For the longest time, I never knew what that phrase meant. “Write the book you want to read.”
I mean, I understood it at face value, but I always scoffed at it.
Don’t get me wrong, I love all the books I’m working on, for different reasons. But there are so many books out there I love to read, what’s the point of writing for the sake of simply enjoying my own ideas?
This past week, as I was reading a few different MG and YA books, a thought walloped me upside the head.
I always thought the above quote was referencing plot. Write the type of plot you’d want to read. But I realized, why can’t it mean style? POV? Syntax? Voice?
Lately I’ve been frustrated with MG books. That’s what my current focus is in my own writing, so I’ve been reading a lot of MG books. In my life, I know I’ve read hundreds of MG books, but maybe because I’m writing more, I see so many things I’m unsure of in other peoples’ writing.
There seems to be an onslaught of writing for kids that tries too hard to be fancy. To use words and sentence lengths and paragraph lengths that seem more suited to adult fiction. My good friend at BumblesBooks said that so many writers now are trying to write MG books with the idea that they will also appeal to adults. And she’s right! What? Middle grade is for KIDS! Hello! Adults may enjoy them, but kids are the prime audience. Why would we write hoping against hope adults will also love our books?
Anywho… I kept rolling my eyes at all these super complex phrases that made me want to tear my hair out. It’s just not the genre for them.
There’s nothing wrong with expecting kids to learn as they read, or to encourage them to expand their horizons with artistic turns of phrase, but I also feel much of that is extraneous to a story. I don’t want to underestimate the potential of a MG reader to comprehend the written word, and I don’t think I do, but the current trend of voice in MG fiction is just not my cup of tea.
I realized that writing a book I’d want to read, for me, is not as much about plot as it is about style and voice. After trudging through those books by other authors, I returned to my own book and was amazed to find I much preferred my own style of writing. Simple, straight-forward, but also requiring curiosity and intuition to understand all the aspects and nuances of the plot.
I adore the classics and high literary books, but that’s just not how I write, and I love that! I’ll never write the next Great American Novel (which I think is a ridiculous phrase), and I’m not trying to.
Embrace your style and your voice, writers! They’re the most unique parts of your writing. There are only so many plot-types in the world, but your voice is your own.
Write the book you want to read, in the style you want to read, with the voice you have that is utterly unique.
“Genius is the ability to reduce the complicated to the simple.” — C.W. Ceram
“Those who write clearly have readers; those who write obscurely have commentators.” — Albert Camus
“As it is my design to make those that can scarcely read understand, I shall therefore avoid every literary ornament and put it in language as plain as the alphabet.” — American revolutionary Thomas Paine