Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Editor's Wish List Item Speaks Volumes

While browsing publishing news this afternoon, I came across an editor's comments to a group of writers about the types of manuscripts she's hoping to acquire. Here's an item on her wish list:

"I'm looking for a book that will become a cultural phenomenon."

This has really stuck in my craw.

What are writers supposed to do with that? Should you take your current story and cultural-phenomenon-ize it up? Should you scrap something you are excited about writing to spend the next few months deconstructing the content and structure of (and public reaction to) all the HarryPotterGoosebumpsLemonySnicketBabysittersClubLordoftheRings–type works you can lay hands on . . . and then set to the business of creating something that somehow captures the same-yet-totally-different magic found in all of them in a similar-yet-not-obviously-derivative way?

I mean, really.

I can understand harboring a secret wish to acquire the next cultural phenomenon, or daydreaming a little about writing it. But scanning submissions or writing with that kind of a goal in mind is a lot like trying to create a fairytale existence in the real world. You can't force it.

Perhaps what bugs me the most is that I've seen/heard that same wish so many times before. It's not going anywhere. That it's so pervasive contributes to the chew-em-up-and-spit-em out nature of the business. And the quality of literature suffers.

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