Who? What? Where? How?
Given you have an excellent idea, and you are all ready to get started, ask yourself?
Who is your audience? Who is going to read your book?
There are almost as many possibilities as there are ideas.
(Warning: Please note that none of the guidelines I mention below are set in stone. I can always find a text which negates any rule I mention in this blog. The only thing is: you need to know these rules before you can break them.)
If you think you have a story that will suit 8 to 18 year old readers, forget it. You haven’t really given enough thought as to your audience. Even if you read this story aloud to a number of people, and they love it, it’s probably because they are charmed by your personality, intonation and gestures. But not because any publisher will accept it. You have to be more specific.
So here are a few guidelines that might be helpful. Of course you mightn’t agree with them. You don’t have to. What I write in my blog is totally idiosyncratic. But I have been coaching emerging writers for nearly 20 years, so I kind of know what I am talking about.
1. Boardbooks which have few or no words. These are aimed at babies and toddlers and forms their first reading experiences. It is a child’s first introduction to the delights of story, whether it be presented as hard copy or digital. Currently, many are turning up as apps on ipads and toddlers seem to manage this technology quite brilliantly. I think there will be a constant demand as ipads become even more popular.
2. Story picture books.
These can be aimed at new readers. The more complex are intended to be stories read aloud by an adult.
Story picture books can also appeal to older children if the topic and issues are relevant. My ‘Lame Duck Protest’ is being used as a text to discuss environmental issues by middle graders. Graphic novels can be included in the genre and these can be aimed at newer readers or young adults. The illustrations are as important in telling the story as the words. If you have an idea for a story picture book, unless you are a proven illustrator yourself, don’t give it to your friend or partner to illustrate unless that person is also a professional creator. Publishers prefer to choose their own artists. Most story picture books hang in at 600 to 800 words.
3. Short fiction/ junior novels,early chapter books.
These are often put out by educational publishers aimed at very new readers and sold in schools. Mostly these pieces are short, often no more than a 1000 words, sometimes less. The ideas, words must be simple, the sentences short and easy to read. Repetition is good. There are lists of words considered suitable that can be found on the net.
Becoming slightly more sophisticated are early chapter books. They are regarded as aimed at 7 to 9 year olds. But that definition means ‘reading age’ not actual age. As a book becomes longer and a little more complex, so does the story line and sometimes another thread or subplot can be woven into it.
4. Middle grade fiction/non fiction
This is the audience that are great readers, particularly if we can catch them before the worst of pubescence sets in. Middle grade fiction can cover just about any topic – apart from the obvious stuff you wouldn’t want your daughter or son to read. Sometimes we divide middle grade fiction into aiming at 8 to 10 year olds. The more complex a novel becomes, then 10 to 13 or 13YO. Length is usually well over 20 thousand and can reach as much as 50 though that is getting a bit long. Given length, many sub plots can be introduced.
5. Young Adult fiction/nonfiction
Again I see divisions in the genre. Many adults enjoy reading YA (think Harry Potter) because they tend to be paced very well, they definitely have a plot, and most of the padding that occurs in adult fiction has been avoided. (Do I sound nasty about some adult fiction? Three cheers for the return of the novella.) There are YA novels aimed at 13 YO readers, and YA novels I regard as ‘crossovers’ into adult fiction. There are YA ‘voices’ that would be definitely considered as adult fiction apart from the age of the protagonist.
This outline is rough, but I hope it is helpful.
In my next blog I will discuss WHAT!