Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Insecure Writer's Support Group: Don't Forget Who Your Audience Is


HI! So I've learned a lot recently. One is that people can be REALLY FUNNY in the most boring-est of times (like a double lesson of something.) (Yes, Astha, I am giving you a good shout out. You are an amazing person and you read, so that makes you twice as awesome.) Another is that you can break someone's leg when you're ten and not remember that at all (my friend did that to someone at school. It's one of my favourite stories about her.)

But the other day I got notes back from a critique partner who is the harshest, most helpful writer-reader I've ever me. I seriously will send her a hug for not laughing me out of the writing world after she read my awful first chapter as it was before the ten million rewrites it has undergone.

As usual, her advice was fantastic. But it was the comment she put at the end which really stuck with me. "If you want, I can pass it to my MG son to have a read." (That's not an actual quote. I just like using "quote marks.")

Now, my book is a MG, and he would be my target audience. And all of a sudden I was AFRAID. It's different sending your work to another writer, than it is to sending it to someone who is purely a reader. Because they will be treating your work as a BOOK book, like something you could buy in a shop.

Suddenly I was worried that I didn't have enough action, or that he would get bored if he read it. I remembered that my target audience is not an adult, or a writer, or a teen. It is an eight-to-twelve-year-old.

So I have an insecurity that I'll have done hundreds (maybe not hundreds) of rewrites and edits and IT JUST WON'T CLICK WITH MY TARGET AUDIENCE.

But now I'm trying to FACE my insecurities, and be like Nike (You know... "Just Do It."). I'm going to find some MG readers and I'm going to ask them to read my book. Because it's always important to remember who you're aiming your book at.

This feels like a really weird insecurity, because a lot of you might have already sent your work out to your target audience and be wondering what I'm talking about. So if you write YA, do teen readers terrify you? Have you ever written, for example, a romance aimed at women but not gotten another woman to read it? (You, sadly, don't count as your own target audience.) Do you keep your target audience in mind when you're writing, or do you come up with the story first and THEN worry about who you're aiming for? (Which is what I did with this current WIP.)

14 comments:

  1. I remember the first time I approached a reader to read my early WIP. *shudder* Oh yeah, that was nail-bitingly nerve wracking. Far, far, worse than have a beta shred my precious tome.

    As for which comes first -- I tend to write the story asking to be written. Then I'll worry about who I'm aiming for.

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    1. That seems like the best approach (otherwise what you write could potentially end up being forced into a target group.)

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  2. I totally know what you mean. Finally I bit the bullet and did it, and it was great!

    Personally, I think you're probably in an even better situation than I was because you don't have any direct connection to the boy that will be reading it. I did have a connection, and so there was a chance we'd see each other again in person. Therefore I think she may have felt a little less comfortable giving me any real criticisms in case we crossed paths.

    But the feedback she did give was invaluable, and encouraging!

    Go for it!

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    1. I'm glad you got good advice! (And for my part... crossing paths with someone after giving honest feedback doesn't bother me at all) (Let it be noted I've never actually crossed paths with anyone I've beta-ed for :D)

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  3. Target audience is key, most definitely! Sometimes, though, the story has to come out first, then the decision about what age group I should aim the story.

    My novels began as adult novels (the main character was 18) but my first writer's group doubted that the characters would be running about a churchyard like children - even though that's exactly what my friends and I actually DID! Acting on their advice, I brought the age of the MC down to 16, then had to go through the whole manuscript making sure the language fit the age group. Fortunately, I work in the schools fairly regularly (and at the time, my daughter was almost the age of the MC) so I was able to shift the perspective to fit my target audience. It sure wasn't easy, though! I nitpicked every word, it seemed, until I was finally satisfied. It's still geared for the 'avid reader' group, though, rather than the 'reluctant reader'. I didn't want to be condescending and make the language too simple, so there are probably words even the 'average' teen reader might need to look up in a dictionary, especially since so much of it takes place in the past when the vocabulary was a little different.

    Getting feedback from someone the age of your target audience is great (I wished I'd had someone back then to read it other than the adults of my writing groups) but, as you said, it can make a writer very apprehensive. Did they understand what I was trying to say? Did it keep their interest all the way through? And most importantly, did they LIKE it? I hope your young reader continues to give you great feedback! :)

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    1. I always assumed you were a perfectionist (which, in my eyes, is a great thing :D), and I've been proved correct. If you ever need another teen to read any of your books, you know where to find me!

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  4. This is a scary thing. Some of your target readers will love your book. Some of them won't. Keep in mind, they are just people reading a book. Best of luck, Ravena!

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  5. This is very brave of you! It sounds like the perfect next step, but I can totally understand that it would be completely nerve-wracking.

    I liked what Natasha said though, even if they are in the right age group, they are still just one person reading a book. Keep that in mind. I'm sure whatever they say will be helpful, but put it through your screener to evaluate it, weigh and balance.

    I'm really happy for you that you're ready to take this step! You go, Ravena! :)

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    1. I'm also going to take an even BIGGER step soon and start querying! I'm terrified just thinking about it!

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  6. Woooohoo for the the shout out!! You're pretty amazing too :D (not quite to my standards but fear not little one you shall get there some day ;D)

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    1. (SEE! I replied :D) I'm so glad that one day I will be as awesome as your standards require :D

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  7. I'm terrified to have my work read by my target audience. I've tried that a few times before and it has not worked out well - but each time, the reader was the right age, but didn't read or like the genre I was writing, so it was my own fault for allowing a non-compatible beta reader.
    Good luck with your young beta reader. I'm sure it'll work out. :-)

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    1. Ahhhh, that would definitely be an issue. I hope it worked out for you :D (And thank you :)

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