs off to create draft post]

    You didn’t say, but I hope L. appreciated the joke. 🙂

  4. You say that fantasy is a trend? Or is it YA fantasy like Harry Potter? Or dark romantic fantasy? I’ve been reading fantasy for 25 years, and have a hard time imagining that it’s anything but geeky and looked down upon by the mainstream. Of course, isn’t it just my luck that fantasy is IN and I’m writing Science Fiction.

    Oh well.

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