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Don’t Go Changin’ To Try To Please Me

May 1, 2012

So, don’t write to the trends. You must have heard this advice before, right?

If not, then perhaps this blog is too advanced for you and you should go to a more basic publishing blog. I have no suggestions though. Go do research. That’s also a basic skill so maybe by the time you find a good one, you won’t even need it.

You know what’s funny? This isn’t really even a publishing advice blog, even though today there’s going to be some advice, so I don’t know why this blog would be too advanced for anyone. Although it helps if you can read encrypted messages. Like the tiger has roared.

OK, getting back to my original point, there’s a well known piece of advice in publishing, and it is: don’t write to the trends.

Really, there’s a very good industry explanation for this. Publishing is a sloooowwww business. Yeah, you heard dystopian was hot? So if you write a dystopian novel now, by the time you finish and edit it and start looking for an agent, it will be a year or so. And then let’s say it takes 6 months to find an agent, and then let’s say it takes 6 months for your agent to work with you on it and sell your manuscript. And then let’s say your publisher settles on a pub date that is 18 months away. . .well, your “hot” dystopian novel will be published sometime around say 2016.

By then we’ll probably be living in an actual dystopian world.

What you want to do is start the next trend.

I know, that always sounds really profound when I say it at conferences or wherever too.

But I’m not just being flip. That really should be your goal. Write the best book you can, write the book that you have to write, and if it’s amazing, it will sell.

But that’s not really what I wanted to say today. I mean, it is, but not quite like that.

So I was tweeting last week about a situation that made me think of this advice.

I’ve been serving this year as the “Grade Rep” at my 6yo’s school. It’s a new position this year and as such, no one really knew what it would entail. But I meet monthly with the Principal and Assistant Principal with the other Grade Reps and we act as sort of liaisons for any questions and concerns.

Here comes the fun part. Towards that end, I have access to the grade-wide email broadcast system so that I can send email blasts every once in a while asking what people’s concerns are and then I report back after the meetings. Woo hoo broadcasts!!

So, I’m sure you think that I know how to write more professional e-mails etc., but really, I kind of don’t. I write one way, and this is it: long and rambly, with some information thrown in and my own special brand of humor/entertainment that’s mostly meant to entertain myself, and if it entertains you too, great.

Well, I sent my first email and I got tons of feedback. People loved it! They loved me! They thought I was funny, maybe sort of a wackadoo, but a funny one. Suffice it to say, I got a lot of positive feedback.

But then the negative reviews started trickling in.

Your emails are very…long. People are too busy. People want shorter emails. People aren’t reading them. Perhaps you should try bullet points. Too long. Too long. Too long. (sob sob sob)

For a while, I just smiled and said thank you. I felt confident that the good reviews still outweighed the bad. And I just thought well, you can’t please everyone.

But as time went on (and more emails were sent), and more rumors came back to me of the crazy strong desire for bullet points, I started to have my doubts.

I mean, it’s not like I don’t know I’m a rambler. Or that I take little side trips into unnecessary stories. But I like to think it’s all a part of my charm.

Incidentally, I don’t feel at all bad for doing it here, since this is my blog and you are here by choice.

But EH-NEE-WAY, I started to feel bad—like I was taking up too much time and they weren’t finding out what was going on at the meetings because I was trying so hard to be entertaining.

So last month I decided to do a bullet point summary. And because I can’t totally change my personality overnight and I had way more to say, I included a detailed note below. But the bullet points were so exhausting (and time consuming-who knew??) to write, that I ended up detailing only one part of the discussion rather than the entire meeting.

You know what happened?

I got a ton of emails saying they missed my long (but informative AND entertaining!) emails!

So what’s my point?

Well, on the one hand, you might think it’s a “you can’t win” type of situation. But that’s not what I’m feeling, and that’s certainly not the point of this post. Man, that would be depressing, wouldn’t it?

My point is you should stay true to yourself. You should write the kind of book that you want to write. That you need to write. And you should write the best book that you can write.

And then, people will read it or they won’t. But that’s not your problem anymore.

Well, it sort of is, but that’s another post for another time.

As for me, I have decided that for the rest of the year, I will be reporting MY way. Like with any job I do, I take this role seriously. But if I only think about what everyone else wants, I find I put out half-assed products, and have way less fun doing it.

So I’m not changin’ for anyone.

Are you?

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13 Comments
  1. kasie24 permalink

    Look at you being all inspiring and stuff. So true. And for the record, I LOVE your rambly, fun, entertaining emails. Don’t you dare give me bullet points. I would be very much offended and wonder when you stopped liking me. 🙂

  2. It’s very true!!!! Listen up people. And I love your emails and thank god you love the wack-a-doodle-do I send you!

  3. I love it! I’m not writing to trends, but sometimes I worry someone will make my trend before I get to it. Gak. Also, for some reason, every time I write trend, it comes out treand and I have to go back and fix it.

  4. Bullet Point Michelle. Does. Not. Compute.

  5. Beckie permalink

    The one mantra that I love so much I should paint on a wall or get a tattoo of –
    Be true to yourself

    I bullet and ramble, so I think you’ve got the right idea. Do it your way!

  6. I think you make an excellent point here. Changing what you write or how you write it is ultimately changing a part of yourself. And don’t we aim to be liked for who WE are? Why then wouldn’t we want our work to be liked for what it is? What’s that TLC song? “Don’t go chasing waterfalls?” The thing about trends is that they’re ever-changing! The one thing that doesn’t change, though, is the desire to read good work.

    Excellent post and one I hope struck a chord among a lot of us. You are made of awesome.

    Wishing you well,
    Deserae

  7. A few years ago, when I started this writing journey, I was told “Your characters are too young for adult and too old for YA. Change.” I thought about it…but I just couldn’t. So I kept writing the types of characters I loved while learning the craft….and a year or so ago a small press took a chance on my New Adult book…and we’re still going strong. 🙂

  8. I read this because you told us to on Twitter, but it was good anyhow. I’m personally trying to start the hoarding trend, but so far there have been few takers. Will keep plugging away.

    • Perfectly acceptable reason. I love when people do what I say. 😉

      And hoarding has taken off more than you realize. TV show and all that.

  9. Great post. I think sometimes people get so caught up with the “rules” and the “trends” that they lose themselves, their voice and what makes them unique. That’s when potentially great writers lose their love of writing.

  10. Jen permalink

    How do people do that? Write to a trend. I mean if someone sat me down and said, “You have to write a vampire/dystopian/paranormal/whatever” novel, I’m sure I COULD, but it would probably be terrible. Inspiration, for me at least, has to be organic or what I put on the page just doesn’t ring true.

  11. Hey, rambling is part of your charm–don’t stop! 🙂

  12. Thanks. Your timeline puts your message in perspective. It is also a little bit depressing. I thought I’d have enough time to finish my novel about terrorist acts during the World Soccer event in Brazil — maybe the Summer Olympics. Oh well.

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