First, regular commenter Victoria Caswell (aka aspiring_x), who won my book Life, Liberty, and Pursuit in the newsletter contest, posted a tremendously sweet review over at her blog Hairnet and Hopes. Thanks, Vic!!
Some of the best ideas for posts come from commenters and followers. Yesterday, a Facebook friend asked if I thought her MG story idea was overdone or fresh for the market.
How I wish I knew the answer to that question!
Seriously, I think we all want to know (or at least should be asking) is my story marketable?*
*Unless you’re writing just for your own pleasure, which is infinitely cool, and in which case the market is YOU and you have no one to please but yourself.
Lacking an answer, I told her how I “research the market.” Basically I read, see what’s on the shelves, and mine TV Tropes for all it’s worth.
There’s no substitute for reading in your genre. But it’s also impossible to read every faery book (if you’re thinking of writing one) or robot book (if you want to write one of those) or every realistic MG fiction book. Or even the most popular ones. There just isn’t time.
This is where TV Tropes is your friend. In spite of the name, TV Tropes isn’t all about television. It gives hilarious and insightful and incredibly thorough reviews of all kinds of story tropes across media (movies, books, games, TV). My friend Adam Heine has the definitive post on TV Tropes, so I won’t try to duplicate.
Before you wade into the depths of TV Tropes, it’s important to know the difference between tropes and cliches, which TV Tropes helpfully points out on the front page:
Tropes are devices and conventions that a writer can reasonably rely on as being present in the audience members’ minds and expectations. On the whole, tropes are not clichés. The word clichéd means “stereotyped and trite.” In other words, dull and uninteresting. We are not looking for dull and uninteresting entries. We are here to recognize tropes and play with them, not to make fun of them.
I use TV Tropes to explore the basic story idea of my novel, but also the underlying themes. Sometimes I know the theme vaguely, around the edges, and then I stumble across Romanticism vs. Enlightenment and viola! The theme becomes more clear in my mind. Or perhaps I need a quick refresher on the difference between androids and cyborgs (or some other ridiculously human robot). Yanno, just cuz.
As long as you don’t get lost in the TV Tropes wilderness, you will emerge with a better understanding of what fiction went before you and which giant’s shoulders you are standing on – which almost guarantees you’ll write something more fresh and marketable.
Or you could just get lost in the Periodic Table of Storytelling:
How much do you research before you pull the trigger and say “Yes!” to a storyline?
p.s. UPDATE: This post from Mandy Hubbard on trends in YA/MG may be helpful as well!