Choosing a particular age group to write for can be as difficult as writing the story itself. Certain genres lend themselves better to other age groups than others, and some writers are better suited to writing for younger audiences than they are older audiences. It all comes down to the way you write and the kind of story you want to tell.
Roald Dahl is a classic example of somebody who wrote for a particular age group and absolutely nailed everything that makes writing for that age group. He was able to create dark, scary, funny and hopeful children’s stories that have completely transcended genre and the age group it was written for. Novels such as The Twits and The Witches are filled with imagery that will scare children to death and have many adults raising an eyebrow as they read them, yet these – along with many other novels he wrote – are timeless classics that adults who read them as children are now passing down to the next generation. It is likely that the generation reading them now will do the same to their children too.
Writing for Small Children
Knowing what your age group wants – as Mr Dahl certainly did – is the first step to achieving success in writing for that age group. A common misconception is that writing for small children is easy because of the word count and because children are easier to please. If you have this attitude, you are in for a rude awakening if you want to write for small children.
Kids don’t have a kind radar when it comes to critiquing a piece of writing. Adults do. We close the book and don’t come back to it, putting the book on a shelf and forgetting about it until the next car boot sale comes along. Children don’t care about being nice when it comes to writing. If you don’t like it, you’ll know about it. The book will be thrown down the stairs, defaced with drawings and torn to shreds if they’re not satisfied. At the very least, they will tell you they don’t like it and be done with it right there and then.
Children may have short attention spans and be very judgemental of bad writing, but if you get it right, these stories can have a huge effect on their lives. Who doesn’t remember the first stories they read or were read to them as a child? Understanding what made these stories so great is the key to unlocking how to write for young children without boring them ragged or creating something that is too old for the age group you are targeting. Head to your local libraries and book stores to reengage with the kid you used to be. Then you will start to understand what kids want to read today.
Teenagers and Young Adults
The teenager and young adult sector has exploded over the last decade, with the Harry Potter and Twilight franchises opening the floodgates for authors across all genres to enter into the YA market and capture an audience that was being forgotten until a few years ago. The effects of the YA boom has been felt on every side of the entertainment industry, with most big films now being geared towards the teenage market. The 12A certificate is now the most sought after certification, as it means millions of extra dollars from the teen crowd. Films like The Hunger Games, Transformers and the Marvel superhero franchises are all aimed at that market because it is essentially a license to print money in the present market.
The young adult genre touches upon adult themes but they are aimed at teenagers. The genres that are super-hot right now are paranormal romance and action-adventure novels. The technological advances and sophistication of computer gaming has risen drastically in the last decade too, something that will only have helped increase the rise of young adult fiction, where action, violence, romance and adventure are all reoccurring themes. They are just on the right side of controversial, which gives it a rebellious flavour that makes it all the more rewarding for young readers. Paranormal romance is the young adult equivalent of 50 Shades for adults, just with cute boys and longing glances instead of S&M and bondage.
The Wide Ranging Adult Market
That brings us nicely to the adult market, where 50 Shades of Grey and the two sequels have started a new erotic fiction boom that doesn’t show any signs of slowing down any time soon (until they make what will almost certainly be a terrible Hollywood film adaptation of the novels). Making the comparison between the paranormal romance genre for teenagers and the 50 shades-led erotic fiction boom for adults may seem a little controversial on the surface, but it is true. Is Edward Cullen any different from Christian Grey? They’re both dangerous, mysterious and both make girls scream (no pun intended). Does the age group make any difference?
Outside of the erotic fiction market, writing for adults really is a wide open space. You can write for any genre for adults, the possibilities are endless. It is always a good idea to look at what is popular and selling though. Zombies are erotic fiction are booming right now, but sex and the undead aren’t to everybody’s writing taste. Take a look at the list of the top 50 bestsellers in the adult fiction chart and see if there is anything that comes close to what you are working on. If there isn’t, try and find out why not. Could it be that you have a piece of work that could start a new craze and is completely original, or is just that there is simply no place on the market for what you are writing?
Understanding the market – what sells and what doesn’t – is as important as being able to put pen to paper and create a good story. You don’t want to potentially waste years trying to get a piece of work published that won’t find an audience. Find and understand your audience and then produce a piece of work that blows your target audiences minds, and then blows the competition out of the water as a result.
Why not try this little exercise: Buy the top three books in each of the three age groups above and read them from cover to cover. Write down all the best attributes of each novel and see if there is a pattern for each age group. Are there similarities to what makes each novel perfect for that age group?