Should You Chase Trends or Write the Light Novel You Want?


You’ve decided to write a Light Novel (LN). Maybe you’ve tossed around some ideas or started an outline. But you stop and ask yourself:

  • Will anyone want to read this?
  • Hasn’t this been done a million times?
  • Aren’t people sick of these types of stories?

And other confidence-killing questions that force you to close your word document as quickly as you opened it. Which inevitably lead to further questions:

  • What kind of LN is guaranteed to sell?
  • What sort of LNs are popular right now?
  • What’s the current trend? Isekai? MMO-RPG? Teasing?

You think to yourself, “If I can just mimic the current bestsellers, I’m sure to make at least half as much if not the same.” But can you guarantee that?

You have no idea. Besides, maybe you hate the current trends. There’s no way you could even get yourself to write an Isekai. You’d much rather write the novel you wanted to write in the first place.

And so, you’re forced to ask this all-important question:

Should I chase trends or write the Light Novel I want to write?

You should never chase trends to write your Light Novel. You would have to write and release it within a few months (impossible for most Authors), give the trend a twist no one’s thought of yet (lest you be considered dated), and be chasing trends all the time (which takes time away from writing).

Furthermore, you would never build an audience this way. All of your LNs would be in wildly different genres if you only chased trends. Few readers are going to care about what you put out next because its too different from your previous work.

Don’t chase trends, just write the Light Novel you have in your heart.

And if you believe all that, great, go on and start writing. But if you’re still leery as to whether or not you should chase trends, keep reading.

I’m going to break down exactly why chasing trends is ultimately a waste of time.

Why You Shouldn’t Chase Trends to Write Your Light Novel

Before getting into why chasing trends is a waste, you should know the difference between it and ‘Writing to Market’.

Chasing trends is just that: seeing what’s popular and trying to capitalize on it.

For example, when the Attack on Titan anime first aired, every other subsequent anime for the next year seemed to feature ‘dystopias with giant-sized threats threatening to destroy town’.

Writing to Market (WtM), however, is determining one’s target audience and writing to suit their tastes.

If you are writing a LN, you must WtM. Otaku have very specific tastes and engage in Otaku Media to accommodate them. They expect to see the same story, character, and setting tropes over and over again.

If your LN features a dense Protagonist surrounding by a Tsundere, Childhood Friend, Kouhai, and Loli all in love with him and vying for his attention for no other reason than he was nice to them once, you’re on the right track.

Otaku expect such a LN. Otaku want such a LN. If you try to sell them a LN that reads like an American Hallmark Movie set in a small Texas town on Christmas Eve, you will not sell a single copy.

Anyway, WtM deserves it own article. For now, let’s just focus on the dangers of chasing trends. The first of which is:

Trends Don’t Last and You Can’t Write Fast Enough

By definition, a trend is something gains popularity quickly and tends to fall out of the public’s interest just as fast.

The best example is the ‘Trending’ sidebar on Twitter. Can you remember what was on it a year ago? A month ago? Just a few hours ago? Me neither.

What’s trending is constantly changing. Few topics remain popular for long. An earthquake that kills thousands is quickly forgotten in the face of some celebrity getting butt implants.

Trends in fiction admittedly last much longer than news, but they are no less prone to disappearing in the blink of an eye.

But, let’s say you want your LN to be trendy anyway. Goth girls with large breasts are trending, so you decide to write:

My Big Titty Goth gf Can’t Be This Bipolar!

And you write it in a month (using this guide). Great, but you also have to:

  • Edit it
  • Find and hire an Illustrator
  • Wait for the Illustrations to be done
  • Create digital versions of your LN
  • Publish them to whatever digital storefronts
  • Design and launch marketing campaigns

In short, writing a LN and publishing it are two completely different beasts. The second of which you will have to spend a lot of time taming. Also, those weren’t even all the steps…

And by the time you finally deliver your LN to readers, the trend will have fizzled out. The world will have moved on to mommy gfs and will balk at the idea of ‘another big titty goth gf LN’. Don’t you know nobody reads those anymore?

Chasing trends can only lead you to showing up late to the party. Unless you can magically predict what will be popular beforehand, there’s no way to stay ahead of the trend.

