Children’s writers: Why not to follow trends
Following trends leads to cramped writing.
When I first started writing for children, I went into Waterstones and studied the shelves. I thought that if I got to know the type of books that were doing well, then I’d be able to join in. But when I tried to write a story along the lines of the best sellers, my story came out forced, and frankly awful. The story wasn’t true to me. Had I not gone out to find what type of stories were trending, I would never have even considered writing this type of book. To make your story shine, you need to write what comes naturally to you. Writing an authentic novel can only come from writing the story that you want to write, for the story’s sake, not for the market.
Following trends won’t make your book stand out from the slush pile.
In case you don’t know what the slush pile is, it’s the pile of manuscript submissions by unknown or unrepresented authors, that arrives on the desks of agents and publishers. Slush piles can be more like towers, as agents can get up to 300 submissions per week. They don’t have the time to study each submission in detail, so to get your book noticed in that toppling tower, it needs to stand out.
If the market is saturated with a certain type of book at a certain time (thinking back over recent years, for e.g. some big teenage book trends that spring to mind include dystopian, vampires and werewolves, dying or ill teenagers), then you can be sure that agents and publishers are getting a daily influx of submissions of these types of books. If you write to follow the trend, chances are the agent or publisher’s eyes will skim over you submission thinking “Oh, another one”. In order to be noticed in the slush pile, you want your story to shout, “I’m different, take a closer at me!”
By the time your book is ready for print, the trend will be gone.
Publishing takes time. From when you get taken on by an agent to when you get a publishing deal to when your book hits shelves, it could take years. If your book is written for a current trend, by the time your book comes out, the trend will have passed. Publishers know this, and usually won’t be interested in taking on a book that they know will be outdated by the time it’s ready for print.
Kids deserve diversity
Adults don’t tend to read the same story over and over, so why would you expect kids and teenagers to? Admittedly, I know children do often re-read the same book, but that’s not the same as only reading books where the same thing happens. Reading is a way for children to open their eyes to the world, to experience life and emotions. In order for kids to gain the most from reading, they need to be given the chance to experience diversity in stories and characters.
We pick different books based on what stage we are at in life, what we are feeling, what we need to escape from or to. By giving children a wide range of choice when it comes to books, we are giving them the gift to pick the story that will help them, support them or simply please them at that stage. But if every writer wrote the same stories, then we would be taking away that gift.
So forget about trends and discover the story that’s true to you. People remember original stories, not carbon copies. You’ll enjoy the writing process so much more when you write for yourself, and not for the market trends.
Flourish & Blogs is a blog all about writing for children. It's run by Olivia Hope and Niamh Garvey. Olivia Hope is a children’s writer from Killarney, Co. Kerry. She was once a hammer thrower, Sometimes a teacher of all subjects; from English to ice-cream making, And has worked in a variety scenarios, from nurseries (plants and children, although not at the same time, unless you count the daffodil incident) to nursing homes. She is unreasonably fond of cheese, French Fancies and is prone to cartwheels. She writes for all ages, and her picturebook “Be Wild” will be published by Bloomsbury. Follow her on Twitter @OliviaMHope Niamh Garvey loves everything to do with children’s books; from reading them, to writing them, and even to smelling them. Except for really boring books… she doesn’t even smell those. She writes stories for children and young adults, plus poetry for adults. She wrote the storyboard for the childrens storybook app “A Raindrop’s Tale” published by Gramercy Consultants on iTunes. She is working towards her dream of getting a novel published. Niamh is a full-time mum and a part-time nurse, living in Cork. She thinks stories are the best way to discover the world, and possibly the only place children should be encouraged to get lost in. Follow Niamh on twitter @msniamhgarvey or on her blog niamhgarvey.com