Are Trends Really a Novelist’s Friends?

Will hashtags help or hurt Too Much Information?

When I first decided to focus on submitting novels, I assumed that trends were my friends. With all the #MSWL listings asking for them, I tried to write using strong female voices; because they dominated Young Adult fiction, I tried to create paranormal characters. By the time I had written revision after revision, though, I found that agents were already looking for LGBQ voices instead, and that the teenage obsession with friendly monsters had given way to the Dystopias that had probably always lived inside them. In other words, writing to trends was as often harmful to my chances as it might have been helpful.

KatnissVsBella

Katniss made us forget Bella, but neither are trending now.

How do we judge, then, whether something trendy will serve to enhance an agency query or just give it a shelf life? By the time my editor, Matthew Bird, gave me the tools I needed to craft my sixth revision of Too Much Information, the novel already had plenty of trends in it. It features a teenage girl, after all, who awakens from a coma able to see that everyone around her is a ‘Bully’ or a ‘Misogynist’ or a ‘Murderer,’ just by looking in their eyes. The novel is a murder mystery, but about a super-power that Jessica feels is a curse. It has girl-power. It has wacky sidekicks. It has threats from the darkest corners of our real-life fears, and teenage protagonists learning to face them.

It was about to get a whole lot trendier, though: some say too trendy.

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Duck-Face for the Deceased

There have been a few losses, lately, around my life and community. Trusted mentors and benefactors have passed away: some peacefully and some painfully, and one even in a light plane crash. Some had lived a longer life than statistics would predict. Others were far too young to go.

DuckFace

Not the best face for expressing sympathy

Still, they all had one thing in common: the overwhelming response on Facebook.

Yes, profile photos taken to impress friends and attract mates scrolled past the bereaved by the dozen, offering peace-signs and fiesta filters and memories of drunken nights out. More than a fair few were even making Duck-Face while expressing their sympathies. Some called it a fitting tribute. Others called it an outpouring of genuine grief. I call it a disgrace.

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