By the time you notice the trend, it will be too late to get your LN out in time to capitalize on it. Besides, you’d have to already be an expert in that trend to be able to write it. Having to do research before writing will put you even further behind.

There are exceptions, of course, but why take the risk at all?

Your time will be much better spent just writing whatever you want. Your LN will be there waiting for readers who don’t follow trends or those that will be looking for something new once they get bored of the current trend.

By the Time You Do It, It’s Already Been Done

Trends follow a predictable life cycle:

  1. Something new and unique or an old concept made new gains popularity, let’s say Cat-girls.
  2. Creators jump on the trend to capitalize on it.
  3. Consumers start getting bored with the ‘vanilla’ concept of just Cat-girls.
  4. Creators ‘up the ante’ and start playing around with the concept (Cat-girls in Space, Cat-girls vs Dog-girls, My Life as a Cat-girl Breeder).
  5. Consumers get bored of those.
  6. Creators go for broke and try to squeeze every last dollar out of the trend (I Got Reincarnated as a Cat-girl, but I’m allergic to Myself, and I’m Broke, and People Keep Trying to Take Me to Pound).
  7. Consumers shake their heads and move on to the next trend.

This happens to every trend, every time, no exceptions. This is why you see so many ‘Reincarnated’ LNs with ridiculous titles and premises. The trend won’t completely die anytime soon, but has definitely reached the final stages of its life cycle.

In chasing a trend, you will be forced to jump somewhere in its life cycle and accommodate your writing to fit it.

You can’t write about just cat-girls when you hear about them. By the time you launch your LN, readers will already be bored of the ‘vanilla’ trend. You’d have no choice but to write your LN as if the trend was already half-dead.

Which can work, but you also can’t guarantee how fast a trend will go through its life cycle. The cycle may be the same every time, but no one can know for sure the amount of time it will take to go through that cycle. Some trends last years, while others only a couple months.

When chasing trends, you have no choice but to keep ‘upping the ante’ and pushing the trend to its limits. You might think of a truly unique idea, but by the time you finish, a million others will be launching similar LNs.

You’re basically forced to jump to the end of a trend’s life cycle and write the most absurd thing you can think of in order to stay ahead of everyone else. But in most cases, readers will already be bored of the trend if you’re having to go that far.

But if you write anything less than ridiculous, you run the risk of being considered dated. Whatever you write, someone else will have already written it, be writing alongside you, or releasing it right after you.

If your LN comes out alongside a hundred others with similar sounding titles or premises, you’re screwed statistically. A miracle might occur and your LN gets popular out of every other one, but why take the risk?

Don’t and just write the LN you want to write.

The More Time You Spend Chasing Trends, The Less You Write

Chasing trends requires a lot of effort. You have to:

  • Know what is trending by staying on top of social media
  • Learn everything about the trend so you can accurately write it
  • Be ready to abandon ship or alter course at any time if the trend starts losing popularity

You must be both hyper aware of what’s going on in the world of LNs and have perfect time management skills in order to capitalize on any trends.

Not that this is difficult per say. You need only hop on whatever social media platform, find the ‘anime section’ and observe. Within an hour (if that), you’ll have seen a million memes and fanart of whatever’s currently trending.

At the time of writing, that would be VTubers. That’s all I ever see everywhere, so a LN about VTubers should be easy to capitalize on. But, again, you’d have to do it quick.

That said, VTubers are probably here to stay seeing as they’ve been around so long, but is it worth chasing that trend? Before investing so much time into such a project, you have to ask:

  • When will their popularity peak?
  • Will people be sick of them by the time you get your book out?
  • Do you actually want to dedicate tons of time to researching the world of VTubers? Do you even like them?
  • Are you prepared to alter your LN at any point in the event the trend takes a sudden turn in a different direction?

There are simply too many variables in chasing a trend. Unless you’re 100% positive you can capitalize on it, there’s no incentive, monetary or otherwise.

And most of all, the time you spend chasing and mastering a trend—a risk that has no guarantee of paying off—could have been spent writing the LN you actually want to write.

If you actually do want to write about VTubers, cool, go ahead. But don’t get so caught up in chasing trends that you don’t write anything at all.

