Thursday, December 9, 2010

Tell your story

Hubs and I were watching the 2006 documentary Maxed Out last night (link). It's all about predatory lending, consumer debt, and how the American economy was (is?) teetering on the brink of ruin.

Yes, I said 2006.

LTM: Wow. Did this guy get any awards?
JRM: I don't think so.
LTM: How was this movie received?
JRM: It was largely ignored.

That got me to thinking about writing, of course. Because that's all I think about these days. That and crickets. And I was thinking about how you just have to write your story.

The fellow who made the documentary (James Scurlock) was intrigued by a phenomenon he saw happening, and he made an incredibly prophetic film that too bad nobody heeded.

Well, I say that, but I bet all the pinch-pennies in the audience (like me) did. I remember listening to Elizabeth Warren on Fresh Air in 2007 predicting the sub-prime mortgage crisis and thinking I was going to have to pull over and barf.

But back to books! I know agents say it all the time, but I imagine it's hard with all the vampire books and angel books and demon books and Hunger Games books and etc. etc. etc. books flying off the shelves. It's tempting to say, "(you know) it. I'm writing one of those!"

I say don't.

(I mean, unless that's your story.)

Maybe I'm just a cock-eyed optimist, but I believe if you've got a great story, you're passionate about it, and you're able to tell it in a compelling, well-crafted way, it's going to do well--whether it's fantasy, literary fiction, chicklit, historical YA, or whatever else isn't considered "hot" right now.

In 2007, vampires weren't hot.

So what? Do you agree? Disagree? 

Would you say "If you're a good writer, write to trend, get your foot in the door, and after that, do what you want?

I'm just wonderin... Otherwise, have a great weekend! We're doing the Nutcracker. (link) <3

24 comments:

Vicki Rocho said...

I think I saw at least part of the movie on tv a few months ago. Interesting stuff.

I agree with you writing your own story. I think when you write what is true to YOU, it will naturally resonate with others. They know when someone is following a formula or trying too hard.

Jessica Bell said...

I tried to write to get my foot in the door, but FAILED. Turns out that writing from my heart got me to where I wanted to go. So, definitely, if you write well. Write what you REALLY WANT to write and FORGET about trends. Trends fade, passion doesn't.

Anne said...

Don't worry. Angelyn doesn't turn into a vampire in the last chapter... Or does she? (she doesn't)

That movie sounds familiar. Too bad no one listened, hey?

Mason Canyon said...

Writing from the heart is always best.

Mason
Thoughts in Progress

Tracy said...

ahhh, writing from the heart is pertinent..which is why I have a problem which is why my 'forte' is short pieces, short stories; it just works better than in 'novels'

Old Kitty said...

Oh I truly and utterly believe in writing what you know you will be passionate about!! Your love for your story will shine through and make for a better story especially to the reader! Take care
x

C. N. Nevets said...

Trends change and the trends you see on the shelf are usually one to three years behind the trends that are being bought. Still, if you write a good story that's in a buying trend, that's definitely a leg-up for that foot-in.

The thing is, I don't think most people can actually write good stories that way. Most of us need a personal connection to or investment in the story.

A lot of authors that end up making money on trends or in commercial multi-author series often actually start out with two or three good books written from their heart.

Those are their "best" writing in a lot of ways, and were required to demonstrated to the world that they weren't just a fad. Then, with those in their back-pockets, they could move onto capitalizing on trends and series writing to make extra money.

You can call it leading with your best or you can call it paying your dues, but I think you get in your foot in the door best by writing from the heart.

Matthew Rush said...

This is sad and scary. Also, if you're into cool old documentaries, you should check out "Who Killed the Electric Car". Pretty interesting.

Summer Ross said...

I can see it both ways. And i guess I'm kind of writing both ways. I have a story to tell every time i right, sometimes it is a trend story, other times it is not, but I tend to write in poetry and short stories so perhaps it is easier for me to come and go in both realms.

