Friday, November 19, 2010

What?! A Real Post About Writing?!

Larson 2010 016small You guys, I’m so lucky because today I get to have my friend Sara B. Larson guest post. Not only is she a freaking awesome human being, but she’s a talented writer with serious know-how and experience. AND I know it won’t be long before she sells her book, so. yeah. I’ll be one of the super ones who can say she was on my blog before she’s too busy on her world book tour to guest post any more.


Plus, this means I don’t have to write up a post for today. Score!

Check out what she has to say about writing to trends.

Writing to Trends

by Sara B. larson

You hear it all the time, what the next “BIG” trend is going to be. What you should be writing RIGHT NOW if you want to get a publishing deal. I see aspiring authors scrambling to drop their WIP about fallen angels to work on something about mermaids (because ‘you-know-who’ mentioned that’s what she was thinking about working on next), then drops the mermaid WIP, to go back to a dystopian they had shelved a year ago. Why? Because dystopian got hot again! Oh man, it’s enough to give anyone a massive migraine.

So, should you pay attention to the trends—should you tailor your writing to what’s “hot?” Or should you write what speaks to you, focus on the story that you truly love?

I can’t tell you for sure, but here’s my opinion (for what it’s worth, which may be nothing). You have to write the story you love or you may never land an agent and sell your book.

Harsh? Maybe. True? Usually. When you aren’t writing what you love, it shows. Or to put it the other way: when you are writing about characters you adore, and a plot that makes you breathless with anticipation of the words yet to come, that’s when you will do your best work. And it will show.

Besides, unless you have an “in” with editors and agents who can tell you what the publishing houses are looking for right now, you will most likely be behind the trends anyway. What’s on the shelves was the ‘hot ticket’ well over a year ago in the agenting/submissions world. And even if something is considered “done,” no sub-genre in YA is ever truly full. There is always room for something else if it is unique in some way and well-written.

Case in point: I have a friend who wrote a story because she had an amazing idea that reached out and grabbed her. Many people were saying dystopian was over, that the market was saturated, that no one would want it. When I read it though, I knew she had something special on her hands. When she started querying her book, a few agents even told her that dystopian was over. Not many though – most of them were fighting to represent her. She wrote something she loved, it showed, and she landed an agent and a deal very quickly. Wanna know who I’m talking about? Have you heard of a book called… MATCHED?

Write what you love and others will love it, too. Unless you want to write about a six-eyed octopus who transforms into a man on the new moon and falls in love with a half-faerie, half-cyclops who has some real self-esteem issues. In that case, you may want to take a look at the trends.


Now meet Sara, aka Sweetness (that’s my name for her, but feel free to borrow it).


Sara B. Larson

I have been writing since I was in second grade, and have the notebooks full of misspelled stories to prove it. Over the intervening years, my love of writing has grown even stronger, and luckily my spelling has improved as well. I almost got a “marketable degree” as a nurse at BYU, but turned back to writing when that didn’t work out. I live in Utah with my husband, two young sons, and a Maltese named Charlie. I've learned to write during naptime and the hours when most people are sleeping. When I'm not writing, getting shot with nerf guns, or tripping over soccer balls, I can be found wakeboarding at the lake, hiking in the mountains, cooking, or working out at the gym. If all else fails, you can probably find me hiding in a bubble bath with a book and some Swedish Fish. I am represented by the fabulous Hannah Brown Gordon at Foundry Literary + Media.

Be sure to check out Sara’s blog!

Thanks so much for guest posting, Sara!

*runs off to go hide moon-man faerie-clops romantic comedy*


  1. I certainly didn't write for a trend. At the time I was working on my book, everything I read said science fiction was dying. I wrote it anyway and it was published last month.

  2. You forgot to mention that she has amazing style! I mean look at that necklace, those jeans, that jacket!

    Seriously though, this is great advice. I can't imagine writing to try to follow trends, because I don't really give a damn about being a bestseller, I just want to tell MY stories, but even if I did this would still be great advice. Because there really is just no way you can get a novel from first draft to the bookstore shelf in time to catch a trend. You have to MAKE the trends (which happens to be my plan anyway).

    Thanks so much ladies, wonderful post.

  3. Great advice. Our goal should be to create the trends, and that can only happen if we're writing something we love--and which isn't following a current trend.

    I still love angels though. Angel dudes are way hotter than vampires or zombies. ;)

  4. Sara, great post and wonderful advice. It was great to get to know you better. So inspirational.

  5. Well hell, since I'm writing a vampire urban fantasy, we all know *I'm* not following a trend. Don't ask me why I'm writing for an utterly saturated market. It's just the idea that hit me, all right? Sheesh!

    Um...wait. This shouldn't be all about me, should it? No. I guess not. So, um...lovely post, good lady! Lovely host(ess), good lady!

    I'll, uh, show myself out.


    *realizes "exeunt" is plural*

    *doesn't care*

    *exeunts again*

  6. Thank you so much for having me Carol! And thank you everyone for your kind comments. :)

    I should add (or point out), that as I said, if what you love is a "trend," or "hot," or "done," -- if it's what you TRULY want to write, you should do it. Just try and think of a new twist, or something unique in your story that sets it apart.

    Thanks again for having me Carol!! YOU are the sweetest one, hands down.

  7. Great post Sara! I'm working on a YA dystopian novel right now and I had no idea that was a trend when I started it - it's just something I've always loved.

  8. You are BOTH sweet.

    And, I agree with this advice.

