Don’t worry. I haven’t abandoned my blog just as I’m getting started. Remember, my philosophy is to just write every day. So, I’ve been working on my chapter book for young readers.
If you’re anything like me, then it is so easy to get wrapped up in the content of what you’re writing. I have been working on this book for a month and have only been able to finish one chapter. I put a lot of time and great ideas into that one chapter. I felt so good about it. I’ve spent most of the time re-reading my creation because the adventure is so heart-pounding. I mean, this was quality stuff. It was sure to be a best seller. I was on my way!
Then, I had this bright idea. I’m so sensitive about my work, I never want anyone to read it. So I started thinking, if my target audience is ages 8-12, then I should let my 10 year old read my chapter and tell me how awesome it is that his Mama will be a famous author. He would go to school and brag to his friends about my book and try to convince them to buy it. It would surely be featured at the school book fair once it’s published. I was onto something grand!
I proofed the chapter one more time, cleaned it up, and called my son to come read it. I don’t think I need to tell you that I stared at him the entire time with that dopey grin of anticipation on my face. My eyes were wide as I made the hurry up motion with my hand. I walked into another room for about two minutes. When I returned . . . HE WAS SOUND ASLEEP with his finger on the page down key! Or maybe it was just a really long blink. I asked him why he looked so bored. His response? “This is boring mommy.” Enter the onset of my stupefied expression. “What do you mean, son? How is it boring?”
At that moment I recalled Bill Cosby’s program, Kids Say the Darndest Things, and I couldn’t be upset. If you ever want to know the truth about something, just ask a child. They will tell you more than you want, or need to know. My son was so candid in his response. It was clear he had no intention of being disrespectful, but it was simply the truth. There I was thinking I’m on my way to being a bestselling author, and this kid doesn’t want to have anything to do with this book, which means it would never be a potential sale. At least, not for a kid his age. He went on to give me further critique, and what else could I do but take it, because I asked.
Though I felt like crawling into a hole and continuing to keep my writing private as I had been doing for years, I decided instead to use this information to my advantage. I tabled my chapter book, with the intention of revisiting it later (because it really is a good story). I sat with my son to find out his interests and what would make a story interesting to him. I must admit, though I was impressed with the outcome of the one chapter I had worked so hard on, he had some really cool ideas. He made me realize my book was not appropriate for his age group. You would think I would know that as a teacher. But one down side to having a teaching background is, you have too much ‘behind the scenes’ knowledge which can sometimes get in the way of creativity. My vocabulary usage was too high, and the content was too advanced. Clearly, I will need to rethink my target audience for that book.
In the meantime, after getting into my son’s head, I felt as though I had a solid, new direction. Interestingly enough, as I sat to begin the new chapter book, the ideas began flowing all over the pages. It had become so much easier to write. There was no time to just keep rereading the same chapter repeatedly. My time was better spent filling page-after-page with more age-appropriate, fun, and interesting content.
Whomever the target audience for your book(s), build in opportunities to let your target audience read your material. Don’t be afraid to test it out in the developmental stages. It may save you some heart-ache and time later. Hopefully it will result in a bestseller. I’ll continue working on the new chapter book. As my story unfolds, I will aim to get kids’ feedback in hopes that it will help me produce a better quality product of interest for my young readers.