Authoress posted this morning about writing the story that is inside of you–regardless of what is going on in the market. Specifically, she recounts that her dream project, a dystopian, was simply the book that was meant to be, and she wasn’t paying attention to YA market trends when she wrote it. And the book hasn’t sold and she’s shelving it. And after the first dystopian, she wrote *another* one–knowing she’d have to shelve that too. She argues that you should write what you love, not what can sell.
On many levels, I agree. Writing should be an organic process–you shouldn’t have to force an idea, and the projects that are closest to our hearts often come more naturally, and the love shows on the page.
But I am a pragmatic person by nature, and I do care about market trends. And they do affect my writing choices. Like everyone and their mother, I, too, have nursed a dystopian YA story. Of course I realized part way through writing it that it was really a post-Apocalyptic dystopian mash-up, but the lesson stands: my book was not going to stand out among the thousands and thousands of other YA dystopians being queried and/or pitched to editors. Of course I felt like it was Different, and in many ways it was. I know my writing is solid and can speak for itself. But strong writing is far more likely to stand out in a non-tired genre. Dystopian is currently in a market lull; it’s not getting bought. To write it is to accept a high statistical likelihood of failure. The same goes for paranormal romance, and in a few years, it will likely be the case of sci-fi (if it’s not already; eep!).
This doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t write the stories that are close to our hearts, that we are burning to write. But it might mean that the pragmatic choice is to reach outside our comfort zone and explore other options. At the least, write the dead-genre book and then write something else that is totally different. Give yourself options. Because it’s wonderful to write the things that we love, but most of us are striving to write stories that will be sold to publishers, bound into beautiful books and shared with the public. We write not just because we love to write, but because we love to share.
For non-agented/non-book-deal-having wannabe writers, such as myself, I think a bit of pragmatism goes a long way. You can write your dream books until the cows come home when you are a big name author whose work will sell to publishers regardless of market trends. But when you are striving to get your foot in the door, you have to reach a little, and play smart. Agents cannot in good faith take on books they can’t sell–it’s not fair to you or them. So write something that has a shot!
Back to my anecdata: I scrapped my dystopian (partly b/c it had a big world build hiccup) and moved onto my current project. It’s in a currently-hot-hope-it’s-not-over-before-I’m-done genre, but more importantly, I’m writing something that I haven’t seen before, that has become the book of my heart. I do think we can push ourselves to write something that isn’t currently crazy-popular, and still be true to ourselves and find an organic writing process. I think it will save a lot of heartbreak in the end if one is realistic about market trends. You never know–your dead-genre book may defy all the odds, get a deal and be the next big thing. Or, you may be able to shelve your dead-genre book and sell it later. In fact, I’m all for not completely abandoning ideas just because of market trends — trends are a cycle, and things usually come back around. But personally, I’d rather invest my energy in the projects that have the highest likelihood of success, and standing out in a clogged market.