Monday, April 19, 2010

Writing to Trends

You've heard the advice before, but it's worth repeating. Especially because this time I'm not talking about content, I'm talking about how the book is written.

DON'T FOLLOW TRENDS JUST BECAUSE THEY ARE TRENDS!

Last week during our chat session, I asked my teacher if I would be better off rewriting my story in 3rd because the majority of middle grade books are written in 3rd. That was her answer above, in all caps.

"I'm not shouting," she said. "Just being adamant."

We had been talking about playing around with our stories, trying different things. And in truth, I had tried writing my story in 3rd person before, but it didn't feel right.

"I strongly discourage you from making major decisions like that based on something like what is popular," she added. "Each story has its own ideal way to be told, and the story will tell you what it is."

So keep this in mind as you write. Following a trend isn't just about writing vampire stories or not. It's about the way that you tell your story as well. Just because Wimpy Kid made Jeff Kinney a millionaire doesn't mean you should write a story with stick figures littered throughout. And just because 3rd person is the norm for middle grade, doesn't mean I'll be automatically rejected for writing in 1st.

At least I hope not! I'll keep you posted :)

27 comments:

Tess said...

hooray..I get to be first here today :D (small pleasures,I know ... it's like being first in line or something, anyway..I'm digressing...)

yes! we need to listen to that inner voice and follow what it tells us. that is the only way our work will be truly reflective. now, if someone gives a suggestion and our inner voice says "hmmm...that's a good point", then we can make those changes.

Mary McDonald said...

Good point. If you tried writing your story in third and it wasn't feeling right, then you should buck the trend and go with what actually works.

Bish Denham said...

Trends come and go. Pooh and Dr. Seuss will live forever.

Candyland said...

Do what feels right TO YOU!

Piedmont Writer said...

Great great post! And so very true. If we all followed trends we'd all be bored to tears.

Lori W. said...

The trend I fall into? One. Word. Sentences. Or rather fragments. Love them. But. They. Do. Not. Equal. Voice. Appreciate your twist on this "writing for trends" idea. I'm finally realizing I can't do my favorite authors' styles, only my own.

Carolyn V. said...

I totally agree! Don't follow the trends! Besides they are always looking for the next best tread anyways.

Solvang Sherrie said...

Tess: Hooray!! :) Good point about listening to our inner voice.

Mary: Yeah, I guess I'll be my own trendsetter!

Bish: Funny that you mention Pooh. I just found the Tao of Pooh at my parents house yesterday, a leftover from my college philosophy class. Yay for the forever in vogue Pooh!

Candy: Sometimes it just gets scary when what's right for me isn't where everybody else is at...

Anne: Maybe that's why breakout novels are often the opposite of what everybody's reading at the time?

Lori: I totally resemble that one! And it's a huge trend right now in children's lit.

Carolyn: So true. And there's no telling what will be hot by the time your book comes out!

Shannon O'Donnell said...

So true, Sherrie. It's an important reminder to follow our own hearts and ideas. :-)

Elana Johnson said...

Excellent advice, and I would've said it in caps too.

Anne R. Allen said...

I've always believed in not following trends. That's why it pained me to read Penny Sansivieri's article in the Huffington Post last week, on "Why Authors Fail."

Her #1 reason was: not knowing the hot and fading trends!

So what do we do? I write funny, but zombie-free, fiction for women. A few years ago my books were rejected as being too cerebral to fit with the hot trend, "chick lit," and now they're rejected for belonging to the fading trend, "chick lit."

Unfortunately, a lot of what I see in bookstores seems cookie-cutter and derivative. So somebody's following trends, and they're getting published.

But I'm not going to write "David Copperfield and Zombies," I swear. Or "William Howard Taft, Vampire Hunter." Although I'll bet whoever does will make more money than me.

Lydia Kang said...

You can't write what you don't want to write. Right?

Angie said...

That's a great point. Thanks.

Kelly said...

Sherrie, that is so interesting as I was wondering if I should change my ms's point of view too. I read a bunch of mg books over spring break and the majority was in third person...
But I'm keeping it the way it is!

Tamara Hart Heiner said...

amen! amen amen! I couldn't write a trend if I tried. My ideas are so different. I get angry actually when I realize what I thought was creative is following a trend! (I'll admit to being wrong when I refused to read Harry Potter b/c it was a trend...I gave in with the fourth book and was quite happy I did!)

Elaine AM Smith said...

How else are you going to be the next big trend? ;)

Rebecca said...

Besides, trends tend to whip on by too fast for me to follow them!

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

I'm always behind the trend or don't run fast enough to catch it, anyway. The most important thing is to write the story you need to tell, the one no one else has told, and I bet that's what you're doing. ;)

Rena said...

Great post, Sherrie!

Roland D. Yeomans said...

Never try a writing method that puts a barrier between you and what feels right for you to do. Your muse will dry up if you do, Roland

Carrie Harris said...

Gosh, yes. You should put this WHOLE ENTRY in caps. ;)

Stephanie Faris said...

Actually, I've had the opposite dilemma. I keep thinking about rewriting a couple of my mss. in first person because I keep reading middle grade books set in first person. You and I are obviously reading different books! I have some books in first person, some in third...it depends on the book. Sometimes you need a little distance from your characters. My middle grade about a young girl who becomes a superstar is in third person...it just felt like the reader would connect more reading it as third person. But when it's something more easily relatable, I like first person.

Solvang Sherrie said...

Shannon: You're right...it's always best to follow our hearts.

Elana: Then I know it's good advice!

Anne: That article kind sounds kind of scary. And from what I've heard, chick lit's always in demand so you're in a good genre!

Lydia: I couldn't agree more!

Angie: You are very welcome :)

Kelly: We'll be at the forefront of our own trend!!

Tamara: You and me both. By the time I figure out it's a trend it's already over. And HP -- that was a phenomenon like no other, with good writing too!

Elaine: We can only hope. Wouldn't that be lovely to end up being the trendsetter?!

Rebecca: I couldn't agree more.

Tricia: I hope I am! Fingers crossed...

Rena: Thanks!

Roland: We do not want a dry muse. That would be a very bad thing!

Carrie: Ha! You might be right!

Stephanie: We're going to have to trade reading lists :)

PJ Hoover said...

Trends are so interesting. And just when we think one is on its way out, it makes a comeback.
Keep writing in whatever POV is best!

T. Anne said...

So my current WIP about dystopian vampires is out. ;) It's hard not to follow trends. I'll admit to thinking long and hard about this. In the end I always seem to write general fiction. I've touched based with other genre's and I really love trade off with YA every couple WIPS, but no real trends in my writing as to date.

Suzanne Casamento said...

So true. You have to write what you know is right. Whatever POV it is!

Lisa and Laura said...

SOLID advice. But it's so tempting sometimes, isn't it?

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