Monday, October 10, 2011

Clear as Fog

October is quickly passing by; and so it's time to get serious about my self-imposed timeline. If I'm going to start floating query letters on Castle 8 this coming spring, then that means several things must happen first: (1) I need to nail down the ending of my manuscript; (2) I need several "cold reads" from objective eyes; (3) I need to plough ahead into the second book (This might help me to get a grip on where Book One should end); and (4) I need to go ahead and start wrestling with the basics of a query letter.

Query letter. Ugh.

One reason I'm dreading this step of the process is because of the inevitable question that must be answered: What is my intended audience? Who do I expect to pick up my book and read it? Enjoy it? Possibly beg for that soon-to-come sequel?

My explanation has always been that I write to a state of heart, not an age bracket. But that philosophy doesn't fit into the grid. Not when you're just one more email on the list, or one more envelope in the submission pile. But knowing my audience within the established parameters will determine a lot - even which agent/agency I submit to, which publisher might pick up my work. So it needs some considering.

But the question, in turn, brings up questions about the details of my plot. Is there torture? Rape? Cussing? Unmentionable trysts? Excessive violence? Well, since this is a postdystopian world I've created, it certainly is not going to be a happy one - at least, not at first.  Many darker issues of humankind will be dealt with, though not head-on. I think it is perfectly acceptable to deal with hard issues without giving explicitly gory or lewd scenes. At the same time, if this is a postdystopian novel, then certain ugly facts have to be dealt with.

So it's obviously not going to be a picture book that will sell at the elementary school book fairs. OK. That narrows the field a bit. But not by much.

I say not by much because, as a teacher who has spent the better part of two decades teaching in various public school settings, I have seen teachers give middle schoolers some hefty material that I wouldn't have given them. I've seen quite a few books marketed as "young adult" that have made me (and several of my fellow writers) blush scarlet just from reading the back cover. So obviously I don't have the established concept of what constitutes "young adult" fiction, vs "adult" fiction. (I mean, I get what "adult fiction" typically means, but I'm just not going there. By adult fiction mean fiction that grownups would enjoy without needing to buy stock in brain bleach.)

If anyone has insights into this, please let me know. I know that right now "young adult" fiction (geared primarily to the 14-19 year old bracket) is the cash cow of the publishing world; but I don't want to tell a little white lie just to sell my book. Nor do I want to call it "adult" and have potential agents come to it expecting a heart-pounding bodice-ripper. I want to be truthful, I just don't know into which hole I ought to put the peg.

I always did hate coloring inside the lines....

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