As an ex-librarian, when I found the first ‘Dork Diaries’ on the WRONG SHELF, no – <gasp> – make that the WRONG ENTIRE SIDE of the Junior Fiction section of my library, I knew I had to help it find its way home.
Except when I picked it up, I immediately recognised the title, and took it out instead.
Yes, I hear what you’re saying… ‘But, Heather… this book was published in 2009! How can you not have read it yet?!’
That’s cool – I believe in better late that never when it comes to books.
My first take-home from this book is it’s not entirely my thing. And that’s completely fine because gazillions of other people think it’s their thing. So it’s still valuable to review why it worked. I don’t need (or even want) to write a book just like it (no one should for any book), but I can incorporate some of the winning ingredients into my own writing.
My second thought was about how different this ‘girl’ book was from funny ‘boy’ books of a similar ilk. More focus on clothes and looks and the opposite sex. Hmmm…
But what worked in this book that I can take into my own writing?
- Love interest (not hopeless)
- Besting the nasty popular kid through personal skill
- Fab illustrations.
My favourite thing is the way MC Nikki keeps on saying all these awesome and/or outrageous things, and then tells us it was only in her head. A clever trick. I would internally gasp, like ‘Did she really say that?’ and then find she didn’t. Sometimes I was relieved, sometimes I was disappointed!
‘But I just said it in my head, so no one else heard it but me.’
And you know what else I love? In the acknowledgments, author Rachel Renee Russell thanks her agent who saw ‘the potential of this book when it was merely fifty rambling pages about a quirky girl and her fairy godmother.’ This book no longer has a fairy godmother. (Quirky girl? Still a tick.)
From that, I figure that compelling character and great writing will win out. Maybe we don’t need to get that submission perfect. Maybe, even if it’s the wrong genre aimed at the wrong age group, if we write well enough someone will see the potential.
Write on, people!