Tuesday, January 26, 2010

DON'T WRITE THAT

(Special thanks to Chuck Sambuchino of Writer's Digest for letting me guest post on their blog today! And thank you to everyone who has written such kind notes about it.)

Across the vast and glorious interwebs, aspiring writers can find all sorts of information and advice on what to write. We can track trends, see what's selling, read opinions on what will never, ever sell, what has sold too much, what the next big thing it, so on and so forth. And while this information is interesting (take Alexandra Bracken's [a debut novelist who also works in publishing] intriguing recent post on trends she's seen), I'm not sure how much you should worry about it.

Then again, you know what? I'm going to give you a definitive guideline of WHAT NOT TO WRITE.

No one in YA buys books from boy's POV.


And if you were to tell me that you wanted to write a book set in WW2 Germany, focused on Germans, with Death as the narrator who tells us from the very beginning what's going to happen?

HA! That'll never work.

And don't even think about trying to write a book with vampires, faeries, or werewolves. The market is saturated and there's not room for anything else.

So yes. Clearly there are FOOL PROOF formulas for success out there.

Oh, who are we kidding? No one really knows what the next trend is going to be, or what trend is dead or too saturated. So here is my advice, for what it's worth: write the book you want to write. Write it how you want to write it. Don't chase trends or try to make your book "the next [fill in the blank wildly popular novel here]." There is no single idea out there that is a guaranteed sell. I've talked about this before, but I firmly believe what will sell is a) your work and b) your voice.

If you're trying to force a novel that fits into a hot trend (and by the way, I hear that forbidden romances between leprechauns and yetis are the next big thing, but you didn't hear it here), it probably won't have that special something that a story you come up with on your own and are passionate about will.

So here's to being original, regardless of whether original means a new way of looking at a popular subject or coming up with an entirely new type of novel. Trends have to start somewhere, right?

Now if you'll excuse me, I've got a hot, hot yeti-leprechaun kissing scene to write. "Just bend down a wee bit! I can't reach yer great fuzzy lips!" "Rrrrnnnrrrrowwwlll." "Yes, love, ye have me heart, too!"

43 comments:

Natalie Whipple said...

Ah, trends. I'm very excited for the leprechauns. They never get the attention they deserve.

Mireyah Wolfe said...

AHHH, you stole my idea!!! I was totally gonna write a story about a Leprechaun and a Yeti falling in love! *pouts*

Alex Bracken said...

Yep, yep, and yep! What makes PARANORMALCY special isn't that it uses x paranormal creature, or y, or z, but you used them in a way that was very unique and special. I get on my little soap box and say that a certain trend is dead, but there are always exceptions.

Focus on your writing, and write the story you love--not the one you think will sell!

Kiersten White said...

Sorry, girls, I'm OWNING the leprechaun trend!

Alex--Exactly : ) But your post really was interesting. So many things I never would have thought of popping up as trends. Strange collective-unconscious things going on, I suppose.

Paul Greci said...

So true!! Write what moves you, go with the idea that grabs you around the throat and won't let go.

Caroline Starr Rose said...

Great article at Chuck's. Let's hear it for the slush!

I'm going through my own mini-sub crisis. The manuscript first out the door is my historical novel-in-verse. Not exactly the easiest sell. Trends trend all over the place, leaving my little read in the dust. I just have to hope someone will connect with it, but it's hard when I see all the big and flashy titles out there.

Linda G. said...

So very, very true. And by the time you could write a leprechaun/yeti romance, that trend would be so yesterday. Which is why I'm going to write a bigfoot/gnome romance instead. Just to put my own mark on it.

emrowan said...

Just read your article at Chuck's blog. Loved your line: "I am a no-name, nobody stay-at-home mom - just another woman with a useless English degree, two babies, and a desperate need to do something, anything, to prove that my brain isn’t leaking out while I spend years of my changing diapers and chasing toddlers."

I feel exactly the same way! And I can't wait to read PARANORMALCY!

Andrea Cremer said...

You are very wise.

Kiersten White said...

But I am not a Jedi yet!

Sorry. Been doing the Star Wars conversation generator too much lately.

maybe genius said...

Steampunk robot cowboys made of gold battling against time-traveling terrorist terriers from another dimension. Gonna be huge, I'm telling you. Watch it happen.

A.B. Fenner said...

emrowan, you wrote my comment! Exactly as I was going to write it! Are you my evil twin?!

Kiersten White said...

A.B., emrowan, SURPRISE! You actually ARE twins! Just another service of Kiersten Writes--reuniting long lost siblings ; )

(And thanks for your comments, guys, and especially thanks for being excited about Paranormalcy!)

Elana Johnson said...

Excellent post! I saw yours over at GLA too - congrats!

Jonathon Arntson said...

Write what I wanna write? Are you sure? Okay, thanks!

emrowan said...

A.B.--Yes. I am evil. And apparently your twin! Thanks for the service, Kiersten! :-)

E.M.

Amanda J. said...

HA! You're hilarious. I love it. :)

Tere Kirkland said...

Fun post, and thanks for the link! It's always interesting to hear what people in the industry think about trends.

Merry Monteleone said...

You have no idea how timely this post is for me. Thanks for the kick in the pants, now I've got to get back to the WIP :-)

Nisa said...

