In my last blog I talked about WHO you are aiming your story at. I gave some definitive reading levels, adding that you mightn’t agree with these but you should be aware of them before you throw them out.
So today’s blog will concentrate on WHAT? What will you write about for your various reading audiences.
Story Picture Books:
Unfortunately, many emerging authors believe that the shorter the text, the easier it will be to write. Let me assure you that story picture book texts are most difficult of all. Picture a Japanese haiku that has to make sense to a small child and you have it in one. Too many grandparents think s story on what life was like when they were young will make a good SPB. Sometimes it does. But mostly these should be kept for the family, and not sent to publishers presently overwhelmed with too many on this theme.
So what is suitable? Quite a lot. Story picture books have been written on almost every topic, including ‘Let the Celebrations Begin’, which is about the Holocaust. I guess that beautiful book could be useful if trying to explain what happened to lost relatives, but I’m not sure how relevant it is to other children. So it’s a case of thinking who is going to be listening and reading your story.
Your object is to keep vocabulary simple, sentences short, and not include other threads in what should be no more than a 600 to 800 words. Then it’s a matter of coming up with something that will appeal to both small children and the parent/adult. Stories can be frightening, providing all is resolved at the end. I suggest you wander into your local bookshop/library and see what is being published. That should give you a pretty good idea of what is deemed as acceptable.
Junior and Upper Primary fiction:
This is where you get kids reading or turn them off. Middle Grade/Upper Primary fiction is definitely my personal favorite as this is when kids tend to become great readers, and happy to anything that keeps them glued to the page. Too much introspection can turn them off. Plots can be complex but beware confusion. Keep things logical.
Junior novels can introduce secondary threads to the story. Upper primary novels can be quite complex using adult issues and themes, but you need to remember that these readers are still prepubescent so take it easy with the sexual references. Instead remember: FOOD IS THE CHILDREN’S SEX. I have a lot of fun with food and use it as a symbol for what is happening. eg When a child is hungry, it can reflect other deprivations.
In eSide, when Sam and Melanie meet the Seal People they only eat fish, when the encounter the Dog People they only eat meat, in the Country of Tropical, they are fed river fish and fruit, and in the labyrinth, they are given a memorable afternoon tea.
Here, anything goes. Any subject from the most serious, to just fun. And yes, these readers are interested in sex. But no erotica please. What defines YA these days seems to be that the protagonists are mostly young, though not always. I am working on a novel where there are 2 voices, and one is middle age. Di Bate’s latest novel ‘The Girl in the Basement’ uses a middle aged voice as well a young one. Again, I am sending you to your library/ kindle/ iPad/ bookshop. (this reading level enjoys reading on screen)
Enough for now. Good writing everyone.