This is a post from a few years ago. The message is still the same which is to know who your audience is and who might pick up your book.
I have been a bird owner since 1998. In that time, I have raised, bred, and cared for my birds with love and affection. So when I decided to write a children’s book based on my parrot Jasper, I add some of my experience to the story. When it came time for me to start looking for people to critique it, I thought of my friend Nita in New Hampshire. She and I had met on a bird forum years ago and had struck up a friendship. Nita has been a bird breeder for well over 30 years so it only made sense for her to read my MS.
I had taken some liberties when it came to a bird hatching and I knew she would zero in on that part- she did. She laughed and said you really took some liberties with your writing. I laughed back and then told her I had kept it short due to length and not wanting to lose my targeted audience which are kids.
I mentioned to her how I had just finished reading a book where one of main characters had a cockatiel. According to this book this bird could sing over 40 songs and not just sing the tunes but the actually words. I have raised cockatiels since 1998 and to date not one has sung the words to any song. I might be able to buy the 40 songs but that was it. She giggled at this information and decided I did not go outside the box too much. Thinking back, I have decided to edit and put in a short paragraph to make the hatching more realistic.
As writers we take liberties though we try to keep it within reason. While I enjoyed the book with the singing cockatiel, it was in the back of my subconscious. Every time I read about that character I felt a little dread for I knew it would be repeated again about this amazing bird.
So, this reminded me to know my target audience. One needs to do constant research time and time again. You never know who will pick up your book. These are the people who will buy your book and will decide whether they want to recommend it to others.
At one writing meeting I was told repeatedly about this new member who was amazing at critique their works. I was excited. While I had nothing to present this was still a win win.
The meeting began and this member showed up and sat down while everyone tried to engage with him. After a few moments to chit chat we started. The first presenter read a few pages of their manuscript. Starting with the person next to them the critiquing began. The highs and lows were discussed as we went around the table.
It was this member’s turn to speak. And spoke he did. He spent a lot of time tearing down what was wrong and smiling as he did it. He didn’t mention one thing this writer had done right. Instead he basically gave a laundry list of what they did wrong. Looking around the table it seems people were appreciating his brutal honest.
I did not. The face of the writer I could not really decipher.
Sadly there are people who relish in tearing down a person’s work and label it critiquing. For some reason my group translated this as wonderful. I translated it as someone who enjoyed tearing people’s work while feeling their work is amazing.
When it came to my turn I gave the writer three things that she had done well. I told her that one of the critiques she had received from the member could be readily fix and not as extensive as first describe.
Her smile was worth it. When I critique I always give positive and negative. Don’t get me wrong I will be honest when I give a review. But it can be done in a way that is constructive not destructive.
I love writing prompts for it makes you really think hard and dig deep to write something that will make sense and fun to read. But a picture prompt are, to me, so much more fun.
I have written stories from these kind of prompts and in fact my favorite story written from such is a paranormal story. I have never written one before. But the picture made my mind go there and back. It is a story that I have received many lovely compliments and it is now in my anthology, “Everyday Musings,” which is out.
It was challenging for me for the genre was new, making it all work out and making sense was another and trying to make it click was a bit of work. But it was fun to do. In fact I, when time permits, will be expanding it further into a longer short story or a short novel.
Prompts are great if you are having writings block, don’t feel like working on your WIP or you just want to try something different. The libraries have plenty of books to choose from, bookstores and online if one just googles.
So try something different. It might lead to something wonderful. It could take your mind and creativeness to places you might not have considered before. It might help you figure something out on another WIP. Plus, it can help you have fun on something not in your box of tricks.
So if you are in a writing group perhaps have prompt night. If you are online and know a few writers suggest a prompt meeting.
It may not be your cup of tea and you will know soon enough. There is little to lose but a lot to gain.