A Trend-Chaser is Faceless and Has Few Faithful Fans

What’s trending can change before you know it. Some trends might last a year or two, but they still don’t last long.

And longevity is what you aim for as a LN Author. Think of all your favorite Creators. Why do you like their work? Because each of their creations is wildly different from the last? No, because its similar to the last.

If you want horror, you find a horror Author. If you want fantasy, you find a fantasy author. Each Author invariably has a label attached to him whether he wants it or not.

But that’s what fans want. When they pick up a LN with your name on it, they should have a vague idea of what’s inside. That familiarity is what creates a long-term fan. And as any restaurant will tell you, regulars are what keeps the business afloat.

Chasing trends will only get you fans that are anything but loyal. Trend followers live for what’s trending. The second your work is no longer ‘popular’, they’ll move on to what is.

If you chase trends, you will be forced to close up shop and start all over again in a new town with each trend you chase. You will never establish an identity as an Author and will remain faceless.

This might get you some quick sales, but the second you fall behind a trend, you’ll find yourself with a lot of wasted time and no money to show for it.

So, instead of remaining faceless, write the novel you want and build a supportive fanbase with it who will buy volume after volume.

Chasing Trends Will Leave You and Your Light Novel Hollow

If you’ve somehow yet to be discouraged, I will now reveal the number one reason not to chase trends:

Unless the trend is something you’re truly interested in, you will not enjoy writing an entire LN about it. You will hate every second of it as you’re driven by the false promise of riches instead of by the love of writing.

And even if you somehow power through and finish the LN, it will be empty. Any reader will be able to tell how disinterested you were when writing it.

A LN you don’t care about will be as hollow as you will be after forcing yourself to write it.

Even if you make some profit, you’ll feed bad about it. Deep in your brain, you’ll know that you could have benefited so much more writing a LN you actually cared about.

You can’t just magically force yourself to start liking your most hated food. If you don’t care about the trend, there’s absolutely no sense in making yourself sick just to create something mediocre.

If you like the trend, then by all means, chase it. But before doing so, ask yourself if doing so would be beneficial to your career as an Author. Does such a LN have a place in my portfolio? Is this what I want readers to associate me with?

You only have so much time to write, so make sure what you’re pursuing is beneficial in the long run. Do you really want to spend so much time on something you don’t have your heart in that might not even result in a profit?

I wouldn’t. So, I just write the novel I want to write. Chasing trends will only leave you out of breath and not much closer to the finish line.

Why Chasing Trends Might Not Be All Bad

Wait. Hold on. Didn’t you just say—

Yes, I did. Chasing trends is a fool’s errand, but that doesn’t mean Authors can’t benefit from observing or making use of them.

Trends are just another tool in an Author’s arsenal. Chasing them would be using them incorrectly, but there are a couple correct uses you might like to know.

You Can Write What You Want and Chase Trends

While Isekai is no longer just a trend and is now its own genre. I would still argue that it possesses the qualities of a trend. There have been so many varieties of Isekai that it is now breaching ridiculous territory, where we have titles like:

  • Buck-Naked in Another World
  • The Hero and His Elf Bride Open a Pizza Parlor in Another World
  • Reborn as a Vending Machine, I Now Wander the Dungeon

With the genre being pushed to its extremes, one has to wonder why it hasn’t died yet, but alas, it is here to stay and makes a perfect example for this point:

You can write the LN you want to write and get some easy exposure by making use of trends.

Isekai as a genre does not have a clear-cut identity. It can be Fantasy, Science Fiction, Romance, whatever, there is only one requirement:

The protagonist(s) must either be transported to a world unfamiliar to him or die and reincarnated into it.

That’s it. The vast majority of these LNs are Fantasies, but there is no hard rule requiring it. So, as you might’ve guessed, anyone can make any story an Isekai by incorporating that key plot device.

All you have to do to join the Isekai trend and attract its enormous fanbase is change your chapter one to fit the Isekai formula. Just have your protagonist get yeeted or reincarnated into the world you already made and you’ll have written an Isekai.

