To finish the series, “How to Follow Writing Advice that Makes No Sense,” consider another rule of thumb that successful authors so often seem to break: ‘Know your Target Audience.’
Trends in fiction are rarely predictable. Innovation devolves into cliché in about the time that it takes most busy people to get around to reading last year’s bestsellers, and this can frustrate that habit we formed as kids to stay ‘on trend.’ This is because it is often those without full-time careers—most notably, young readers—who channel the rivers of popularity when it comes to reading. For that reason, when it comes to understanding how to ‘Know your Target Audience,’ it may be best to focus on the target audience that changes the most often: young readers.
Anyone who has worked with children or teenagers knows how quickly they feel pressure to change their tastes. When something ‘sick’ becomes something ‘sweet,’ and then something else is sick because it’s sweet, the challenge of knowing this audience becomes similar to memorizing geographical formations down the side of the nearest active volcano. Ironically, successful authors who seem to break this rule—who publish runaway hits that seem to set new trends—may actually be the same authors who follow it the most closely. These may be the geniuses who have figured out that, for this audience, every trend is doomed at any moment to grow ill (which is entirely different from being ‘sick.’) These creators know exactly the ways to build on trends by painting whole new targets for their audience. Continue reading