Long ago, I took a big step with my first middle grade book, I’m 12 Years Old And I Saved The World. So I cleaned up the first few chapters and—after making sure she was game—shot it over to a writer friend who has at least a dozen books in the last bookstore you visited.
She gave it a read, chopped off the first six chapters (Ouch!), and told me something that made me realize what a moron I am. She said I needed more kids in the book. I gave the book some thought and realized she was right. The title of the book aims the book at readers who are 12 years old or younger, but Adam Shannon Dakota Car was the only three-dimensional 12-year-old in the book. Everyone else was an adult. And believe it or not, 12-year-olds don’t really want to read about a bunch of old folks.
So I got to work fixing the problem. Fortunately, there were hints of other young folks in the book, so I knew who I would work with, but it was a rather big task. Especially since much of the book took place in Adam’s home and not at school.
It took some substantial tweaking and adding and subtracting and all that jazz, but I eventually landed on something that works. And the book is much better for the effort put into it.
Why do I tell this sob story? (Okay, it’s not quite a sob story, but you know what I mean.) To encourage you to recognize who your readers are and to write characters that they care about. Writing for serious readers? Give them serious characters. Getting read by people who love taxi drivers? Better toss one in for good measure. Have an audience of teachers? Put a teacher in the mix of your book that will make them love your characters and, in return, you forever.
Because at the end of the day, while we writers do write for ourselves, it’s mighty nice to be read by someone else.