Friday, June 19, 2009

I'm Not Quirky Or Edgy

More and more these days, I am seeing agents and editors looking for "quirky" or "edgy" or "genre-bending."

I'm afraid they won't find that in my work.

I'm not quirky. I'm not edgy. I don't create fads (like the Jane Austen-related books or teenage vampires in love). I don't blend two worlds - like Jane Austen and zombies. I don't create bizarre scenarios or write with an eccentric slant.

That's not me.

To thine own self be true.

I write about normal people that find themselves in less than ordinary situations. Usually, they must dig deep inside themselves to find the strength and courage to deal with these situations, and in the process, they not only learn and grow, but they become a better person for it. They're simple stories full of heart and soul.

I believe there is room for books such as these. I've read many of them. But in the current publishing climate - i.e. the hard economic times - I don't know that publishers want to take a chance on books like mine. After all, they're not quirky. They're not edgy. They're not experimental. They will not be lauded as "the new trend in publishing" nor will they produce a media frenzy.

And you know what? I am ok with that. I really am. I don't want to change who I am as a writer to fit the market. I know some people do this and I am ok with that, too. That is their choice.

But I can't. I simply can't. Now if I have a story idea that screams "Edgy! Quirky! Experimental! Genre-bending! The new trend!" then I'll write it. But I am not going to go out of my way looking for it. That is the key.

If I am not passionate about my work, if I am not in love with my characters and truly believe in them and their world, then how can I expect anyone else to be? It will show on the page. That cheats me as a writer and it cheats the reader, as well.

I must write what -I- want to write. I can't change that. I've tried. Believe me. The last month or so, I've constantly second-guessed any idea that pops into my head. Is it unique enough? Is it edgy? Is it a breakout idea? Consequently, I've stymied my creative process. Only now have I realized, once again, (I have a very long stubborn streak) that my ideas will be unique because it is my voice that will be telling them.

The publishing world will always be looking for the "new" and the "next best thing." But I will be writing the stories that speak to me and pray that they will also speak to others. I can do no less.


  1. Very good post. Publishing is very much a bandwagon business. Remember when chick lit was the thing? Yikes, editors and agents were ga ga for these books. Now....forget it. It is always a safer bet to stick to what your are good at and what makes you happy.

  2. Very nice post. Sadly, sometimes when publishers say quirky, they mean "something that imitates the latest bestseller that created a media frenzy" and not necessarily, something original. And that too, cheats you the writer and your readers. So good luck with telling the stories you want to tell. No one can do Melissa Marsh better than the original, and that's the advantage you have when you're being true to yourself.

  3. Great complement to Rene's Marble Palaces post! And yep, I'm totally with you - writing what I want to write is what makes me happy. That means I can't add sex scenes just to spice things up. And like you I'm not edgy or quirky. Hopefully we'll find a home for our stories in the publishing world, but in the end, I imagine we'll also be happy writing to satisfy ourselves.

  4. Bravo!
    That's exactly what you should be feeling about your writing. That's exactly what you need to do. Trends change and the publishing world is usually a year and a half to two years ahead of what's out on shelves so "to thine own self be true" INDEED! Bravo, Melissa. Bravo!

  5. Look at all the writers that have endured the test of time. None were "out there". Fads are fads, flavors for just the moment. Be true, write true, always makes for a timeless classic.

  6. I think you are taking the right path. I feel absolutely the same way. If I have a good story to tell, and write it well, I can only hope someone will read it. I do believe many people don't always read edgy--me as one of them!

  7. Here's what I think: I wish there were MORE stories about "normal people that find themselves in less than ordinary situations." Quite honestly, I'm tired of quirky, edgy, gimmicky. They don't hold my interest the way intricacies of real life, family type sagas do. So write on, Melissa!

  8. I'd rather be a classic than a fad any day!

  9. Thanks, all, for such a great discussion!

    Rene - I do remember when chick lit was hot - definitely a fad that has faded. I don't think I ever read a chick lit book, either.

    Damaria - Thanks for stopping by! And thank you for your kind words. Very wise and they boosted my spirits. :-)

    Tess - Yeah, Rene and I were discussing things yesterday and were kind of on the same wavelength. :-) Here's hoping you and I both find someone who will love our stories!

    L.T. - Aw, thanks! I just don't want to be a part of a trend because they never stick around for long. :-)

    Rebecca - Very well said. :-)

    Terri - I don't like to read quirky, either. I usually hardly ever read any of the "fad" fiction out there.

    Joanne - Thank you! I'm so glad you said that.

    Angie - AMEN!

  10. Remember that they SAY they want "quirky", "edgy", "new", but they actually pick things they consider safe. There's a lot of talk about taking chances, but when you look at what's out there, it's a lot of similar stuff.

    So stick to what you do, and, eventually, you'll find the right home for it.

    The book business will continue to lose money until it stops narrowing reader options.

  11. I don't think it is possible to change who you really are. Stay true. It will come to you!

  12. What people are ALWAYS looking for is a story that resonates and characters they can root for. I dan't tell you how many "quirky," "edgy" books I've picked up that I haven't bought because I can't relate to or don't like the characters.

    Your philosophy is bang-on. Ignore the call for flash and quirk and keep doing what you do'll take you the farthest.

  13. Devon - Agreed. I think publishing does need to stop narrowing reader options. Good point.

    Debbie - Thank you!

    Christine - Great point. I've done the same - if a character doesn't move me, I won't keep reading.

  14. Remember, Melissa, it takes up to two years for a book to go from the agent's sale to publishers, to book stand. Things change. Some agents seem to forget that.

  15. Fran, I agree. It's amazing how quickly things change in this industry.


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