Remember Your Audience

Posted on: 12/20/10 I get asked for writing advice an awful lot, and I usually point people to the Writing Advice series (which is sort of the reason I wrote it in the first place). But recently I’ve come up with something I never talked about in that series. That is this:

Remember your audience.

By this, I don’t mean, “Slavishly write something to please a certain group of people,” or “Write to a particular demographic.” I just mean that when you are writing, keep in mind the reference points and general accessibility of the end-user, your reader.

Children’s books — whether they are picture books, early readers, middle-grade novels, or young adult tomes — are written to be read by children, first and foremost. If there’s some stuff in there that adults dig, great. But never forget that those adults are not your audience. If you’re tempted to diverge from your story or change your style or tweak your voice because you think an adult will enjoy it, think long and hard: “Will this change do violence to the enjoyment a kid will get out of the book? Is it an in-jokey sort of thing that will pull a kid reader out of the story? Am I, in short, pandering to the adult reviewer/store owner/parent/whatever who will see this book, as opposed to writing for the kid for whom it is intended?”

If you answer “yes” to any of these, well… I think you know what to do.

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