Wednesday, December 7, 2011

9 WOW Wednesday: Tina Moss on Writing Like a Reader

Today's WOW guest is a writer of urban fantasy, paranormal romance, and historical romance. Tina Moss lives in NYC with a supportive husband and alpha corgi, though both males hog the bed and refuse to share the covers. When not writing, she enjoys reading, watching cheesy horror flicks, traveling, and karate. As a 5'1" Shotokan black belt, she firmly believes that fierce things come in small packages. Catch her on her blog or on twitter.

Write Like a Reader

By Tina Moss

I have a bit of a confession to make...When I was asked to write a WOW Wednesday post, I squealed. No, really, I squealed. I’m a huge fan of the Adventures in YA & Children’s Publishing and feel very honored to make a guest appearance. About a minute after I read the request, however, the glow faded and I panicked. What the heck could I share with other writers? I wrote for eight years in children’s literature without success, and only signed with an agent when I switched to adult urban fantasy and paranormal romance. Who was I to give advice to aspiring YA & children’s writers? Then, the light bulb clicked on and I had it...Write Like a Reader!

I studied children’s literature throughout college. I wrote my Master’s thesis on archetypes in children’s books. I published academic articles on fairy tales and picture books in peer reviewed journals. Then, I dove into writing picture books. And failed - miserably. I’d studied children’s literature for so long, I thought for sure I knew what kids wanted, what publishers wanted, what parents wanted. Wrong. So, so wrong.

My picture books were over two thousand words with topics that’d scare the pants off a toddler. It took years before I realized I was writing a middle grade short story collection - and probably wouldn’t be able to sell it. Yet, the upside to the - multiple - mistakes I made early on in my career was that I learned a valuable, albeit probably basic, lesson - write with your readers in mind.

I failed at picture books, because I didn’t consider my target audience. The first step to rectify my situation was to identify what I enjoyed reading. Children’s literature had been my love for many years, but I’d studied it on an academic level. When reading for pleasure, I tended to gravitate toward adult fiction in fantasy and romance. I was a READER of these genres not a student.

Be a reader first. If you enjoy reading YA contemporary, for example, then chances are you should be a YA contemporary writer. Immerse yourself in your favorite genre. Read everything by top selling authors in your field, and see what they did to become successful, then do that - but do it better with your unique spin.

Over the years, I’ve heard many writers talk about writing for themselves and that’s awesome. You should write for yourself, but if you have the goal of publication in mind, then you have to know your audience. So, be the reader! Be your target audience, then you can write for yourself AND keep the goal of publication in mind. For all the YA and children’s writers out there, you have the BEST job in the world. You get to read through the eyes of your childhood or teenage self. What’s better than that?

Best of luck in your careers, and remember, write like a reader!


  1. Awesome post, Tina! This is so encouraging. I think you're right that what writers like to read the most is probably what they'll write the best! The passion you have for that genre will show in your writing.

  2. Well, all I have to do is to keep on reading and keeping that in mind. :)

  3. "Be your target audience"--I love that! Great post.

  4. Thank you! I can't tell you how excited and honored I am to be on the blog today. I truly believe that you have to write what you love and not to trends. Yet, at the same time, you should have knowledge of the market. A 300k novel, for example, just doesn't work as a middle grade story. So, knowing your audience gives you one more tool to put in your writer's toolbox. It's about improving your craft. It's not about subduing your voice; it's about making it smarter.

  5. Excellent post! And so very true, while we should write for ourselves, we must NEVER lose sight of our audience.

  6. Great reminder! I started out writing picture books too, but gradually realized novels were my niche. I LOVE this sentence:

    Read everything by top selling authors in your field, and see what they did to become successful, then do that - but do it better with your unique spin. :)

  7. Great blog!! You're right, you have to study in the genre you write, not only to learn the rules, but how to break them. There's a lot of magic out there to be gleaned from ya books, we have only to turn the page.

  8. So true! It was like a lightbulb went off when I first realized that. My husband was teasing me in the bookstore. "Why do you always read kids books?" My answer? "Because they're good!" Oh. *headpalm* moment. THAT's what I should write. Teen stuff.

  9. Great advice, Tina! Love the bit about scaring toddlers, too. ; )


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