Throughout my childhood, as I developed my dream of becoming an author, I often wondered: What kind of writer am I? Am I a writer for children? Teens? Young adults? Adults? In everything I read about developing the writing craft, it seemed that it was very important to establish my audience, including its age.
The question of my audience disturbed me, until I discovered that the entire premise of the question is flawed. Who says that particular books belong to particular ages?
I enjoyed the Chronicles of Narnia and Five Children and It and Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH and The Westing Game a great deal as a young girl. Did I stop enjoying them when I grew up? No! In fact, I still return to those old favorites again and again. Each reading, rather than insulting my adulthood with children’s fare, reveals new wonders and interpretations that leave me just as satisfied in my twenties as they did in my tweens. I am sure the trend will continue well into my nineties, should I be fortunate enough to live that long.
In contrast, there were some books “for children” that I loathed. I didn’t care if the age category advertised that the book was suitable for me. The book simply didn’t interest me. End of story. Literally.
Being a voracious reader as a child, I also read many “adult” books that were far beyond my age category. I devoured C. S. Lewis’Space Trilogy in my early teens, plucked Shakespeare off my dad’s shelf just for the heck of it, and enjoyed the adventures shared inKon-Tiki. It became a source of pride to tell people how many adult-level books I had read.
Good books transcend age.
The reader does not care if the book is recommended for his age category. He just wants to find a book that mesmerizes him, not only for the short span of his childhood, but for his whole life—a book that is as delightful on the seventh reading as it was on the first.
When I realized this truth, I threw away the idea that I was writing for any particular category of reader. Who was my audience? People who liked reading what I like to write. If a publisher wanted to slap an age range on it, so be it, but I would not let age determine what I wrote about, or how I wrote it. The only truly relevant factor is taste, not age.
When I wrote a book specifically for young Christian single women, my theory proved itself. Do you know who bought most of my copies? Older, married women. True, some of them were gifting my book to their daughters and nieces, but others were simply curious about what I had to say.
This is how reading works. So don’t waste time carefully crafting your story to fit some theoretical category of readership. Just write to tell a good story—for any reader.