Trendy Trendsetters, All

There are trends, and then there are trends.

Look at it this way: you could be trendy and buy jeans with fake dirt on them, for $425. Frankly, I raised an eyebrow when I first saw this go viral, because it’s an interesting psychological study. We are, culturally, fetishizing the working man. Think about it. It’s like guys buying used women’s underwear. It makes them feel like they’re sexy. Dirty pants? Sexy also, I guess. I mean, look at this book cover, and tell me that guy isn’t wearing dirty pants. For that matter, it you scroll through the romance listings, you’ll quickly note that there are some strong trends, and two of them are rich guys (who presumably could afford the fake-dirty jeans) and tough guys (who presumably don’t need no fake-dirty jeans). There are a LOT of writers putting out stories for the trends. But what happens when the trends end?

I suspect there’s a growing market segment that would like to see more sweet romance. I know I hear that from people I talk to – and the one romance I’ve indulged in, I kept sweet. Not just because my Mom and grandma were going to read it (Hi, Mom!) but because it worked better for the characters. I didn’t see a need to write to a trend. I’m not knocking it – there are writers making a ton of money because they are playing to the market and surfing the wave. I just can’t do it myself.

But then there are other trends. The ones that slowly build, and build, and then suddenly take off like a rocket. Susannah Martin interviewed Brad Torgerson and I about the self-publishing trend, and I highly recommend you click on over to her article.

But don’t forget to come back here after!

It’s not that I have anything else exciting to say… Oh, who am I kidding. I have a book.

Persistence has paid off, and two long years after the publication of my last novel, my seventh novel is now available for sale. It’s not out in print yet – that will be about two weeks from now. I could probably just not bother, but it is rather nice to hold this hefty chunk of paper in one’s hand and say ‘I wrote this.’ Right now, I’m looking at all of you out there, readers, because I know most of you are also writers. Two things: one, don’t give up on the story even if you feel like you can’t do this, or you can’t do this fast, or life is in the way of it happening. Keep working on it when you can. I got to a few points with this book where I was doggone good and ready to give up on it. Even my First Reader couldn’t help much, he was too close to it. In the dedication I thank my Mom, and one of my best friends, who both read it as alpha readers (before it was done) and egged me on to finish it. Mom actually was reading it as I wrote the end, because I was working on it in a shared Google Doc file. It was funny to see her colored cursor following mine as the words came out on paper, er, screen, and to have the comments in the side bar when I goofed up, or she wanted clarification on a thing. I wouldn’t recommend that for most situations, but it really did help me finish. I had to, so Mom could read it all!

Second, whack your inner perfectionist on the head and gag her. This book isn’t what I started out to write. Which is not to say that I don’t think I’ve produced a good book – it’s not the book I’d intended. It grew organically in ways I didn’t expect. But Cedar, I can hear you say, you’re a pantser, don’t they all go that way? Sort of. Only they don’t all take two years to finish. I think the longest I’ve taken before this is the Eternity Symbiote, and it’s got issues, being my first novel written and with a half-assed ending. I changed, as a person, my life was radically different, by the ending of the tale. That affects my writing. And that’s why I needed the reassurance from early readers that yes, I was on the right track, and no, I didn’t need to scrap it all.

My main concern was that the pacing was too slow, and that the characters would develop erratically. In the end, I think that although there’s not a lot of action – and by that I mean exciting combat scenes – the pacing does work. And I think that the growth arc is consistent. But I couldn’t see that while I was in the middle of it. I encourage you to not rely on your own perceptions if you are working on a similar problem with your writing.

Oh! Check out the awesome blurb Dorothy Grant created for the book!

When the starship’s captain died midway through a run with a cargo of exotic animals, the owner gave first mate Jem one chance, and one choice. The chance: if he successfully runs the trade route solo, he’ll become the new captain. If he fails, he’ll lose the only home he’s ever known.

And the choice? He’s now raising an old earth animal called a basset hound. Between station officials, housebreaking, pirates, and drool, Jem’s got his hands full!

