One of the most popular questions I heard people ask agents when I went to a conference back in May was about trends-- were the agents still looking for this trend or that trend, what trends were over, what trends were predicted to be next. Many writers want to write stories we love that will also fit into the marketplace, and knowing trends can help with that.
Unfortunately, the thing about trends is that they're not something we can control.
Trends are determined primarily by readers, and then by publishers trying to flood the market with what readers seem to want. It's possible to predict that because readers want dystopian, they may want science fiction next because they're related, but who knows. Maybe somebody will write an amazing book about a schizophrenic teenage elf, and readers will go nuts looking for more fantasy with mental health themes.
The advice professionals give out about trends and writing for them is usually the same: don't write for the trends, because by the time you hear about it, publisher's lists are most likely full of it. Just write the best book you can, one that you completely love, and if it's amazing, it'll find a home.
The thing about trends and hitting them or missing them is that it's almost purely based on luck. James Dashner mentioned at that same conference in May that when The Maze Runner was being published, it was around the time when The Hunger Games was getting popular. His publishers were excited to have another dystopian/post-apocalyptic story, because the market was primed for it. He was lucky, he said.
I've been thinking about trends a lot because I'm currently querying a dystopian novel. I wrote it before I knew much about the trend, but I'm not quite as lucky as James Dashner. While the trend is picking up in the reader's market, publishers have dystopians planned on their lists for the next few years. This doesn't mean I have no chance. I love this book, and I think it's pretty darn good-- otherwise I wouldn't have the courage to query it.
Here's the thing about trends though-- and about selling your writing in general. It's all about preference. It's about other people and what they like and what they're sick of and what tickles their fancy on a Wednesday at two p.m. when they read your query or pick up your book. And you really have no control over that.
What you do have control over is writing something that YOU love, which is why that's the standard advice from agents about trends. The other thing you have control over? Studying and applying writing craft and a hefty dollop of imagination to make your book amazing. Because everybody prefers amazing.
So, my friends, what are your thoughts on trends and writing?