Timing isn’t everything

The more I go to writing conferences and readings and other literary events, the more I come to expect the same questions from the audience.  One of the most common is something along the lines of: “How do I figure out what the next big trend is and write a book in that genre?”

It’s a perfectly valid question. YA and middle grade fiction — and other types of writing too — seem to be published in thematic waves. Harry Potter kicked off a wave of fantasy. When fantasy grew up a little, it became the paranormal romance of the Twilight books. Then we got dystopian blockbusters like The Hunger Games and Divergent. And now? I would say contemporary is in: John Green (The Fault in Our Stars) and Sarah Dessen come to mind.

But you know what? Sarah Dessen and John Green and J.K. Rowling and all the rest didn’t time the market. They spent years writing and revising (and revising some more). And those books were finished when they were finished. And maybe they got a little lucky, too, but when you put in the hard work it takes to write a book, you’re making your own luck to some extent.

And here’s the other thing. These people write what they do because that’s what they love. And it shows. As Dessen has said, “I couldn’t be in a better place for me and my voice.” Spending years writing in a genre you don’t love in order to time the market is a fool’s errand. You might not only be wrong, but also hate the whole process.

And if you’re going to be a writer, one thing’s for sure: You’d better love what you write.

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