Kids can teach us a lot about our writing.
In honor of National Poetry Month, my Dear Daughter is in the midst of her poetry unit for English. She has to create a poetry book consisting of selected poems from different authors with different themes.
I pointed her in the direction of Lewis Carroll. She immediately loved the ease of copying The Crocodile’s eight sentences. She waffled over the Jabberwocky, and in the end, refused to write it down.
“It’s too long.”
Instead, she flipped through Shel Silverstein’s Where the Sidewalk Ends and found the poems with the shortest lines. Literally the least amount of words. Yet she handwrote several monster sized poems with thirty plus lines each. Those were on friendship.
The patriotic poems were each four sentences long (the shortest number of lines possible for this project). She used up both her short poems on these, with another four needing at least eight lines and the remaining having to be ten or more.
The moral of this project is actually pretty simple. Know thy audience.
Shel’s whimsy was no longer important enough for her to copy more than a handful of his words. Patriotism (which I used to think she had in abundance) was relegated the lowliest of positions.
The monster poems? Friendship and love.
Those were the themes that had her scouring poem after poem and book after book in search of the perfect stanza.
Know thy audience (and their tastes).
Without me paying attention, she somehow moved past the middle grade novels with bullies and mysteries and wry humor, and is firmly entrenched in relationships. She is the quintessential YA reader, regardless of my perception that she’s still waaaay to young to fall in that category.
Writer, know thy audience.
It is a deadly trap to assume that what we started writing about–and who we started writing for–are still one and the same. Trends change. Tastes change. Certainly, novel writing as a whole has changed.
Manuscript length, content and stye are not constants in the publishing arena. Even genres are fluid and reflect the nuances of society.
If we are to survive in this new environment, we must embrace these changes as readily as a mother watching her kids grow.
We may not like it. We may wish to slow time down for our own ease and comfort. But in the end, we simply cannot continue to write statically. If we try, we may find ourselves relegated to the lowliest category possible. The place that garners no more than four lines’ worth of a reader’s time.
I used to think of myself as being an astute writer in terms of audience. In light of DD’s project I may have to revisit the idea. Because, like it or not, the element that changes the most in the publishing industry is readership.
Do you feel like you have a handle on your intended audience? How do you keep up with their changing tastes/maturity/interests and the fluctuating lines that define the genre you write in? Do you have any stellar tips to share to help the rest of stay ahead of the game?
As always, your input and commentary are as much a part of my blog as my own posts. I appreciate hearing from each of you and learning from your experiences.