I read an illuminating post yesterday at the informative blog Bookends on writing to market trends. I think at some point or another, many of us do this, whether it's a conscious effort or not. And if you look through the comments on the thread, you see that amongst those of us who spend our time pitching pennies in the word-well, a discussion about writing to a hot market often becomes a discussion of selling out one's art.
I had a crisis of self reflection on this particular topic. Once. For about half an afternoon. It happened back when I was in graduate school (when the pompous pheromones were hot and heavy) and I was operating under the impression that everyone in the program spent every waking moment on the next Of Mice and Men.
Then I got over it and wrote a creepy little short story about some rude frat boys meeting up with misfortune on the Oregon back roads. It came in the form of a mutant deer that had ingested hazardous waste and developed a taste for blood.
What can I say? The heart wants what the heart wants.
Chuck Palahniuk points out (accurately) on his website that you need to write the book you want to read. For those of us in the horror field, that advice opens up a wealth of opportunities.
You have your alien invasion opus.
You have your ghosts and haunted houses.
You have your occult.
You have your slashers and psychos.
These are four of an endless number of dark avenues that horror fiction can take. And then sometimes you just need to write the occasional zombie western. Or the mutant time travel piece. Whatever strikes your fancy.
Two responses in the comments section of the blog post mentioned above lamented a dearth of quality sci-fi romance in the marketplace. They are both writing in that genre. I think that's a pretty telling factor in whether or not the marketplace will be receptive to your work. Hit your libraries and visit your B & M bookstores. Pay attention to who is publishing what you write (this will come in handy when the agent looks for a market comparison for the proposal)! Look for series regularity (there's not much in straight-ahead horror).
All of these observations should become elements of your creative process if you hope to have a career as a writer. It's the writer that can balance an acute knowledge of the marketplace, his or her responsibilities to loved ones and day jobs, the platform of self-promotion and short-story submissions and the daily grind of composition itself that stands the best chance of breaking through to the ranks of "published."
So here's the question: What genre(s) are you guys writing in? What compels you to put in your time--market trends or the story that's burning a hole in your brain (or, for the lucky ones, the combination of the two)?