Wednesday, October 5, 2011

To Trend or Not to Trend

Before you read this, I should remind you that I write and read mostly YA, so most of my comments aren’t as relevant to adult literature. And, I should also mention that I tend to stick with SFF (Science Fiction/Fantasy) books, though not exclusively, so some of these comments are genre related and as always, my opinions alone.

My first novel, The Partizans, is about sixteen year old transfer student who Hannah Slaughtery never imagined her future would involve fighting against monsters she doesn’t believe in with people she’s not even sure she likes.

But when she and four other students attend a retreat at Piaculum Academy, they discover they’re the next generation of Partizans, a band of supernatural warriors dating back to the dawn of man. Each must decide how much of themselves they are willing to sacrifice as they stand against the Formorians, a ruthless and tyrannical empire of demons who have been wiping out the Partizan lines for generations in order to make way for their own ascension.

As Hannah struggles to comprehend her legacy, she is distracted by the unexplainable, yet undeniable connection she feels toward Finn, another Partizan, who is obviously hiding something from her.

Mentored by Garrett, a First Crusade era Catholic priest turned vampire, Hannah begins her metaphysical transformation to become a witch, knowing only one thing for sure: the carefree days of her youth have come to a screeching halt.

I loved writing this book and I still have hope that it will see the inside of a publishing house. But I happened to start writing this shortly after Breaking Dawn came out and the slew of YA vampire books that followed. I wasn’t writing to a trend. I was honestly writing a book that I wanted to read. But as I began to submit to agents, I was constantly getting the vibe that, as soon as they saw the words “YA Paranormal”, their eyes either rolled or glazed over . I did get a few awesome agents who asked for fulls and partials, which made me feel good, but it got me to thinking about trends and how to be the trendsetter instead of the trend follower.
Case in point: Fallen angel books. They are everywhere. Some are great. Some, eh, but what they have in common is that I can find any number of them in the book rack of our local Wal-mart. (It’s the closest thing my town has to a book store.) But how did those first fallen angel books get written? How did the writers start the trend?

Were they struck with brilliance? Did someone whisper to them in their sleep that there is a small aspect of their favorite genre that needs exploiting? I don’t have an answer. I really want to know. Because if I’m going to write what I like, which is another piece of advice you garner at writer’s conference and on blogs, then I’m going to be writing a lot of supernatural creature books. How do you train yourself, as a writer, to see beyond what you know?
I know this blog post is filled with more unanswered questions than I would normally post, but it’s something that has been on my mind lately, and listening to the Robert Frost inspired song by Sydney Forest, Road Not Taken hasn’t helped.

For those of you who are thinking about taking the literary road less traveled, BE PASSIONATE about it! And feel free to share a little wisdom with the rest of us!


  1. I relate, as my novel ideas always seem to be treading between two genres. I say write what you love and obsess over, and the passion will come through.

  2. I agree with Catherine. But to answer your question, I think that trends come from a certain zeitgeist in the culture - a cultural trend that you kind of pick up like radio waves. It's just there. These moments ebb and flow and produce not just genres but all kinds of trends. Being plugged into the world means that you're aware of them - this is good! But you have to write what moves you. Even if thrillers are the "new thing" what I write is essentially Speculative Fiction. While that's broad, it doesn't really involve thrillers! So I won't be writing one of those.

    The best thing is to perfect your craft and your storytelling. Then you can decide which branch of the writing tree you want to explore! :)

  3. I've been thinking about this a lot lately. I can't help but analyze my WIP based on popular genres that line the YA shelves. If it's not a popular genre will agents and readers ignore it? Maybe. I'll probably write it anyway (while keeping my fingers crossed the entire time).