Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Writing with Specific Readers in Mind

I have realized that writing with  specific readers in mind makes  it easy for us to write. I have learnt this the hard way.  The first book I wrote about a small boy and his trip to a modern day fairyland met with a roadblock the moment  an editor at a publishing house saw  it.

Though she loved the book she turned  it down. As a bit of friendship had developed between us she explained to me that there was a major disconnect between the theme (fairyland) and  my writing style. Though I had chosen a topic that would interest younger readers, I had chosen to  write in a style that was more suitable for older readers. This juxtaposition did not help the book at all.

 Actually at that point  ( nearly eight years back) I was clueless about which age group I wanted to write for. I just wrote and wrote and hoped that my work would fit somewhere. Unfortunately it didnt.

 That incident made me a little wiser. I realized that before starting any WIP, I had to get a few things sorted.

1.      The first decision  I take is the Writing Market I am catering to. Which age bracket/ market does my story suit ( Picture Book, Early Readers, Chapter Book, Middle Grade, Young Adult). Every story  has a specific age group who will find  the story interesting.

2.      Which genre does the story I  am writing belong to (Fantasy Fiction, SciFi, Mystery, Horror, Humor, Suspense, Historical, Paranormal ).

3.      Once the age group and genre are sorted, then it becomes easier to add elements to the story that will appeal to children in those age groups.  Every age group has its set of problems that  children face. Sibling rivalry, learning disabilities, jealousy, fierce competitiveness, parental pressure, peer pressure, lack of interest in studies, rebellious behaviour, bullying, body image issues, Insecurities and complexes, adjusting with parental separation,  and  relationship/dating issues.

4.      When elements from these issues are added to the story via small sub-plots, then the characters facing these issues become a kind of role model for children of that age group who are facing those problems.

5.      There is a strong sense of identity between the readers and the protagonist. When the protagonist  is   facing the problem  the  readers  tackle everyday a connection is forged between them.

6.      The language and style of writing can be tweaked to suit that particular age group.

7.      Once everything slides into place (age group, genre, style, problems faced and tackled) it becomes easier  for us to write keeping that specific age group and their dreams, hopes, desires, problems and  aspirations in mind.

8.      Every story needs a different treatment, but once  we decide which age group we are specifically targeting, it becomes easier to add elements  of life that will  specially appeal to that  particular age group and adopt a style of writing and language to suit that age group.

What do you all think?  What kind of elements should we add  to make our stories appealing to that age group? Is there anything particular  we should do  so that our work  suits  a specific market and there are less chances of it being rejected due to unsuitability?


  1. Great post, Rachna. I think you have covered all the points very well. I know it does change my writing style to know the age I'm writing for. My historical novel is for middle graders, and certain themes call for a different approach than if it were, say, a YA. The book I'm working on now is for ages 7-9, and calls for a different narrative style and perspective than if it were MG. Like you, when I started out writing, I didn't really think about things like that.

  2. This is a great post because it's very true that before starting any project a writer must first think about who the project is geared towards.

    I usually write for adults and thus my style is very different than someone's who's writing for adolescents or young children.

    Age is one factor but there are other factors too. Like whether we're writing more for women than men. Or whether we're aiming towards an older generation. In a genre there are specific elements that readers come to expect so it's a delicate balance of ensuring they're satisified with that.

    As writers we should always be thinking of the reader but at the same time not pandering to the reader.


  3. Good points. We must know our audience; this is key for success. Thanks for sharing your experience and thoughts.

  4. So true! I thought I'd like writing for really young children, but it doesn't come as easily as writing for older kids. So, I've adapted. Plus, I read a lot in the MG and YA genre, which helps.

  5. Definitely it's important to know what age group we want to write to. Language, style, themes vary a lot depending on the age group.

  6. good post! I have read where authors are frustrated because of just that. I tend to write for my own age group so that helps:)

  7. Elizabeth...when I started writing I was clueless about everything. I just had a story that I wanted to write. But, slowly I learnt that it has to suit an age group and needs a style and language for that age group.

    Jai..I agree that though we should always think of the reader, but at the same time not pander to them.

    Karen..I wanted to share what I learnt the hard way, with my writing friends.

    Julie..I too am trying to read a lot in both MG and YA. I feel its important to read a lot in the age group we write for so there are less chances of us making mistakes.

    Lynda.....language, styles and themes differ according to age groups. But once we get them right there will be less chances of our books being rejected.

    Terri...once upon a time I was frustrated because I had no clue which market I was writing for.

  8. Yes, this is SO important!! It helps angle our novels in the proper trajectory, don't you think?

  9. Great post!
    We need to write in a way that appeals to that specific audience but... it's so hard!
    Sometimes my voice takes over and I have to work really, really hard to pull something different out.
    I swear, this writing thing is so complicated and the only thing that keeps me going is the love of it.
    BTW, Rejection really. sucks. ;)

  10. Knowing your market is key. You really make some great points. I have beta read stories where it was clear the author didn't have a clue. He/she thought that writing for kids didn't take any thought at all. So sad.

    Now off to count the hours until Paranormalcy time. :)

  11. Knowing your market is good. A book must fit somewhere for sure. But sometimes, especially in first drafts, I just write for me. Refinement comes later. I don't always write so well when I am thinking of who will read me.

  12. Thanks Rachna, for this superb post. Will surely bookmark it. Its full of tips for us beginners. I am glad I found your blog.

  13. Great post! I guess I do think of the market early, but only in the terms that I know my writing is commercial fiction, and I guess I write for anyone who appreciates my dark humour! When I first started out I tried my hand at children's books - this was at the picture book end of the market - and in a way there was a lot more to learn about writing for that age group then plunging in with my more adult ideas.

  14. Fantastic post Rachna. I have linked to this post on my latest blog post. So true to know who you are writing for rather than just writing and hoping someone out there likes what you wrote.
    - Kim

  15. This is spot on. I realized this also much later in life, years after I finished my first novel.