Sunday, April 05, 2009

Writing, Market Trends and the Credit Crunch

I have heard two things about market trends recently, from different areas of the writing industry. Both point to the same conclusion.

There has been some discussion in film writing circles about the kind of material that the market will be hungry for in this time of recession. The conventional wisdom is that when things are looking down in the economy, the cinema-going public want to indulge in all that is optimistic, up-beat, redemptive, cosy and happy ending. Thus, people investing in movies, tend to buy up-beat screenplays.

The conventional wisdom in the world of publishing is very similar. And thus, commissioning editors are looking for material with a positive tone. Two weeks ago, I was at a talk given by Barry Turner, editor of the Writer’s Handbook. He was making exactly this observation. He also observed that in times of change, people who are adaptable tend to prosper. It doesn’t look good for the misery-memoir.

The two industries seem to be reflecting the same reality.

One world of caution, though, before we all hurry off and write cheerful yarns where they all live happily ever after. Being aware of market trends is good. But slavishly following them is, in my opinion, a mistake.

Writing has power if the writer is being completely honest and open as she/he creates it. If the story you want to tell has a bleak side to it, and you try to hammer it into a form that you think the market will like better, it may lose its power. And commercially speaking, you will do far better telling a story that 20% of people absolutely adore than one which 100% of people think is quite nice.


Paul Lamb said...

Two points: It seems to me that a typical novel will take at least a year to write, a year to shop around, and then a year to become published and distributed. In three years, we may be in the middle of an economic boom. If I were to start writing a story to meet the current market trends, it may likely be obsolete by the time it would have been published.

The second point is that, at least for me, I have to write the story I have. I can't "dream up" a story for a given genre or zeitgeist. Commercial writers may be able to do this, but I can't (or won't).

Rod Duncan said...

Hi Paul,

Thanks for the comment.

Yes, I think you are 100% correct. We have to be true to the stories we want to tell (or the one inside us that want to be told).

The economic cycles question - I think we could argue this either way. If it takes a year to finish a novel - one year from now is the furthest point at which we might be trying to sell. I would hazard a guess that the market will still be looking for the same kind of stories in 12 months time. Even though a project taken on by a publisher or producer will take at least a year or two from acceptance to the point of reaching its audience.

But your main point - which is the one that counts - I completely agree with. I have to believe that there will always be an audience for stories creatied with that sort of conviction.

Thanks again.