This is not one of my posts but something I am cross-posting from Edgeverse with their permission. It says something I've long suspected and have been saying for some time.

I remember reading an interview with Frank Zappa in NME years ago. Despite its claims to the contrary, he said, the music industry was not looking for “the next great thing”. Instead, they wanted the previous great thing. When the Beatles hit the scene, every label wanted a band with multiple guitar players. Boy bands were a non-starter until the first one became a great success, then everyone had to have one — the same with girl bands. Basically, the music industry jumps on the band wagon of the success of the real innovators. I've been saying the same thing recently about the publishing industry. Think Twilight, Fifty Shades of Grey, Harry Potter, etc.

I personally think that my writing is much better than most, and that this is a disadvantage in the modern publishing market.

It's good to know that I'm not the only voice crying in the wilderness.

Originality

Seth Godwynn

Something we see in Western media a lot of these days is a growing lack of originality. There was a movie called ‘Battle Royale’, a Japanese film about a group of young people dropped into an arena, where they have to kill each other to the last man. That was the inspiration for the Hunger Games, which inspired Divergent, Maze Runner, and a host of other increasingly poor copies of copies of copies. Battle Royale itself was based on ‘Lord of the Flies’, so it wasn’t even an original idea that was being copied in the first place; it never is, of course.

We’ve seen it come around again with Vampires. First it was modern movie remakes of Dracula, then came Twilight, and then the dams burst and a flood of increasingly poor replicas found their way to bookshelves.

Now, make no mistake about it, this is the lowest form of literature, and nobody should find it acceptable. ‘The Vampire Diaries’ wasn’t even a novel, in the literal sense. The publishing house wanted to enter the market with its own series, so they came up with a title and then hired an author to knock out content as fast as possible, before the fad melted away. The writer probably made next to nothing in commission and was, reportedly, replaced later on.

The quality of these stories is, as you would expect, on the low side. Of course it is. These novels are written fast, the writer has no interest in them, no rights or creative control and no emotional investment. They are literally filling a gap in the market and nothing more. There is no art about this, it’s pure consumerism deigned to abuse the entire system. It’s quite deliberately putting out a massively inferior product, it shows no respect to the audience and it treats the creator even worse.

But this is becoming the norm.

The trend towards ‘sexy’ vampire fiction has changed a once iconic symbol of depravity into something to be aspired to. We now see ridiculous images like the one above where once, vampires represented something that actually had substance. 

My research into the industry over the years has shown me how damaged it is. I’ve been told that most publishers have bots analysing consumer trends and then they target their interest in those areas.

Sadly, new writers aren’t angry about this, many of them are misguidedly trying to jump on the bandwagon. It can’t work, of course, because the next big thing never slavishly copies the last one. Most new writers have absolutely no hope of finishing a decent piece of work in time to get on the trend platform, and even if they did, they’d be a tiny voice in a huge crowd.

But writers should be angry. This copy-and-paste mentality means that creativity and originality are not just stifled, they’re being actively riled against. What hope has a truly new and inspiring piece of work got when the publishers only want to take safe, easy options at filling gaps in the market? Perhaps this explains why ninety-nine percent of literature fails to make a profit?

As an author, your originality should be enshrined in every line of your work. You should be proud to be a singular voice and to have your unique perspective on the world. There is only one thing you can really be, after all, and that thing is you.

Be original. Be yourself!

Originality is about really understanding who you are. It’s about seeing past the influence of others, the saccharine trends of the mainstream media and the unconscious bullying of public perception and targeted advertising. It comes from expressing what is real about you. It’s about writing from the core of your personality and letting that light shine out in every line of your creation.

Don’t let yourself be swallowed up by clichés and tropes, rise above all that and create work that might change the world. The audience isn’t getting any smarter, or being intellectually challenged by sparkling vampires, and they’re losing interest in reading because of it.

Are you going to be the kind of person to help chase those values away, or are you going to be someone who embraces your integrity? Will you create something special—something nobody else in the world can create, because nobody else is quite exactly like you?

The authors who do that are the ones we remember; they’re the ones that change the world. As a writer, we have a responsibility to our readers, ourselves, the future of our species and to the integrity of our work.

We have to be better than the mediocrity that litters the bookshelves. It’s up to us to be better than we were, and strive to create stories that inspire ideas, ideas that create positive change in the world.

It’s up to you to decide who you are, and it’s nobody else’s right to make that decision for you.

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This article has 3 comments

  1. Cathy Cade Reply

    I’ve not said it before, because it sounds like sour grapes, but after a year’s subscription to a ‘women’s magazine’ (it isn’t defined as such, but I suspect only women read it) in the hope of absorbing what is required to have one’s short story accepted for publication, I have finally recognised that I don’t want to write those kind of stories.
    I accept that maybe I’m not capable of writing those kind of stories, and perhaps, if I want to call myself a writer, I should be.
    Fortunately, I’m not dependent on writing for an income, so I’ll give up trying and write what I want to write.

  2. Cathy Cade Reply

    I’ve not said it before, because it sounds like sour grapes, but after a year’s subscription to a ‘women’s magazine’ (it isn’t defined as such, but I suspect only women read it) in the hope of absorbing what is required to have one’s short story accepted for publication, I have finally recognised that I don’t want to write those kind of stories.
    I accept that maybe I’m not capable of writing those kind of stories, and perhaps, if I want to call myself a writer, I should be.
    Fortunately, I’m not dependent on writing for an income, so I’ll give up trying and write what I want to write.
    I won’t be renewing the subscription.

  3. Cathy Cade Reply

    (sorry about the duplication – I thought I was leaving a ‘reply’ to my comment, but it reprinted everything)

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