Thursday, June 17, 2010

The Next Big Thing; or, What Shall I Write Today, Brain?

I saw an article today that made me laugh. It was about "The Next Big Thing In Publishing."

(Of course, it comes from The Onion, so you have to consider the source...)

Wouldn't it be great if we could predict The Next Big Thing? Don't we all wish we'd been working on great vampire novels five or six years ago, so that when Twilight came out, we'd all be ready to jump on the vampire bandwagon? Or how about literature/monster mashups, like Pride and Prejudice and Zombies? Don't we all wish we'd thought of it first? (Well, I know I do -- I could have had a lot of fun writing that book...)

The problem is that nobody knows what The Next Big Thing is going to be until it happens. Even things that are predicted to be Big Things don't always turn out that way. I read an article today that said that the movie Robin Hood, with Russell Crowe, had just passed the $100 million mark. Which, I'll grant you, would be a lot of money to me, or to anyone I know, but in terms of what was supposed to be a summer blockbuster movie, that's considered "disappointing."

So what's a writer to do? Especially when, as budgets grow tighter, big publishing houses (like the major Hollywood studios) seem to be ever less willing to take a chance on something that is new and different.

Yet everything I've read suggests that "writing to the market" is pointless -- unless you're a known factor whose work is being fast-tracked, there's a long lead time between the day a book is accepted by a publisher and the day it appears on shelves. And that doesn't even take into consideration the time it might take to find an agent, and for the agent to market the book. And even going from blank screen to finished novel -- via multiple re-writes -- is not generally a quick process. So by the time I could get my Great Vampire Novel out there, the fad will have passed. (Though if I wait just a little while longer, it will be time for another vampire revival, won't it? After all, I've been seeing the vampire wave come and go since Dark Shadows. Now Barnabas Collins, there was a vampire! No sparkles on him!)

But wait, there may be hope yet. In yet another article that I read today (I know, I've turned into one big news synthesis machine this week), there are signs that maybe, just maybe, Hollywood is starting to figure out that the reason we're staying away from the box office in droves this summer is because we're tired of sequels and bad remakes of '70's shows and movies based on comic books -- sorry, graphic novels.

So the best advice would seem to be to write to your passion. There's always a market for good stories. I think I'll go try to finish one up now, in fact. Now if I can just figure out how to work a minotaur and a labyrinth into it...