    I'd totally read a story about a six-eyed octopus who transforms into a man on the new moon and falls in love with a half-faerie, half-cyclops who has some real self-esteem issues.
    Throw in a ninja zombie alien...maybe a half mermaid, half unicorn and you totes have a best seller.

    Happy weekend, ladies.

  9. Great interview! Sara does seem very sweet!
    I agree about not writing to trends. You want to write what you are passionate about whatever subject it is.

  10. +JMJ+

    As a reader, I appreciate this post. I love YA and MG, but there are so many new releases that I never try because they seem to have been written to a formula. Like the publishers took note of what sells and hired a writer to throw a series together. Maybe that wasn't what actually happened, but the packaging of the books as the lastest "hot" thing certainly seems that way. And so I just put them back on the shelves.

    What I'm trying to avoid the kind of artificially-flavoured fun that I associate with Nancy Drew and Sweet Valley Twins. They're great when you're a kid gobbling everything up, but are these the books we really love for the rest of our lives? (Why do I have a feeling someone will soon comment to declare undying love for Nancy and Elizabeth and Jessica Wakefield? LOL!)

    This big boom in YA has made me more appreciative of "old school" YA authors of the 70s and 80s. They seem less packaged and polished--probably because the market they were writing for didn't have much clout in those pre-Harry Potter days. And I like that feel to them.

    Which isn't to say that I don't enjoy today's YA and MG, because I do read quite a few new releases. I've really just become more cautious. (And I suppose now is the time to mention that, for some authors, "writing what they love" means putting every last personal delusion on the page, no matter how vapid or shallow? But I'm not naming names!)

    Great guest post! =D

  11. Hi Carolina. *pronouncing the "i" with two e's* I love Sara and her post was sooo true and very well done. It was nice to meet you and your blog and by the way, I do have my shoes off. Have a great Friday.

  12. I think it is always clear when you are writing what you love, vs what you think will sell...and what a great example of how writing what you love DOES sell!

  13. Love the advice! I am all for writing what you love. Sara sounds amazing. (Oh, and kids are begging, but I haven't bought the Nerf guns because I KNOW that would be me!)

  14. What a great post. Thank you so much for the advice. Sara seems like such a lovely person. Thanks x

  15. Could not agree more. I write the story of the characters that refuse to leave me alone--whatever that story might be. And so far, none of those stories have been "on trend" and yet I still got an agent. So it can happen. Whether one of my books will sell someday is anyone's guess. But either way, they were the story I needed to tell.

    Thanks for sharing!

  16. Excellent advice! And absolutely true. :-)

  17. Thanks for such a fun take on good advice!!! I truly think that it's best to be true to yourself and write what you love to write about and not try to fit into what you think might sell! Take care

  18. Trends.

    Don't get me started.

    Great getting to know more about Sara. :)

  19. we feel when an author writes a trend basis, instead of a real interest in the topic, because the story seems flat, like an advertisement ... Well sorry, it's a little hard of me, but I think it's a pity and not a gift to the reader!

  20. pretty awesome advice, if you write what you love then even if it doesn't get published you've still got something to be very proud of

  21. Great points. Enjoyed your article. I just write what I want to and hope some one likes it. :)

  22. I say START the new trend. If you write to trends, you'll never be happy (unless that's the story in your heart). Such a great blog post, but no surprise because Sara is amazing and always has GREAT advice. Glad I followed her here, love your blog, Carolina!!

  23. Great advice Sara, lovely to get to know you better. Thanks to you too, Carolina :)


  24. I have to agree with Sweetness about the
    "unique in some way and well-written"
    To me as a reader, the genre narrows down my choices in a huge sea of books which will swallow me whole if I'm not carefull... but what "makes" or "breaks" a book to me is the story telling quality... it might be about dragons and magic but told in a flatter than a pancake way... then I don't think I would be reading it no matter how much a dragon and magic lover I might be...

  25. Aw, I love Sara! Great post, and so so true :)

  26. Hey, Sara! I myself have never been into trends. I like to write stuff that outlives trends instead. I like to lead, not follow.

    If I don't love the story and the story's purpose then I don't waste any effort writing it. Time is too precious to spend on anything I'm not passionate about because if I'm not passionate about it then the reader won't be passionate either. So I definitely agree with you there.

    Carol, great job scoring a good guest poster!


  27. Checked out the book. It DOES look sinfully interesting. *sigh* You do realise that you're the reason I break my "Thou shalt not buy any more books 'til you read those you already have 'cause you always end up broke" oath right?

  28. In complete agreement. If you write something that you think may be popular, just because you see marketing potential but you HATE the genre, subject, characters, etc it will come out artificial and uninspiring. Worse yet, how will you sell something you don't love? How will you inhabit this world for months (years) if you are indifferent to it?

    Carolina, I read in your bio that you are half Ecuadorian? I am from there, too!!!!!!


  29. What a fantastic post, and such solid advice. You have to write what you love, because anything else and it shows! Trends come and go, but you passion won't.

  30. Sara's advice is so true! If the writer loves their work and has put their heart and soul into it, it'll show and attract readers regardless of whether the topic is hot or not.

  31. Great post Sara. This is something I firmly believe in. And anyway, if it's good writing, it is ALWAYS trendy :D

    Thanks for having her over, Carolina.

  32. That was an awesome post Sara, but I've come to expect nothing else. I'm not much of a trend guy, but I can see how some writers might feel compelled to navigate through fast moving waters.


Make your comment stand out. Use bold words. Or italics. Whatever.