Read Your Genre
Updated: Dec 15, 2020
I recently had an artist/writer ask me to review her book.
She’d made water colors based on photographs she took on a journey to Thailand when she was young, then rendered them in colored pencil to mock up a picture book aimed at young children, including short lines of text for each picture. She’d taken it to a critique group and they’d advised her to write more for each picture, giving much more of her story as a teen. She came up with the alternate text, but didn’t think it met her original purpose. She was right.
Her pictures were appropriate for young children, and most picture books have very few words accompanying each picture. Her original mock-up was perfect for that audience. The alternate text was more appropriate for older kids—maybe even teens—and her original photos might work better for them, rather than the paintings she’d made with little children in mind.
The members of her critique group were good writers, but they were accustomed to writing for older audiences. Fortunately, she had looked at enough picture books to question their judgment. She only came to me for affirmation.
Mysteries, thrillers, romance novels, young adult, middle school, picture books—each genre has its own audience, and the audience develops expectations whether they realize it or not. You can try to learn these forms by reading about them, but your best bet is to read the genre—lots of what fans are reading now.
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