My project this week has been to read a range of kid’s book where the protagonists are all approximately the same age. I got all the books from recommendations from ‘kids’ of all ages. As a result some books were written in the 50’s, some in the 80’s, some in the 90’s and some hot off the press.
Wow, what a spectrum. All my pre-conceived ideas about language, complexity and length were completely destroyed. There was no formula that you could apply to all of the books, despite the supposed common target audience. I found some terribly boring due to their simplicity, while others were totally captivating thanks to the depth of character and story.
But all these books have been loved, that’s why I only read recommended books. The fondness for the book was remembered (sometimes) decades after the storyline had been lost to memory. Many of these older books have never been out of print, such is their popularity.
I know that publishers have ‘rules’ which mean they will probably reject most non-conforming manuscripts before they even open them, but Harry Potter got picked up eventually. That story broke loads of rules not least of which was story length and complexity given Harry was only 10 when the novel opened. Thank goodness J.K. didn’t listen to all the advice out there that would tell her to cut, cut, cut!
This brings me back to the same conclusion I keep butting up against; just write the book you want to read. Each book will find its audience, it might be an audience of two, or two million, but the most important audience is that of the writer. If publication is not your driving force, then be true to your story, you may just be onto something.