Oh my goodness, that was a fun post to read! You definitely have a way with words!

writtenwyrdd said...

Thanks for saying that loud and proud, Kiersten. I've always thought it was better to write what I wanted to read than what I thought publishers wanted to buy for the same reasons you state.

But it's good to hear that from someone who knows a bit more about the process than I do.

Tamika: said...

I'm reading The Book Thief now!

Abby Stevens said...

Hmmm, my book actually IS about Celtic mythology. It hasn't really been 'done' yet in the way I'm doing it, but I didn't pick it for that... I picked it because it 'spoke' to me. :-)

Chantal said...

Thanks for the inspiration over on the GLA blog. And yes, you are so right about just ignoring all the naysayers out there and writing the book you want to write.

Cammie said...

Thank you for this post! I don't even know what GENRE my novel fits into yet (YA, women's, historical?) All I know is that I have to write it the way I feel it, as opposed to getting hung up on the market.

Renee Collins said...

Kiersten, are you trying to tell me to go ahead and novelize my mummy love story?

Because I will.

And it will rock.

(Congrats on the Writer's Digest post. Very cool!)

Kayeleen said...

It's nice to have the reminder that what I am doing is something only I can contribute. No one else has my voice. No one else has my way of looking at the world. Maybe it will resonate with someone else, but it's enough that it resonates with me.

Kerrie said...

Great reminder about just write the story your meant to write and your last sentences, "Just bend down a wee bit! I can't reach yer great fuzzy lips!" "Rrrrnnnrrrrowwwlll." "Yes, love, ye have me heart, too!" LOL funny! Thanks for the laugh.

Dominique said...

Oh my goodness, there Needs to be a leprechaun trend, because that would just be the completely fabulous. I would definitely buy books about leprechauns.

Anywho, great guest post.

Originality is the new black.

Patricia Stoltey said...

Yeti. I don't know why I didn't think of that. LOL

Great advice, Kiersten!

Marsha Sigman said...

"Just bend down a wee bit! I can't reach yer great fuzzy lips!"

I'm totally quoting this...a lot.

Tina said...

Hi, I came here from Chuck Sambuchino. Congrats on your success! I'm in the query stage right now, so your story is very encouraging to me!
http://www.thecleanwhitepage.com

Krissi Dallas said...

Well-stated. And, um, am I the only one couldn't take my eyes off the beauty that is Paranormalcy's cover? Wow. Groundbreaking stuff right there. :) LOL. Truly, though, I can't wait to see the cover for it...

twaddleoranything said...

Heehee! Great advice, entertainingly delivered!

Jessie Oliveros said...

Awesome post, except that whole blank spot for Paranormalcy cover. I think Hot Stuff should definitely create another cover to entertain until we can see the real one.

Kristi Faith said...

Can't wait to see the tweet from an agent in the future... "Uhm, yetis and leprechauns?!?!? :0)

Great post...I've never been a trendfollower (ask any girl I've ever been friends with, trend clueless here) So, I'll have to try to start one soon! :0)

Josephine Tale Peddler said...

So true. I honestly believe you have to write from the heart and gut and not think about the market place. My main beef is how wrong publishers, agents, etc can get it! I really hate all the books that flood the market after the trend has peaked. xx

Kiersten White said...

I don't know, Josephine, I think those books sell for a reason--because they are selling. Even a trend that is past its peak will still sell, and in the end publishers are a business. For example, most of us might think, Are you kidding me? Another vampire romance series?? Because we're tired of them. But clearly there's still an audience that is eating--or rather sucking?--them up. The market is a funny, funny thing. And it's very sad and frustrating when good books are passed up because they don't have a spot in that market (yet), but I'm a firm believer that talent and hard work trumps all.

What's interesting is that my first book on sub didn't sell, and I've noticed a huge crop of books coming out this year with a similar theme/feel. Obviously mine didn't stand out enough at the time in what was (unbeknownst to me) a future trend.

Ah, sales. Mysterious, befuddling, wonderful sales.

Whirlochre said...

Phew — thanks for saving Bigfoot & O Rafferty from the shredder...

Valerie said...

This is such a great post and so true. I linked to it in my blog about inspiration and encouragement today, I hope you don't mind. It's here: http://valeriekwrites.blogspot.com/2010/01/inspiration.html

EA Hirsch said...

Fun post! I've never really gotten into chasing trends, literary or otherwise. Though I do have to admit, the current upswing in YA has prompted me to read more YA. And reading more YA has prompted me to write YA, because I enjoy it so much.
Does that make me a trend chaser? Or someone discovering a new (to me) genre?
I'll err with the latter.
Oh, and I am waiting with bated breath for that sizzling romance! But how about throwing in a unicorn for a kinky love triangle? I think you could totally work that shtick.

Chuck said...

You have learned much, young one.

You'll find I'm full of surprises.

Whoops - more Star Wars ... anyway, your column rocked the house, Kiersten. Thanks.

Chuck
www.guidetoliteraryagents.com/blog

Donna Gambale said...

I very much enjoyed this post til I got to the end.

Now if you'll excuse me, I've got a hot, hot yeti-leprechaun kissing scene to write. "Just bend down a wee bit! I can't reach yer great fuzzy lips!" "Rrrrnnnrrrrowwwlll." "Yes, love, ye have me heart, too!"

And then I loved it. Hilarious.