by Kat Wells
One thing that astounds me most as both reader and writer is the number of people who try to write a book in a genre or category that they have never read. The most common that I’ve come across is children’s fiction, whether that be picture books, chapbooks, middle grade or YA.
Now, I write mostly middle grade and YA books, and the main reason for that is because I love to read middle grade and YA. The books I loved during my childhood are still some of my favourites, and whenever I re-read them, I feel not only the sense of joy and wonder of my childhood self, but also the pure enjoyment of reading them now.
One of my favourites, The Legendeer series by Alan Gibbons, is still so engaging that every time I pick it up, I get lost in it. The story is cool and I relate to the characters. Because by reading these books, and new books for this age group (I’ve just read Tin by Pádraig Kenny and am now emerged in M. G Leonard’s Beetle Boy) I’ve never lost that inner child that people always talk about.
Why is keeping my inner child important? Well, apart from having a crazy imagination, I have a good sense of what kids are into reading-wise, and it also helps maintain my respect for my readers – if a writer has no respect for their readers or isn’t aware of what’s currently around, it will show in their work. Big time.
I recently read a manuscript for a children’s book by an author who confessed to not having read any children’s books in the past 40 years, and one of the most noticeable things about their work was that they were writing their characters from an adult’s point of view – they were almost talking down to their characters!
Reading books that have recently been published also helps keep fresh my knowledge of what language is currently being used and what ideas and tropes are around. That’s not to say I aim to follow those tropes. Due to the nature of the publishing industry and how long it takes to get a book from manuscript to product, the tropes we see coming out now have already passed. But it does give me an idea of what is currently selling, what type of protagonists are popular, and where my manuscripts would sit on the shelf.
When it comes to the querying process, and the agent or publisher you’re querying asks for comparison titles published in the last five years, keeping up to date means you should be pretty well covered.
So those are the reasons why I can never stress enough that in order to write well in a category or genre, you have to have a love for it. If not, it will show in your writing. And let’s be fair, if you don’t have a love for it, why are you writing it in the first place?
Kat has been writing since she was a child, as a result of often connecting more with characters she’d read about than her peers. It was only natural that her own ideas would shout to be written down, and that urge to tell stories still booms in her mind to this day. She is now the author of the Half-Wizard Thordric trilogy, of which the first two books, Unofficial Detective and Accidental Archaeologist, are published with Creativia Publishing.
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