Sunday, September 11, 2011

Missing the Boat

Recently, I realized how many "boat" phrases appear in our (American) vernacular.

"Whatever floats your boat."     "I'm on a boat!"     "We're in the same boat."

"Don't rock the boat."     "Just off the boat."

But for a YA writer, the idiom "missing the boat" is probably the one that is most relevant.  As we're typing out our first, second, fourth, tenth draft of our novel, we're watching the shelves, the publishing mags, and the blogs with a slightly paranoid eye.  When you've yet to be published, your book yet to be "out there," there is this sometimes feverish need to get it done so that you don't "miss the boat" in terms of book genre trends.

Many unpublished writers have heard the advice from their forerunners not to write for current trends, because by the time your book makes it into the hands of readers, that trend will likely be long past.  And it was probably frustrating for all those with vampire novels in the works, whether in the early or late stages of publishing, to see Twilight take off like it did, creating a hurricane of trend that swept up their work with all the rest.

But what is a writer to do when their current project's genre hasn't trended yet?

My friend and critique partner, Meg from Myth-illogical, is writing a YA novel surrounding, well, myths, specifically of the Greek variety.  So when she and I started seeing all these Greek myth oriented books appearing on blogs, well, I freaked a little bit.  I had to know exactly what each of these books was about because I didn't want the ship to sail on Meg's type of story without Meg being on the boat!

And you know what books I'm talking about, don't you?



And the honorable mentions (because they were out before the trend):


But there is one key difference between all of these YA novels and their respective series and the one Meg is writing...and I'm not going to tell you what it is.  I'll let you discover what it is yourself when it gets published.  ^_^  

(Just so you know, the first book - because it is going to be the first in a series - is quite awesome and I love it.  Hence the overprotective book-stalking of those shown above.)

But because of this key difference, Meg has not missed the boat.  Yet.  She is working diligently to finish her book.  But she's not the only one feeling the paranoia of "missing the boat."

Yep, me too.

But, as far as I can tell, I haven't missed the boat yet either.  My current project has a magical base, but unless there is a giant trend in contemporary novels and a huge backlash against anything with magical/paranormal/supernatural themes, I should be okay.  But I still have to wonder where my book will fit in if (when, WHEN) it gets published.

Judging by what has appeared in recent years, my novel may share some similar situations/themes/settings as these books:

Let's call them 1, 2, and 3, for simplicity's sake.  Based on reviews/summaries of 1 and 3, and my own reading of 2, my main character is similar to the MC in 3, in that she has a magical heritage but does not do magic.  My MC's view of magic is more like that of the MC from 1, but the magic itself is more like that in 2.  The setting is also like 2, and so is the series arc of "something bad is going on in this world that needs to be stopped."  And 2 also has some mean girl/betrayal things that are similar to mine.

There is romance (though I don't know which of these mine is most like in that aspect) and mine has tragedy similar to 1.  Family dynamics are probably most like 3.  But my story is not urban fantasy like 3, and there are no fey or creatures - part human or otherwise - in my story, like 1 and 2.  And I'm pretty sure mine is twisty in a few ways that is not like any of these.

So, though my story has elements of each of these novels, in its entirety, mine is pretty different from each of them, and each of these books are also very different from each other.  This gives me hope.  Magic is a subject that is pretty much always there in YA, but because it is so variable from book to book, it is hard to define magic as a trend, especially when things like vampire, werewolf, fey, and angel novels are easier to recognize and lump together.

And though I know without a doubt that more YA books containing and revolving around magic are going to be published before mine ever will, I can't count my novel out yet.  I think I will literally keep pushing at it until I see at least ten published books so like mine that it is uncanny.  I'm going to keep writing, all the while hoping that I finish before I see that boat in the harbor, about to set sail without me for the ever-changing waters of the Sea of Trends.

What about you?  Do trends affect how/what you write?
Have you "missed the boat" or are you ahead of the game?

Let me know what you think in the comments!


  1. Shalena, this is such a poignant post. I am really influenced not only by what's popular but by the genre of every single book I read! At the moment I'm stuck in The Girl in the Steel Corset and I'm itching to write a steampunk novel. I can see exactly what you're freaking out about though. If I did start a steampunk novel, by the time I could finish it, the years of possible querying and all the rest the trend will be well and truly over. I guess the good part is that, much like fashion, trends come and go. A good books will shine regardless of what else is popular. At least, that's what I keep telling myself.

  2. Lan: Thank you! And you write that steampunk! I completely agree that the trends will return and that a good book will make it despite the trends. Steampunk is by no means oversaturating the shelves (I think it is a fairly niche sub-genre so it has a dedicated readership but isn't quite widely popular yet) so you are probably safe for a while, lol. Just keep writing no matter what! ^_^

  3. Yeah, we talked about this the other day.
    Every time I hear of something new being published with the Greek myth theme, I cringe and rush to find a rundown of what it's about. So far so good.

    I have yet to see anything that reminds me of your WIP yet, either.

    All we really can do is just type faster and try to ignore the boat until we're ready for it -- and we can always build our own boat, I suppose. ;)


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