Does that sound cheap? That’s because it is and I despise Isekai because of it. Rare is the Author that even tries to incorporate the protagonist’s past into the story as a whole.

A true Isekai would have the protagonist often reflecting on his past life or how he might return home one day. But most just use it as a cheap plot device to bring in the Isekai fanbase and then write whatever they want without any regard for the protagonist’s history.

If you do this, I beg you, at the very least have your protagonist throw in a couple lines about how different this world is from hers or how she misses her cat. Anything, anything would be better than the majority of cheap Isekai on the market today.

/rant over. Point is, you can use trends in tiny doses throughout your LN if it helps to gain publicity. It may be a cheap trick, but you just need enough exposure to get your name out there. Once you do, you can truly write from your heart without relying on any tricks.

Trends Last Far Longer in the Realm of Otaku Media

Speaking of Isekai, there’s a key difference between trends in fiction as a whole versus the medium of Light Novels.

In the first’s case, trends don’t last beyond a year or two if that. It can go from Vampires to Zombies to Werewolves in a flash.

Conversely, LN trends, like Isekai, last far longer. Isekai have always been around, but it wasn’t until the Re:Zero anime aired in 2016 that the genre exploded. And it has not died down in the past SEVEN YEARS.

As of writing, there are no less than NINE anime airing this season (Spring 2023) that outright have Isekai in the title or feature someone being reincarnated into another world. The trend of Isekai is anything but dead no matter how absurd they get.

This extends to basically every trend in Otaku Media. Some may not be as popular as they once were, but they never fully die.

  • Sword Art Online brought about MMORPG systems in LNs
  • Attack on Titan brought about Godzilla-inspired dystopias
  • Re:Zero spawned a bunch of stories about complete losers getting Isekai’d
  • My Dress-Up Darling spawned a bunch of stories about wimps getting pulled around by popular girls

And so many more trends that were all the rage for a while, but aren’t anymore. But they’re still there and still viable. Such LNs might not take off as a trendy one might, but they’ll still have readers.

Just like in regular fiction where the age of Twilight has come and gone. Yet, there are plenty of readers who adore vampire romance.

What I’m getting at is: even if the trend is dead or about to die, don’t be afraid to write in it. There will always be readers for LNs told from the heart. Even if your chosen topic or genre is considered ‘so last year’, there are plenty of readers who will be happy to read it.

You can easily see this by looking at the Indie Video Game Scene. Half the games created are intended to evoke the old days by using pixel art or antiquated game mechanics.

You shouldn’t chase them, but it can be beneficial to observe trends and learn what worked in the past and what could still be marketable today.

Trends in Otaku Media never truly die, they just go dormant for a while or evolve into something new.

Don’t be afraid if what you want to write is or isn’t trendy. Write from the heart and you’ll have fans.

Why You Should Write the Light Novel You Want to Write

The original inspiration for this article was from a certain scene in the anime Imouto Sae Ireba Ii…

It’s originally a LN series about LN Authors. And skipping the details, there are two Author friends.

One chases trends to the best of his ability and is able to make an income. But he hates every second of the writing process and is ashamed of himself.

The other writes whatever he wants straight from his heart regardless of trends. He is content and makes a far greater income than his trend-chasing friend.

The message there is clear, but it’s a bit heavy handed. A bolder one might’ve been making the Author writing from his heart the failure. But it wouldn’t ring true.

If you chase trends, you can succeed, but not nearly as much if you had just written what you wanted to write in the first place.

Writing from the heart seems like the right thing to do because it is. It doesn’t make any logical sense. Giving readers what they want (what is trending) should be a recipe for success, but it just isn’t.

Readers know if what they’re reading was born from a place of business or from a place of love and creativity. And it is the latter they desire.

Whether you make use of trends or forget about them altogether, just don’t chase them.

Write the Light Novel you want to write and you’ll that much closer to success.

Azuma

Hey, my name's Azuma. I first dove deep into Otaku culture in 2010 and never quite grew out of it. After a million different anime, light novels, manga, and visual novels, I learned a lot about each art form. Knowledge I want to share with you from writing advice to drawing tips. I'm also the Author of two light novels series, Garden of PSI and On Creating the Ultimate Weapon. Happy creating!

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