Like Pulling Teeth. Out of my Scalp.

Figuring out my audience while writing a young reader’s book.

It was earlier in the year when I had the inspiration.  My work as a kindergarten teacher in a hagwon gave me the idea for a book series featuring heroic princesses in action-packed adventures written for kids. Excited about the idea, I shared it with my students (all between the ages of 7 and 8), and banged out an excerpt of the story with drawings to give to them as birthday gifts.

At some point – I cannot recall when – it occurred to me to make the thing bigger.  To go from a six page excerpt to a completed work wasn’t good enough.  Now, the dream had expanded: I wanted to bring the plights of my heroines into the world of young readers.  The method?  Self-publishing.  The resources?  My laptop,, and an artist commissioned to do the illustrations.  All that left was the story!

Hm. The story.  Well, the story pretty much wrote itself – good guys (gals) vs. bad guys (a woman with a machine gun, air superiority, and an extremely anti-social attitude).  The problem was that, for some reason, I decided to write for a new audience.  So now, my quest is to write my story for a nebulous, hard-to-define, kinda cloudy group of readers somewhere between the ages of 8 and 13.

It’s not an easy task.  I’ve always found it easier to figure out my taxes than to figure out my audience.  When my focus was narrowed to kindy kids who were learning English, things were relatively simpler:  if I wanted to use a word longer than three syllables, I instead put in a substitution a smaller word or phrase that meant the same thing.  I even intended to put a glossary* in the back for certain words, with the intent of hopefully helping ESL students expand their vocabulary.

Writing for this older group of readers is a different story as itt’s a group that I’m unfamiliar with.  I was 8-to-13 years old myself once, but it was only for a couple years back in the early 80s.  At 38, I feel that I’ve moved on since, and as such I don’t quite remember how challenging reading was.  Heck, I was a good reader; it was never really a challenge for me – just boring.  I was a movie fan.  So, when it came to all the books you were supposed to read from 8-13, I never bothered.  The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, the Lord of the Rings trilogy, Lizard Music, Old Yeller, Are You There God?  It’s Me, Margaret, The Anarchists Cookbook, and so on, never had an impact on me.

That’s what this blog is about.  I’m pretty much going to have to figure out how my new audience works. How complex should the vocabulary be?  How much detail should I use when establishing background, character, settings? Should I concern myself with whether boys will like reading a book where the protagonists are all young women?

Now, I’m not going to pretend that readers are going to be clamoring for this thing-– it’s really just a personal project I’d like to see done before my students graduate in March, so I can gift it to them as a reward for putting up with me all year.  Perhaps it’ll be a little over their ability now, but it could end up being something they could use to sharpen their reading skills later.

So, for anybody out there who’s ever struggled in trying to figure out just how to write for your readers, here’s your chance to watch as I fly face-first into such and adventure.  I’ll be glad to have you along for the ride.

* glossary: a list at the back of a book, explaining or defining difficult or unusual words and expressions used in the text

4 thoughts on “Like Pulling Teeth. Out of my Scalp.

  1. I skipped a lot of those books, too, but there are a few from that age range that I remember having an impact on me (The Giver and To Kill a Mockingbird, for example). The 8-13 age group is particularly tough to define, and there is a wide range in terms of maturity between 8 and 13. Good luck.


    • Thanks, I appreciate it. And you’re absolutely right about the maturity range. One kid could be struggling with four-syllable words while the other blasts right past them. Self-editing is going (has already been) a real issue with me.

      I read Mockingbird too. I enjoyed it! I tell ya what – when a middle-schooler who’s not all that fond of literary pursuits enjoys a book, rest assured its a good read.

      Thanks again!


  2. I happen to have a daughter in the age range specified, Kev. Annabelle would love to read any drafts and critique them and send you her ideas. She is a skilled reader, but we could also use her class at school, which contains every kind of reader, as guinea pigs. Whaddaya say?-Melody
    P.S. Yay for you in trying to do this! I am so excited for you!


    • That’s a great idea! I’d be happy to see what she and her classmates think. It’d go a long way in giving me a good idea of where to head with this. Thank you!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s