My current work in progress is the second long narrative I have started by thinking ″I would love to write a book my eldest son would like to read.″ And it is the second one that is not turning out that way after all. Although I might write short stories that he would choose to read, when I spend the time to write a novel length story, my need to tell a story that is meaningful for me wins out every time. And, in fact, the audience I am writing for is the daughter of a friend of mine in California.
One challenge is that my son is an ever shifting audience. Because I live with him, I see all the daily changes in what interest him and the development of his reading interests and I cannot keep up with him in the process of writing a novel. His whims come fast and go faster. My writing continues to plod through revision. If I have a shifting target, I will never hit it with anything as massive as even a short novel.
Another challenge is that my son doesn′t love the same stories that I love. He is 7, but he wants a book written with the depth of thought and complexity of language of a well-written novel aimed at 9-12 year olds. He reads a mix of science fiction and fantasy, loves comic books, and has a small boy′s fascination with all things sticky, icky and gross. And he has become anti-girls. He has a definite preference for books written by people who are more in touch with their inner small boy than I am.
As I have delved into my story, I have become more aware of how the person I am is shaping the story that is in me for the telling. For example, I found myself realizing that the emotional story I wanted to tell would fit more easily on a female protagonist, and so I have changed the gender of my protagonist. And with that change come a wealth of changes, each of which makes the story less likely to appeal to my son.
Luckily, I have an Ideal audience to write for. Her name is Lydia and she is a real girl. She reminds me of me when I was her age and she is right in the middle of the 9-12 reading world. I have not seen her in ages so, for me, she exists as much in my memory as she does in reality. And, my memory of her hardly changes. But, she is also a real person. At the moment, in the early revision process, I am writing for my image of Lydia. And that image gives me direction and focus. But, I also hope that eventually she will read the manuscript and give me feedback on it. Because she really is the sort of audience I am writing for: girls who are kind of like I was. Girls who want to find themselves reflected by a book while at the same time being transported to an imaginary world.
Maybe some day I will write a book for my son. But it won′t be this one. And it may not be the next one either. And that′s okay.