Tuesday, May 29, 2012

No-No’s in YA fiction

There is so much YA fiction out there right now that it’s not particularly surprising that agents and publishers and even readers are sick of seeing certain trends. One of the most obvious is of course sexy vampires. It’s been done to death, pun intended, and agents are prone to gag and throw the work out the window if they see it come across their desk.

This reaction makes a lot of sense. In order to sell something, you need to have a fresh, exciting and new product. Otherwise, what’s going to convince people to pick up your book in particular when everything around it looks exactly the same?

I get this, I really do. But here’s the problem. My book is full of current YA no-no’s. To the brim. Let me show you some examples. Please don’t get mad at me.

List of no-no’s for YA stories that I completely ignored and threw into my novel;

1-      Parallel worlds / Portal fantasy.
            This has been done, and done well (think Narnia) so most people are sick to death of seeing it. Also, a lot of writers start with a portal fantasy, which means that agents and publishers tend to see poorly constructed and amateur manuscripts of this type cross their desk regularly. See so many of them, and eventually the words “Portal Fantasy” are automatically associated with badness.

2-      Fantasy
            On the same lines, Fantasy is done done done. See that huge section of the bookstore with “Sci-Fi and Fantasy” written above it? Yeah, there’s where the fantasy stories belong right now. YA apparently has no room for this kind of story, especially things that are considered “high fantasy” (think Lord of the Rings). While I understand there is a full genre for these kind of books already, and most are geared toward a younger crowd anyway, I still find this the most frustrating no-no. Tamora Pierce was my favorite writer as a child, and I hated that there was nothing else similar to her at the time. While this has shifted significantly, I still see a barrier where fantasy is meant for boys, and they like the adult section just fine, while paranormal fantasy is for girls and they can find their sexy demons in YA.

3-      Magic
            Thanks a lot, Harry Potter. You might have opened up YA fantasy and helped to bring out some of the best books I’ve ever read, but you completely ruined magic for the rest of us. No one’s going to match your success, though many have tried, and most agents can’t be bothered with it anymore. They see magic and it’s an instant ‘yawn.’

4-      Paranormal romance
            Yeah, I get it, sexy vampires are so over. Way too much out there, just look at the shelves, yadda yadda yadda. But that doesn’t mean that it can’t still be done in really fun and exciting ways. Such as, maybe the guy isn’t a vampire who’s trying to be with the one he loves while fighting an uncontrollable urge to kill her. What if it’s a werewolf, or demon, or... yeah, okay I see the point. Overdone and completely predictable. I am properly ashamed.

5-      Retellings of fairytales
            Alright, this one is a bit of a stretch for my story, but the original idea was loosely based off a fairy tale. I also get why this is being frowned at right now, just look at what’s out there. Two Snow White movies in one year, Once Upon a Time (TV), Grim (TV), Cinder (book), Beastly (movie/book), Red (movie/book), and the list could go on forever. This is made even worse when you think about the fact that the story has already been done to death for hundreds of picture books before these writers take the idea and make it their own. Still, I for one could stand to see a couple more.

Does this mean I should print off a copy of my book just so I can crumple it up and eat it while crying about the fact that I’ll never do anything interesting or creative? Well, maybe, but I’m not going to. I love my book. I don’t write for trends, which also means I don’t write to avoid trends either. I write the stories that are in my head, and sometimes they work, and sometimes they don’t.

Maybe this book won’t interest any agents or publishers, but that’s not my ultimate goal, and I hope it never is. I am my audience, and my only hope is that there are some other people out there that enjoy what I do as much as me.


  1. Hey I always say if you love your book, keep at it. Your passion will show through to agents/publishers/readers. It will. :) Good luck!!

    1. Thanks so much, Rachel. I feel the same way, though I've yet to be proven right. Haha.