43 thoughts on “Trendy Trendsetters, All

  1. Nothing pithy, insightful, or meaningful. Need more coffee and look at a few holes I have written myself into…

      1. Yeah, I know. Hopefully I will have some time this weekend to either rethink or rewrite ideas. Annoying really. In the meantime, baking needs to be done. :p

  2. my inner worldbuilder is having a… discussion with my inner pantser over the thing i just started

      1. but but world builder says i don’t have a political system set up or any idea how many colonies there are and make references to a war that happened ten years previously but didn’t say who or why…

        this story came to me in the wee hours of the morning. now its like a tick

  3. What is a sweet romance? Yes, a stupid question, but from a writing standpoint an important one. Every tale has to have conflict, obstacles before the hero saves the world or girl gets boy or whatever. Romances aren’t tragedies, so it would seem to have to end on a certain level of sweetness, but the conflict means it has to have some moments of at least frustration. If it’s keeping it out of the raunchy category, I can see that. Have romances gone toward porno now, and a sweet romance is one that’s not explicit?

    1. Subject to correction (or complete contradiction) by those who know much better – a sweet romance to me is one where neither protagonist is an explicit “bad” type. IMHO, probably a harder thing to write.

      1. Nod, that I would think it is.

        Now, the “conflict” can be from “barriers” set up that the characters have to overcome.

        Missed-signals, misunderstandings, “helpful” people getting involved, people not wanting the romance to succeed, etc.

        Not something that I think I could write, but might have it as a sub-plot with things involved in the main plot being the barriers to the romance.

        1. Was thinking about some film my wife and I saw when dating that wouldn’t fit the raunch-less definition of a sweet romance, but the character’s main obstacle were their best friends. Both were pretty average people, no “dark prince” vibe or “opposites attract” sort of thing. Overcoming the efforts of their meddling friends was the issue that had to be overcome for the happy ending.

          Work, cultural differences, a comedy of errors, really, anything that could actually happen in real life to average folks. No, it’s not what I’d write, either, but it could be done without any treacle.

      1. I’m no real expert beyond having listened to a few female relations gushing over this or that romance book over the years, but I thought that was the norm for romances. I.e., no explicit sex scenes, with the steamy ones being their own subgenre? Or has the romance field changed that much?

        1. Harlequin has them often colorcoded and some are listed as ‘steamy’ or ‘hot’. There are whole loads of subgenres catering to preferences. Some of the ones that still have sex scenes romanticize it instead versus describing overmuch on the pleasure and act.

    2. “Have romances gone toward porno now?”

      Yup. Big time. I have a friend who writes fairy-tale paranormal romance and she has to insert sex scenes like mad. I’ve actually given her pointers on doing so, which is hilarious considering that I can’t read the silly things without either giggling or skipping ahead.

      1. Oh. My. That puts in mind the nude scene in Logan’s Run that was clumsy because it was just there to show skin. I could not write something like that without snide humor.

  4. Congrats on pulling the trigger, Cedar. Who are you using for the dead-tree version?

  5. *Sigh* The world-setting and rough plot of the medieval merchant fantasy built itself yesterday, overriding the WIP. Nag dabbit, I thought I’d ditched fantasy!

  6. I’m currently working on a short story to increase the tension, because undead flesh eating clowns in an abandoned mall just isn’t creepy enough for me.

    I do have a question for the MGC massmind. In terms of marketing (I am working on a collection of Pulp Rev stories) does the genre designation “Horror” imply an unhappy, nihilistic ending where everybody dies and the bad guys win?

    What I am putting together is a collection of stories that use Horror elements (demons, aliens, clown-ghouls, and the like) in adventure stories–the heroes aren’t cowering victims, they fight back and win. (Rather like the world of Larry Correia’s Monster Hunter International).

    Is it still considered Horror when the good guys win, or would that be better described as something like “Dark Urban Fantasy”?

    Historically, I know that Horror fiction often ended on a high note with the evil vanquished (or at least taught a lesson) but I am looking at how the genre seems to be defined these days.


    1. Mmm, when I look at horror, the strongest indicator is the loss of control aspect. IOW, you can’t avoid the scary or awful thing because you do the right thing; the scary or awful thing comes at you regardless. You can win in the end, but I think a lot of horror trends nihilistic because that’s the ultimate loss of control.

      MHI has strong control. You can fight, and you can lose, but you have a good idea of what’s going on most of the time. Horror would be confusion and the near-certainty of losing. Maybe they’ll pull it out at the last minute, but the possibility looms all the time that they won’t.

    2. I think it may be a minority opinion but to me horror is implies a danger outside of the world view of the main characters.

      A good part of the story is about the main characters thinking “there’s no such thing as THAT”.

      Dark Fantasy has main characters knowing about the dangers and the fight against them.

      There can be an overlap if one of the main characters actually knowing about the dangers with the problem of the other characters thinking/saying “you’re crazy”.

      MHI was interesting because Owen Pitt didn’t have time to go though the “Werewolves don’t exist” thing when his boss changed & attacked him.

