Practical Meerkat’s 52 Bits of Useful Info for Young (and Old) Writers, week 48

by Laura Anne Gilman

We’re going to make this one short and bittersweet.

There are things that are popular, trendy.  You hear people – writers, agents, editors – talking about them all the time.  “This is what’s hot.  This is what’s selling really well right now.  This is what publishers/agents/readers/Hollywood wants.”

And sometimes you think “yay, I’ve got that!”  and sometimes you think “oh god, I can’t write that.”

And sometimes you think “I could write that… but it’s not what I’m writing now.  I need to put everything aside and write that!”

Cue the White Rabbit, wringing its paws and checking the time, and so utterly flustered that he’s running behind…

“Oh dear! Oh dear! I shall be too late!”

Yeah, you might.  So what?

Here’s the bitter part:  while “don’t chase the market” is advice that’s handed out freely, at the same time, we’re told by example and inference that if you want to make Real Money, you have to hit the hot markets.

And the hard truth is – that IS how you make Real Money.

And some people can do it.  They can look at a trend, analyze it, take it apart and put it back together in a way that works for them, and then sit down and write it fast enough that the trend hasn’t already moved on.

Those people?  Not common.  And the ability to do it WELL is even less common.  No matter what the White Rabbit did, he was still late.

So here’s some sweetness, to leaven things.  Eventually, the probability is high that the trend will turn to something you love.  Something that you’re writing.  You might even have THAT BOOK coming out just when the trend hits (or better yet, be second out the gate, so you catch the swell perfectly).

But you can’t predict it.  You can’t anticipate it.  And a book written to catch a trend?  Generally, it not only doesn’t sell, but you’ve just taken time out of your life to, basically, do something you don’t love.

If you need the money, working at Macy’s might be less painful, and leave you with the creative space to still write the story that’s in you, waiting to get out.

And that story, the one you pour your passion and excitement into?  May not be the Hottest Trend.  But it could also be the story that changes everything, for you.


Coming up in Week 49:  Blame the Right Messenger

Laura Anne Gilman is a former editor with Penguin/Putnam, and the author of more than a dozen novels, including the THE SHATTERED VINE, Book 3 of the Nebula-nominated Vineart War trilogy,, and TRICKS OF THE TRADE both IN STORES NOW! (ahem). Her SF collection, DRAGON VIRUS, which SF Signal called “amazingly evocative….a potent ride through a changing future,” was published by Fairwood Press in June 2011.  For more info check her website, her BookView Cafe bookshelf, or follow her on Twitter (@LAGilman)

She also runs d.y.m.k. productions, an editorial services company (

And yes, her nickname really is meerkat.


About Laura Anne Gilman

Laura Anne is a recovering editor-turned-novelist, with an Endeavor Award, a Nebula nomination, another Endeavor award nomination and a Washington State Book Award nomination under her belt. Her most recent series is the award-winning "Devil's West" trilogy, starting with SILVER ON THE ROAD, and her same-universe story collection, WEST WINDS' FOOL, AND OTHER STORIES OF THE DEVIL'S WEST. The novella GABRIEL'S ROAD was published by Book View Cafe on April 30th, 2019. Her Patreon, featuring original fiction, writing advice, and original Rants, is at Learn more at, where you can sign up for her quarterly newsletter.


Practical Meerkat’s 52 Bits of Useful Info for Young (and Old) Writers, week 48 — 6 Comments

  1. I think you set your sights faaar too low. Not once did you mention setting the trend. Look at what is around, analyse what people want and write a book so gripping and original that it sparks a whole new trend. Why be passive and wait for people to decide they like what coincidentally you just happen to be writing? Innovate! Explore! Write what inspires you and that you feel you NEED to write. Come on – have some ambition.

  2. Damon Shaw: Something like this flittered briefly through my brain but didn’t find a lodging, because I think that

    Look at what is around, analyse what people want and write a book so gripping and original that it sparks a whole new trend.


    Write what inspires you and that you feel you NEED to write.

    are not, at least for this writer, obviously congruent. Also, the latter seems both more reliably achievable and much more important than the former.

    If my choice must be to plug on with my below-median-wage job, and yet have a long shot at writing the next The King of Elfland’s Daughter, that suits me better than an equally long but potentially fortune-making chance at writing the next Twilight. Of course, if The Queen of Elfland’s Speech-Friend should happen to be the next Twilight, nobody will be more surprised and delighted than I. But for me at least, analysis or trend-setting doesn’t come into it, except in point of quality and accessibility. If it did, the thing I’m really writing would be very different, and I think – to echo our host’s chief point – that it would also be appreciably worse.

    Your mileage may well differ, in which case the best of luck with the breakthrough.

  3. I remember when a certain writer sold an urban fantasy to a publisher that sighed, “Oh, UF is dead, but what the heck, we like this, we’ll gamble.”

    Guess what hit the next! hot! trend? And played a fair to middling role in setting it?

    Changed the whole direction of the publisher’s sff imprint, as I recall.

  4. And we all remember the days when editors said, “Oh, kids won’t read fat books — keep it at 80,000 words!” J.K. Rowling drove a stake through that one, thank heaven.

  5. @Damon Shaw–I think that falls under the “Those people? Not common. And the ability to do it WELL is even less common.” designation. For that matter, it’s what I’ve attempted to do combined WITH the write what my passion demands, but so far, no slam dunk!

    Laura Anne, very incisive, as always. I’m linking to it.