Trends. You see them everywhere you go. By definition a trend is " the current style" and/or anything that is "in vogue". So basically, what's IN at the moment is the trend for the week, the month, or the year.
For example, the trend of long hair. Or maybe short hair. Clothes have lots of trends: colorful, patterned, one color only, long sleeves, short sleeves, wide pants or narrow. Cars have trends: from really big SUVs to medium sized family cars, to small and eco-friendly speedy ones.
What we as writers care most about, however, are the trends in children's publishing. What type of books are being published?
If you haven't seen the article by Elizabeth Bird in School Library Journal's January 2016 issue titled "What’s Trending? What Is, What Was, What’s Soon to Be in Kid Lit", you should.
You can take a peek here: http://www.slj.com/2016/01/industry-news/whats-trending-what-is-what-was-whats-soon-to-be-in-kid-lit/
As you will see, Elizabeth gives a fantastic wrap-up of the trends of 2015 with a "crystal ball"-like look into 2016. She offers her opinions on trends that might happen in 2016 and more importantly for us writers, trends she'd like to see. It's a great summation and prediction of things to come.
The thing is, if you are a writer, what do you DO with this information? Should you write to a trend?
If you've gone to any writing conferences or followed writing blogs, you have heard everyone from editors to agents to other authors say: DON'T write to the trends.
You are to : Come up with your own ideas
Stay true to the topics that are near and dear to your hearts
Write what you know
While I whole-heartedly agree with these ideas, I also wonder if they are totally realistic. I mean, why not write to a trend? What if your trend-following manuscript happened to be the one that caused you to break into the business? It's certainly possible.
If you plan to write to a trend, the key is to get in on the upswing.
How do you do that?
Watch blogs (like Fuse #8) and others for past trends and predictions of future ones. You will want your manuscript to fit into the "future" list, not really the "past" trend list. You have to figure that it may take 1-2 years for your manuscript to be accepted, edited, and published so a trend you see now -- particularly a past one-- may not still be 'in vogue' at that time.
If you decide to follow a trend, find one that fits you, your writing, and most importantly the voice that you have in your head-- "your narrator". If the trend you are trying to follow is completely different from what you are writing or your voice or even a topic you aren't interested in, then don't try it. Anything that is forced will read that way to the editor or agent and they will pass on it.
Take a current trend and flip it on its side. Think outside the box. Take a trend, like say the Evil Hummingbirds section in the Fuse #8 post and make the animal something completely unexpected. A whale. A sloth. A seahorse. Something unexpected and yet totally works for your story. Need ideas? Look no further than the "weirdo" trends Elizabeth has listed in her post. I bet no one could have predicted those trends this year. In other words -- START YOUR OWN TREND.
The best way to use a list of trends, or even to look through the amazing award winners just recently announced, is to see what has been successful and to apply that to your own writing. Get ideas from what is out there. Don't steal them, of course. But read widely and if you can spot a trend and it fits you GO FOR IT!
You never know. Maybe your book will be the next one that is "in vogue".
Jennifer is the award- winning author of over twenty nonfiction and fiction books. Her books include BRAIN GAMES by National Geographic Kids (2015) , Forces and Motion by Nomad Press (2016) , and SUPER GEAR: Nanotechnology and Sports Team Up by Charlesbridge Publishing (2016). She is an instructor at the Children's Book Academy and a two-time workshop presenter at the Highlights Foundation. She is now proudly represented by agent Clelia Gore of Martin Literary Management .
You can find Jennifer at www.JenniferSwansonBooks.com
One of the best things about homeschooling is that I get to teach my kids how to write! But I have a hard time understanding my reluctant writers. How can they stare at a blank page for SO long without filling it with wonderful words? But we’ve all been there. Sometimes it’s hard to get the words on the page. Here are 3 strategies that I use for my kids and myself when we’re struggling to write.
2. Write Stream of Consciousness. Sometimes when we write what we are thinking, and let go of worrying about the perfect word combination, we come up with the most wonderful combination of words....or not. I give my kids permission to write: “I don’t know what to write” over and over again if they want to and somehow, that’s never happened. Even if that does happen, there are words on the page.
And if all else fails, watch this chicken video. It's a well known fact at our house that chickens inspire ideas. What helps you overcome writer’s block?
Kirsti Call is a homeschooling mom of five. Her debut picture book, The Raindrop Who Couldn't Fall, came out December 2013 with Character Publishing. Her family band, Calling Out, plays songs written by her children. She contributes to Writer's Rumpus, and Kids are Writers. If you visit her house, you’ll likely find her watching her backyard chickens or writing, of course. You can find out more about her at www.kirsticall.com.
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