Or, rather, what do I do when I'm hopeless at targeting a market? Because, despite the day job, I am. That intelligent thriller becomes historical, then literary, then pulp. That space opera morphs into experimental fiction and slips quietly into the bottom drawer. That note to the milkman... Thou fond-recall'd and long-retirèd help...
Well, what I have done this time is to write for an ideal reader. And this time that's not me in an unconvincing wig, it's my nine year old son, Freddie. Not my eleven year old? This latest poorly-targeted thing is about eleven year olds, isn't it? Well, yes and no, but definitely no, not my eleven year old; he's going through a non-reading phase.
But Freddie still has his advanced reading age, at least for now. He has read all the Harry Potters, several times, and The Lord of the Rings, and His Dark Materials. And so I have enlisted him, just to complicate matters, not only as my ideal reader but as my actual reader as well, and editor, and writing partner.
And if that sounds like an aberration, yes it is, but so is he and so is this thing I'm writing. So what?
And so what if the received wisdom is that the Young Adult audience starts at 12? So what if, we're told, they want to read about kids older than themselves, not younger? Ladies and gentlemen, I give you all the press about how more than half of YA fiction is read by actual As anyway. Oh, and Stranger Things, like I said before.
Because yes, I am still trying to combine a faint whiff of that Netflix nostalgia fest with a big dollop of not-exactly-Proustian autobiographical time-travel. In fact just last week, before the day job took over again, I finished the first draft. Without, I might add, reading The Body or IT or even wanting to. And Freddie, bless him, was very diplomatic, right up to the moment when he pointed out that in my studious attempts not to unknowingly plagiarise Stephen King I had unknowingly plagiarised J. K. Rowling.
Oh yeah, and then he told me that it didn't work, that it had moved too far away from what we had agreed its intentions would be, and of course he's right.
Roll on Draft Two.
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I've been writing for as long as I can remember (I think my first letter was a P). I got a degree writing about other people's writing and ever since then I've earned a living writing commercially, one way or another. But I never stopped writing and refining my own stuff. I just didn't do anything with it, until now.