On Bandwagons, and the Jumping Thereon

After my last post, someone said to me – in a friendly way – that they were surprised to see me jumping on the dystopian bandwagon and wasn’t that kind of over already anyway?

Me being myself, my first thought was Hmm, I wonder what a dystopian bandwagon would look like? Would the wheels be falling off? What would they be made of? Where would it be going and would you need a ticket to ride?

Me still being myself, my second thought was Actually, where does that idiom come from, anyway? [For those interested, Theodore Roosevelt, apparently]

Finally, I laughed. Because the thing is – writing-wise, I’m completely incapable of jumping on any moving vehicle. On any moving anything, actually. Including, probably, snails.

It’s not only that I’m a slow writer, although that’s certainly true. It’s also that I’m a slow percolator of ideas. I find that I can’t push them. Even if I’m really taken by an idea, I can’t simply decide to sit down and write it there and then; there’s a kind of critical mass of fragments that needs to accumulate around something before I can even think about shaping it into a story.

For A Single Stone, my notes indicate that the very beginnings of the idea came to me in 2007. Fragments gathered over the next few years in the cracks of other projects, and in 2010, I started thinking I might have something worth following.

In February 2011, my editor was here in Perth for a festival and we met for coffee. At some point, I mentioned this vague idea to her. By then, The Hunger Games had been out for a couple of years, and the shelves were starting to fill with dystopians of all kinds.

Her eyes lit up. “Ooh,” she said. “Do you have a dystopian?”

“Not yet,” I said. “But I will by the end of the year.”

To be honest, I was a little cranky that dystopians had become such a big thing suddenly, precisely because it might seem like I was bandwagoning, rather than writing out of genuine interest in an idea, and one which had been developing so slowly over time.

At the same time, I recognised the value of possibly maybe publishing something that the current market was eager for. Somehow, accidentally, I would be a zeitgeist catcher! This must surely be a good thing. I resolved that I would crack on and get the manuscript written in six months. Maybe even aim to publish in 2012. How little I knew myself.

In December 2013, I submitted my first (submittable) draft to my editor. In the interim, the flow of dystopians had proceeded apace. Bandwagoners, every last one of them.

By now, I was philosophical. I had missed the wave. By the time this book came out, the zeitgeist would be firmly elsewhere, and dystopians would be so last year.

I’m not sure if that’s true. With A Single Stone coming out in May this year, I don’t know if I should be paddling like mad to try and catch the end of the wave, stumbling after the retreating bandwagon calling, “Wait up, guys! I’m coming, too.”

Actually, yes I do. I’ve done enough bodysurfing in my time to know how that kind of frenzied last-minute paddling turns out. And there aren’t any shoulds (there so rarely are). There’s just this book, which took as long as it took to find its shape, and which I’m really proud of – even if the brass band is long gone, even if all I can do at this point is grab a tiny triangle and make a single, solitary dinggg!

6 thoughts on “On Bandwagons, and the Jumping Thereon

  1. mirkabreen

    “…the dystopian bandwagon and wasn’t that kind of over already ” —
    Do they mean the way picture books were no longer selling, and no one buys chapter books today, and fantasy is “out”?
    Every one of the above was superficial market-talk, loudly repeated just before another writer proved it wrong.

    The only thing to worry about is not to fall off the wagon, be it dystopian, utopian, or whatever, and ride that one all the way. You did it. Cheers!


    1. Meg McKinlay Post author

      Ha. I was told ten years ago that the GST had killed picture books here in Australia and it was a waste of time trying to get one published now. Categorical statements like that are fundamentally silly [she says, categorically]. I’m glad the stories in my head shout louder than the noise from the market.


  2. Pingback: Shifty Shades of Grey | Meg McKinlay

  3. Nadia

    First of all I would like to say excellent blog!
    I had a quick question which I’d like to ask if you do not mind.
    I was curious to find out how you center yourself and clear your head prior to
    writing. I’ve had difficulty clearing my mind in getting
    my thoughts out. I do take pleasure in writing but it just seems like the first 10 to 15 minutes are generally wasted
    simply just trying to figure out how to begin. Any suggestions or hints?



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