It starts off politely enough with the disclaimer freebie readers are required to use: “Thank you Netgalley for the free review copy in exchange for my honest opinion.” Then it launches into “Mother******g piece of s**t, this to describe my newborn baby piece of literature. (One that young preview readers have told me is my best ever, ever.)
Really? Feel free to be less honest. Or at least less profane.
He’s an 18 year-old reviewer reading (and ranting) about a YA with 16 year-old female protagonist, not that there’s anything wrong with that. Still it’s clearly not for his demograph. He would never have purchased this novel from a bookstore.
But he wants to be outrageous. He has a blog to populate.
Swearing will maybe draw people to his website now, lure them to buy his upcoming selfie story, hook them into offering him a book or movie contract.
He is everything that is wrong with the Internet. And he’ll never read this because all he wants to do is express himself, not listen to others.
He deserves to be strapped to a chair and forced to watch Fifty Shades of Grey over and over.
In other news, you are invited to my launch of Best Friends Through Eternity, Sunday, February 15, 2:00 p.m. at A Different Drummer Books, 513 Locust, Burlington, Ontario.
To pre-order your autographed piece of literature please call 905-639-0925
I am your local author.
To celebrate Family Literacy Day 0n Saturday January 24, 10:30 to 11:30 I will read from my some of my favourite picture books at Tansley Woods Library, 1996 Itabashi Way in Burlington.
When I first began writing middle grade and young adult novels, I dreaded being labeled with those words. I wanted to be a best selling international writer not the one that needed the neighbor’s pity purchase. Hard to be avoided though, every time a reporter said something about me in the Burlington Post or the Hamilton Spectator, the header included those two words, Local Author.
At least reporters said things about me and that ground roots support cleared bookshelves at the local stores.
My last novel Dying to Go Viral, sold close to 50,000 copies in Norway, Sweden, Finland and Germany. In Canada it sold,1,200. Maybe they were all to my neighbors, who knows. Still maybe I am less of that local hero than I used to be.
But now, older and wiser, I cherish a sense of community. That is why I will be reading to a young audience who have nothing to do with what I write. I won’t wear a t-shirt with the covers of my book on, which I used to do at the beginning of my career. I certainly won’t bring books to sell, show or tell about.
I will just curl up in a chair at my favourite library and read the picture books I love to the children who live in my neighborhood.
Spoiler alert,at the top are my glowing grandchildren who hold the books I will read : Linda Bailey’s Stanley at Sea, Rebecca Bender’s Giraffe and Bird, and Patricia Storm’s The Pirate and the Penguin. Rebecca lives in Burlington, Patricia used to live here and Linda lives in Vancouver which is just a short flight away. Amazing fresh and local talent.
My core belief is that everyone should enjoy reading. At the beginning of my career I would have said kids who don’t like reading either a) have a difficulty/disability with reading or b) haven’t found the right book. A difficulty could be as simple as having English as a second language or as complicated as any of the various learning challenges, dyslexia, attention deficit disorder etc.
In today’s reality I would probably add a c) they may have too many distractions to develop the love and fluency for reading.
Still the core of writing a “reluctant reader” as they can be called or hi/low (high action, low vocabulary) remains the same. Right from the opening sentence the writing must grip and compel the reader to keep going.
Well, now how does that differ from writing any other book?
If you’re writing for a lower attention span, beginning with description may not work; description is often what a less able reader will skip over to get to what’s happening in the story. (Although I have a couple of writer friends, Rachael Preston and Jennifer Maruno who write incredible description that sets a scene and creates drama) I personally like starting with dialogue because who doesn’t like eavesdropping on a stranger with a strong problem.
Dialogue does jump the reader into the middle of something and with reluctant readers a straight linear plot can be key. No flash backs or even too much back-pedalling to explain said dialogue. So the talking and the action must compliment each other and tell the story together in a very clear forward moving fashion. My upcoming YA novel Best Friends Through Eternity will compel my audience but there are some complex time switches that could confuse a weaker reader.
When I write a reluctant reader, it’s in partnership with a publisher who has strong structural guidelines and I will confer on topics first. Hi/low books are shorter, as are their chapters. I would aim for a uniform word count in the chapters where possible and stronger end hooks than I might in a regular novel. Once my reluctant reader puts the book down for a rest, I need to be able to pull him back to my work. I have no magic formula for syllable count or sentence length but I myself suffer from “clause-trophobia”–whichi is an aversion to sentences that have so many modifying clauses they force you to re-read them several times to figure out the main subject and action and therefor the true meaning.
The publisher may run a readability check on the work. In Survival, my recent plane crash story, a major medical drama occurs with words like intravenous, tracheotomy, epidural layer, artificial resuscitation and I worked with a medical doctor as well as the publisher to come up with the best way to simplify procedures and cut down on multi-syllabic words.
Survival also includes very real looking black and white drawings–Greg Ruhl did a fabulous job–which will give my reader a visual break. By the way, a dialogue driven story as mine often are, provides the reader with much more white space on the page, another visual break. The pace becomes quicker. The reader will feel more successful.
An interesting fact about Survival is that I pitched it as a regular read to my Norwegian publisher. What needed to change to secure the deal was more of an maturity of topic issue rather than word or syllable count, a simpler shorter plot can be easier to translate after all. The Norwegians want stories for 10 year olds rather than the 14+ that HIP asked for this time. Less on-page graphic medical detail (blood squirting on to the snow for example), a happier outcome, (spoiler alert, no death) and I added an emotional subplot geared at the female readership the Girl-It bookclub targets.
So really I don’t struggle to write differently for reluctant readers. First and foremost I write the best story I can and then I think about how it should differ depending on the target audience. Mostly the target audience is me. I have to like the book I work on because I will be with it a long time.
Now what about all those distractions our readers face? I’m going to have to turn that problem back to parents and educators to tackle.