      After that, MHI and the sequels were IMO more Dark Fantasy because “Monsters” were a fact of life for the main characters.

      1. This raises the issue I’m having with the other members of my face-to-face crit group. The book I’m workshopping is psychological/supernatural horror and the others in the group (who are all in their late 20s, if that makes a difference) are all on me to have the monster(s) jumping out of the woodwork and wreaking havoc by Chapter 3 at the latest. I keep telling them it’s not that kind of book, that the main thing is how the MC gets herself into the situation where she has to confront the Horrid Thing and the contortions of denial she goes through, not wanting to believe such a thing exists. My fellow members keep chewing on me to change my plot (“Hey! Get her into the situation right away and use flashbacks to show her regretting how she got there!”) and I keep (silently) digging in my heels that no, I’m not gonna.

        Could be I am writing it all wrong, or maybe they have a way different concept of the Horror genre than I do. Is the trend in Horror these days toward that obvious slasher kind of thing? Urg. That ain’t the story I have in me.

        1. Write your story, not theirs. Yes, some of what passes for Horror these days is just slasher Gore, with very little plot. I suspect yours will be much better than that!

          1. What she said. Will ask one question, though. Is the issue the critter doesn’t jump out and rend, but that nothing telegraphs this is horror, with bad things to come? Michael Crichton handled this in the novel Jurassic Park by severely injured man rushed to treatment, with everyone closed mouth and the only word makes no sense: “Raptor.” When the novel was published, “raptor” was more likely to evoke images of birds of prey than a type of therapod. That was the hook: What was going on? What had ended up killing the man? Why were the once who brought him in closed mouth? From the blurb the reader knows it’s about recreating dinosaurs and things going terribly wrong, but still, in that era with the strong bird of prey association, what was going on?

            I’m not suggesting doing the same thing as Crichton, only to make sure you have a strong hook that telegraphs bad things coming, and makes the reader interested in the slow build-up.

            1. Oh, yeah, definitely. The other group members picked up in the first two chapters that there’s something Very Wrong with the piece of property my MC is thinking of buying and they want me to get to the monster action right away.

              (Monster? Did I come out and say there was a monster?? Heh-heh-heh!).

              But again, sorry. Blood and gore in Chapter 3? That’s a different story.

              Part of what’s keeping me from feeling too pressured to change things is that I submitted the first 10 pages for critique at the Pennwriters convention a couple years ago. The panel members, three published authors and an older, experienced NYC agent, all said nice things about my “confident voice” and praised the fact that I was taking my time. I remember that when I get nagged on by never-yet-published writing group partners.

              1. Good! Keep that confidence, and the older writers were correct, it creates a voice and that’s more important than trying to write to a trend – because in essence you are creating the trend.

    3. It varies. Horror is the sense it evokes in the reader, not necessarily the ending. Some do, but other’s don’t. Stephan King varies in his short stories, but all of his horror is clearly horror, whether the knight slays the dragon or the dragon adds iron to his diet.

    4. Thank you all for your answers, you’ve given me a lot to think about. Right now the stories seem to be about equally split between heroes who know that the Horror elements are real prior to the story beginning and heroes who encounter something outside of their experience and have to rise to the occasion.

      1. The panel on Dark Fantasy at LibertyCon last year used the division of knowing vs. unknowing. If the protagonist knows, or at least learns and accepts that there’s Something Out There, it’s urban fantasy/dark fantasy (depending on how “dark” the Dark is.) Horror is much more about the Dark, unknowable Unknown, and the helplessness of the characters. Horror doesn’t have to end with everyone dead or mad (see Stephen King vs. Lovecraft) but the Unknown Dread tends to remain Unknown. “Yeah, we defeated it, but we have no idea what it was or how it got here.” YMMV

        My one attempt at horror didn’t really work well (the Death Lovers chapter in one of the Cat books.) I lean much more toward Dark Fantasy.

  7. Trends? I write so people like you mom can be intrigued and pulled in – and not repulsed by the unnecessary. You would know if I succeeded.

    There have to be books for all kinds of people – because the people who are not being served still need books.

  8. Ugh, should I ever have money, I hope to God I don’t do stupid things like buy obnoxiously expensive pants with fake dirt. *Shakes head* It’s ridiculous. Thanks for linking to my article. You and Brad had some great answers for me. I wish I could have made it longer, but I had a word limit. 😛

    1. The beauty of writing here, or on my own blog, is being able to blather on and on if I’m in the mood. But being able to write short and succinct is a good skill to have.

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