“Acknowledge the age gap between you and your intended audience, including all the differences that come with it.”
That’s a basic summation of yesterday’s Writing Challenge for anyone interested in writing young adult nonfiction or middle-grade nonfiction. It’s a word of wisdom that’s very closely related to today’s Writing Rule, though the two take different perspectives on the same subject.
On the one hand, you don’t want to go overboard trying to impress your teen and tween readers with how in-sync you are to their world. You're not.
You went through the trials of puberty and that often toxic onslaught of hormones years ago. Maybe even decades. You’re pretty far removed from such angst now.
“Far removed?” you might argue. “I wish! I have tweens and teens in my house who I have to observe every single day.”
In that case, you probably deserve an award and perhaps some condolences with it.
But it still doesn’t mean you completely “get it.” You don’t.
Though that’s okay.
You’re older than your teen and tween readers. This means you have a lengthier timeline of experiences and (hopefully) more wisdom and maturity as a result.
It’s okay – even appropriate – to admit that fact.
At the same time, you don’t want to lord that age and experience over them, using language and broaching topics as if they’re mentally, emotionally, psychologically or spiritually on par with adults.
Again, they’re not adults. Forget that at someone’s peril.
Be respectful of your readers’ age.
The middle-grade/young adult nonfiction genre is filled with some pretty difficult topics. Growing up can be rough in and of itself. But on top of that, children, tweens and teens today are exposed to far too much negativity, whether on purpose or accidentally.
While helping them through such tough times and topics does require honesty, it also requires tact. Figure out where the two should meet, and then work as hard as possible to respect that line.
Otherwise, writing a young adult nonfiction or middle-grade nonfiction book could do more harm than good.
Maybe you’re writing about something fun or funny for your young adult nonfiction or middle-grade nonfiction book. If that’s the case, don’t worry about having to pound the Writing Rule above into your head.
No doubt, you’ll still have to choose your vocabulary accordingly. Perhaps you’ll have to play down or flat-out avoid certain aspects of your subject matter too.
Overall though, you probably have plenty of room to run... if that's the kind of book you're writing.
Yet more and more attention is being given to different kinds of abuse, different kinds of disorders, and different kinds of problems that children, teens and tweens may go through. So more and more books are being written about such things.
Chances are decent your book-to-be fits into that category too.
If that’s the case, do your research. Delve into the psychology of the teen and tween brain. Understand their biologically dictated emotional and mental limitations and how to work around or through them.
Admittedly, this does put more work on your author-to-be plate. Also admittedly, it still won’t give you the exact teen or tween perspective you’re acknowledging.
Yet you’ll be that much closer to writing young adult or middle-grade nonfiction that might make a truly worthwhile difference.