I can see the advantage to writing trend and then after your foot is in going further and doing what you really want, but I can also see the other side, the side that says you are not like everyone else, so tell the right story right now. There advantages and disadvantages to both ways actually.

Dawn said...

Couldn't agree more.

Tracy said...

I completely agree. And I say this coming from the angle of someone who loves reading stories about some of those hot topics (vampires most especially). Readers can tell the difference between someone who writes what they love/enjoy and someone who's trying to snag attention by writing about the "in" thing.

If you write a truly compelling story about what you enjoy it WILL find those readers who enjoy the same thing.

Colene Murphy said...

Totally agree. You have to be the one ahead of the trend, setting it or getting in right when it becomes a trend. I can't go and write a vampire novel NOW. It's done. Trend over. I can't hop on the zombie or angel train because that is hot NOW but by the time I got a book done it would be so done. Can't follow trends. Just gotta write what you want to write. Great point/post!

Patti said...

I agree. Write your story, because by the time you finish that book, the trend could be over.

Candyland said...

Meh...I think you ALWAYS have to write for yourself. If there' sno passion behind it, readers will know.

LTM said...

most of you I could email, but for those I can't~
@Tracy--it's true that often shorter pieces are easier to be passionate about, but maybe if you go back, you can expand one or more? :o) <3
@CN--I agree, and you've actually touched on another post topic I was thinking about... my greatest fear as a writer. Monday~ :o)
@Summer--I do think it's possible to write to trend if you're skilled. I'm just not always certain it'll be your best work. But what do I know? :o) <3
@Tracy--I think you're right, and I think your passion about your story is what gives it that *IT* quality. Yes? :o) <3

DEZMOND said...

eh, here in my country we are never surprised by an economic crises, because we've always lived in one of those :))

Writers should NEVER follow trends. The ones who do that are just writers, but not artists.

DL Hammons said...

The beaten path may be easy to follow, but when you get to your destination you're left unfulfilled.

It's not writing to a trend if you write the first one!!

Angie said...

I agree with you 100%. Let's just hope my book can get out there and start a trend of it's own! Enjoy the Nutcracker.

Hart Johnson said...

I have some real life stuff that would make page-turning, tear-jerking reading, but you know what? It's not time yet. Two reasons: 1) much of it would hurt people I love, so I need to wait until the most significant of them are dead and gone and 2) it's too real. It STILL hurts. It will get written, but it will probably be put in a box and willed to my grandchildren. Hopefully I will have written enough in my lifetime that it will be worth something to them, but even if it's not... I would LOVE those hardship stories a generation removed. I wouldn't want them about my parents because i wouldn't want to feel worse about one or the other... my grandparents though, I can step back and I would LOVE to know.

Clarissa Draper said...

I couldn't write a book about zombies or vampires because that's just not me. I like what I write about and can only write my passion. Great blog. Too bad more people didn't watch the movie.
CD

Creepy Query Girl said...

I agree. i don't think I could write a story 'just for the market'. You figure, you're gonna have to live and wade in this book for a long time- especially if you're hoping to get it published. So don't do yourself the disservice of writing something that you aren't completely in love with, you know?

Shannon said...

I absolutely agree. You have to write your passion.

Great post!

Carolyn Abiad said...

I think it's possible to write what you're passionate about and do it in the same "packaging" as what is saleable. I use the 10% new theory: An idea can only be 10%different from what's out there currently, or it'll be ignored. I think the movie you watched makes that point valid. What do you think? Should I go back to my day job?

Susan Kaye Quinn said...

I think you have to be cognizant of what's out there, not because you're following the trends, but to make sure what you're doing stands out.

I believe that well written books can be successful, but that it depends on how you define "success" - every well written book will not win a contract with the Big6. But that's not the only way to define success anymore.

Also: I think you can only write "your" story - you have to be open to experimentation, but anything less than loving the story, and you won't finish it.