Thursday, August 8, 2013

August Theme: HOT TOPICS by John Claude Bemis

Too many stores for young readers seem only to have been published simply to capitalize on a trend that’s suddenly become hot.  You see this in particular in the every-trendy teen world of Young Adult novels.  After Twilight, you couldn’t turn around in a Barnes and Noble without knocking over a display of vampire, zombie, or assorted other paranormal romance novels.  The Hunger Games unleashed a torrent of dystopian knock-offs, all riffing on the tried and true love triangle along with a flaming emblem-cover for good measure.  Most recently, alien-and-space ship sci-fi seems to be dominating the YA section.  With love triangles of course.  In the case of the newest hot commodity The 5th Wave, a love triangle that includes a hot alien.

Middle-grade is not immune to trends.  After the Wimpy Kid books, there was a rash of doodle-filled diary-style series that took off.  Percy Jackson’s success brought forth any number of myth and legend-based fantasy adventure books.  How many schools for witches and wizards rose up after Harry Potter?  You needed Hermione’s time turner just to keep up.

The best books whether for Middle-Grade or Young Adult readers are the ones that don’t follow trends.  The books that are timeless.  The books that become classics because they are unparalleled anywhere else on the bookshelves.

Too many aspiring authors are desperate to figure out what trend is next.  Too many published authors too!  Writers shouldn’t look to the market to figure out what book to write.  They should look in their own imaginations.  They should look to their own artistic and storytelling sensibilities.

Likewise if a writer is inspired to pursue a story idea that builds on yesterday’s hot trend, they shouldn’t quit on that idea just because it seems like the market no longer wants those books.  Look no further than Holly Black’s newest novel The Coldest Girl In Cold Town, a vampire story no less.  Every editor and agent has been saying for years, “No more vampire stories!”  However if you write a story that is original and strong, it doesn’t matter whether it fits into a passé trend or not. 

In other words: don’t let the market tell you what to write.  Thrust down that urge to capitalize on what’s hot.  Write the book you want to read.  Write the book that only you would write.  Do it well enough and you might just be the writer who starts the next hot trend.

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