So, I’ve been attempting to write my own novel for a few months now and after five chapters, I feel like I’m at a bit of an impasse. I’d started well and I’d more or less had a basic plot and ending. A very good friend of mine has been my sounding board and judge of my first drafts and it’s fair to say, she hasn’t pulled any punches with her criticism, which is exactly as I’d asked her to do. (She has said lots of complimentary things too!) However, my threshold for criticism isn’t exactly great and I’ve found myself abandoning my novel for a little while as a result.
While most of the points she made were completely valid and some were things I’d picked up myself as needing to be reconsidered, one of the points she made was that the language and register were too sophisticated for my intended audience, which is for mid-teens. I am struggling with this point in particular, not least because it means completely re-writing the five chapters I already have from scratch. Don’t get me wrong, I realise that first drafts don’t tend to look anything like the final drafts, but I feel like this is a complete change of direction from the outcome I was hoping to achieve.
I’m fairly sure that there are no particular words or phrases that my 15-year-old daughter wouldn’t be aware of, however, my daughter has been exposed to my habit of using longer words than is usually necessary to describe a situation (a habit I’ve had since I was in my teens, according to my school friends), so she may not be the best measure for this!
My novel touches on many childhood classic novels, as I had the intention of exposing teenagers to these old classics (should I ever be able to write a novel worth publishing) in the hope that they may be encouraged to read them, and I am not happy to have to “dumb down” my language because the youth of today may need to read it alongside a dictionary.
So I have a decision to make: either compromise with my writing style and simplify my language and register or abandon my current novel idea and write a book for adults, who would hopefully be able to understand my vocabulary. The idea that I have won’t work for adults, which is why I have abandoned my novel altogether whilst I make my decision on what to do.
I’m under no illusions. Whilst I would love to be a best-selling novelist, I’m really not sure if I will be able to write a full novel that would be worth publishing. However, I don’t want to completely throw myself out of the running, if I could have just made the narrative a bit more accessible. Yet, I think that this kind of compromise is a resignation to the fact that most children and teenagers are just not interested in reading anything remotely complicated. In an age where a child/teen is more interested in their electronic devices rather than reading, I think authors for this age range are perhaps fighting a losing battle unless they keep it simple.
To that end, I need to decide whether to carry on regardless and perhaps market it with a glossary for words with more than three syllables or start again with a simpler approach.
My heart tells me to continue to write my novel and see what I feel by the end of the novel, but my head is telling me to completely re-write the chapters I’ve got. Decisions, decisions…
I’d be interested to know the thoughts of other aspiring or established authors. Any advice would be gratefully received.