In this episode:
We start off the episode talking about Mel, and it’s a shame she’s not there to hear me gush about her work. But I had read her original manuscript, and then this week she had given me her new manuscript to read and HOLY CRAP! It was awesome!
So, Jennie talks a little about GOOD vs. GREAT. And that bad work isn’t exactly bad, it’s just not on the page. It’s still in your head. But what writers have to do is make it accessible to the reader.
Jennie goes on to talk about my middle school voice and the empathy you have to have for your readers—particularly when you write for kids. Jennie says, “God bless all the middle school teachers!” We talk about the love scenes I write between my main characters Bernadette and Logan (or Lucas, as Jennie had stuck in her brain that afternoon). I can remember very clearly going through all the emotions of a middle school romance. I think most people (rightly so) have blocked their middle school experience. Let’s face it, it’s awkward and slightly traumatic, and that’s on the best of days. But I think the point that Jennie is making is that I write well for middle school readers because I can identify and relate to them. (What does that say about me?!) And that’s what all writers need to tap into—the brain of their readers. What do they feel? What would they say? And how does reading your book help them?
We also talk about connecting with your potential readers. At the time we recorded this I was in Dan Blank’s mastermind group where we were talking about this same thing. Being a former 9th grade teacher, I just naturally gravitate towards people like teachers, librarians, etc… and I talk about how I connected with a former colleague from the English department at my old school who was now teaching middle school English. Plus I had a pretty cool idea for reaching readers!
If you have a message—which all writers do—and you are writing for kids, you can’t let the adult voice creep in. So, Jennie and I work our way around the smallest adult-sounding phrase in my story: different is cool. And we finesse those three little words until we have wrung out all the “adult.”
The author of Story Genius, Lisa Cron, says, “Everyone is the protagonist of their own story.” And that idea was key to removing the adult voice in this particular writing situation. So, if I stop and think about the character who is saying “different is cool” and think about how he would speak if this were HIS STORY, then I’m able to make those words come out more authentic to his voice.
We end by talking about some of the books I’m incorporating into my writing. The Phantom Tollbooth is one of my inspirations, and Jennie said it was one of the books that was instrumental in her becoming a writer. That book is a perfect example of “words have so much meaning and you can interpret them in so many ways.”
Referenced in this episode:
Dan Blank also has a fantastic Friday newsletter for creatives, so make sure you sign up while you are there. He also has a great podcast, Dabblers vs. Doers.
The "Pennies" write a lot of great MG articles. They have some really great themed series, and my particular favorite is Love Letter to a Book. They also run a great Twitter contest called Four on 400, so make sure you check out the amazing advice they dish. (And bonus, one of the contributors, Julie Artz, is an Author Accelerator book coach!)