So often we start a project with an idea, a glowing nugget of inspiration, and we decide immediately the kind of book it will be. It's going to be a picture book. Yes, definitely a picture book…about flying sandwiches. Excellent! Off we go!
We brainstorm, diagram, scribble, and plot. We develop our characters, our setting, and our pacing. We draft a beautifully crafted 550 word picture book about sandwiches that fly and submit it to our critique group.
And they tell us it should be a middle grade novel. About a food fight.
Why should we turn our picture book draft into a novel? Do we have to? Our critique group is not the boss of us, after all! True. True. But consider the reasons behind the suggestion. Is it because the setting or topic would appeal more to the older age group? Maybe the characters would present more strongly with an older voice? What about the plot? Perhaps it is one that is better suited (or even needed) in the older market. Or maybe your critique partners thought there was more to explore than you could do justice to in a shorter format. What if you played around with it, not as a middle grade, but as a chapter book? What if…
As participants in critique groups, we often expect the critiques to focus on the story itself. Would our character really say this? Are we showing or telling? Watch the pacing. This is working. That is not. What we don’t usually expect is for critique partners to suggest changing the target audience. But sometimes it's an insightful idea. A middle grade story may work better as a picture book or a young adult novel. A young adult draft may be better suited as a new adult story. What the writer has in mind for a story often can benefit from considering all possible audiences. The first instinct may still be the best. But give it due consideration.
Always ask, "What if…"
So the next time you sit down to work on a story, be it a fiction picture book or young adult science fiction thriller, look at your idea from all angles. It could be that your flying sandwich would make an excellent food fight.