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The Mastery of Reinvention

Posted on February 13th, 2011

Perhaps it is a result of Glee bringing “mash-ups” into popular parlance, but mash-ups are now making an appearance in books too. (See for example the spate of books spawned by Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.) A mash-up takes two superficially different genres or plotlines and forces them to hold together. The results are often humorous, unpredictable, satirical and fresh. Just what you need to shake things up.

Alternatively, you could embrace the concept of retelling. Films have done this for years, sometimes with huge success. Clueless was a retelling of Emma, and Cruel Intentions a retelling of Les Liaisons Dangereuses.  Very often we see an old story (really old – as in out of copyright old) brought to a modern audience by tweaking all the available elements. So if you are stuck for a story, perhaps pick two random things and just make them go together. Or bring an old story to life; not necessarily by setting it in 2011, with kids, at school. Think beyond that… And think big. Reinvention is a great way to get creative.

Confusing Us with Them

Posted on February 4th, 2011

It is a very easy mistake, and one which writers make time and time again: Kids don’t like books about stuff that grown-ups like.

That sounds obvious, doesn’t it? But it permeates children’s books in very subtle ways. Perhaps it is because when inspiration strikes, we are so grateful we don’t spend a second questioning whether our own wants/needs/likes have taken over the process. The result is that you have lots of books for kids that miss their mark.

Of course there are exceptions to the rule – some children like grown-up books, teenagers veer towards sophisticated themes (look at Gossip Girl!) and crossover fiction has been massively successful.

But it is worth taking a moment, after striking on a corker of an idea, to think whether premise of the book is something that appeals to us or whether it also has the potential to appeal to them. If it does, you probably have a bestseller on your hands. And if you are unsure, you can always email Smart Quill to ask!