Sep 16, 2010

Steve Cole - Writing for all Age Groups

If we were starting to get drowsy towards the end of the CYA Conference day, Steve Cole was the perfect speaker to re-invigorate us all (even his eyebrows were super-animated as he mimed characters from his books!).
Steve was visiting from the UK where he writes books for... all ages! Many times in writing blogs and books, I've come across the advice that you must market yourself for one genre and age-group. This apparently makes it easier for publishers and agents to know where to place you. It was a relief to hear that authors can be successful writing many different types of stories for every reading age-group.

As a beginner writer, how can you find your perfect style unless you experiment and write varying genres aimed at different markets? Steve was an example of a writer that understood the available markets (having worked editing before having his own books published).

Literacy and how we approach it for different age groups was addressed. I was impressed by Steve's thoughts on 'Emotional Literacy'. If you are wondering what themes or feeling are appropriate for younger readers, Steve suggests no boundaries. Kids feel love, grief, anger, pride and so on, feelings do not change across ages, but understanding of those feelings does.

And adult and a child can both experience grief, how they deal with it and what they understand about their emotions will be different.

Steve took us through one opening chapter idea and reformatted it to suit three different age groups (tweens, teens and YA). What does that age group find scary? What things are important to them (parents, friends, mobile phones)?

When writing for young chapter readers, Steve advises making characters' motivations clear. You must reiterate, tell the reader what needs to be done, show the character doing what needs to be done, and, then explain what has just been done. He also recommends tying up ends as younger readers like a firm resolution to the story.

After Steve's seminar/workshop, I realised what my problem with Dog Show Detective was. I had the first three quarters of the book aimed at one age group, and the climax aimed at another. After whinging about losing a great ending, I finally 'killed off my darling' and re-wrote it to make it more appropriate (but being the miser I am, I'll save the 'thriller' end for another story).

This workshop was a great experience as well as being rather entertaining with Steve's pantomimes.

You can check out Steve's website and learn about his fantastic series about dinosaurs in outer-space!
I just ordered this great book about a Z-Rex (so much more powerful than the T-Rex!) for my dinosaur lovin' daughter:


  1. Thanks for the post. Too often we become devoted to just one genre and don't reach out to read or write anything else. Thanks for the nudge to broaden our interests.

  2. I'm so glad to hear that we needn't stick to one genre. Not that I've written that much, but I do like to dabble with different styles and target different age groups.

    Thanks for sharing.

  3. Definitely nice to see people succeedng across ages. I write strong teens, but some of the things I do to them do not belong in YA books (I have one manipulated into murdering someone--rotten of me)... other books are a better fit. All my stuff is at that darker end of mystery, suspense, thriller, but I really want to be able to go back and forth with age.

  4. A useful and timely post, thanks. I have moved to another genre and am writing for children. I have changed my name for the book. It was an interesting to find someone who says it is OK to switch.

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