Pay attention to the market.
My sophomore year of high school I went to my first high school dance. Homecoming! I hardly knew the boy who asked me, but who cares? He was cute and I was going to get dolled up and have a ball. I bought a black dress that I thought was classy and just the right amount of sexy. (I am very conservative, so when I say sexy I mean it was flattering to the form of my body.)
Anyway, I spent hours getting ready. I’m not sure what I did with those hours because I had very short hair and the dress pulled over my head. I must have applied my lip gloss ten times or something.
The guy picked me up, put a corsage on my wrist (a formality I think should be done away with,) and we were off. We went to dinner and arrived at the dance. I was ready to make my debut as an individual babe. Everyone would turn and stare at that classy babe in the sexy black dress.
And a lot of people did stare, or glare, because about fifty other girls were wearing my exact dress. A lot of them were wearing my shoes, too. (Payless special.) I’m pretty sure all of them were sophomores who thought they were all going to be individual babes. Oh, the novices of high school! We all thought we were on top of the world only to be thrown to the fiery pits of ignorance!
And that is the reason to pay attention to the publishing market. When we know what is out there we can avoid cliche. We do this by reading the crap out of whatever genre we prefer to write. Literally the crap out of.
But what of the exact opposite advice so often spouted by writers, editors and agents alike?
Don’t pay attention to the market.
It’s not the opposite advice as the first, it’s actually the same, directed toward a different audience, a different problem. Sometimes writers get caught up in trying to write with the trends, whatever agents and editors are currently acquiring. Knowing all of this can be just as dangerous as not knowing at all. I can’t speak for everyone, but I believe what don’t pay attention to the market really means is, “We are tired of seeing the same things over and over! Please, for the love of vampires/werewolves/zombies give us something new!”
Of course, you can write whatever you want, and if a certain idea keeps buzzing in your head and will not go away, by all means write it down with all the passion you possess. But I’ve learned to look around a little when shopping for dresses and generally find that the first dress to catch my eye is usually not the most flattering to my form, nor would it help me stand out in a crowd.
Pay attention to the market to avoid cliche.
Block out the market to bring in your own style and voice.
Write what you really want to write. Make it clear and powerful, but just make sure it comes from you and not the shelf filled with cliches collected from the marketplace. It takes guts for sure, but the best things are always a leap of faith.
Next up Contradiction- Outlines: Stifling or Freeing?