What does a 34 year-old-woman do after she’s written a Young Adult novel? She has doubts.
That was the state I found myself in. I’m what we’d call ‘yold.’ That’s young and old, people. Young enough that I can still remember being seventeen as not some foreign state. But old enough that I worried my novel wouldn’t resonate with an audience half my age.
When I was thirteen I fell in love with David Lynch’s TV show Twin Peaks. My novel is inspired by Lynch’s dissection of small town weirdos, dead prom queens, and his realistic take on the supernatural. With the support of a writers group in New York City, I wrote in my typical mad-woman style, and churned out a wobbly, thriving, first draft at the end of the year.
My writers group consisted of people like myself in their 30’s and 40’s. But I kept wondering – what would a seventeen-year-old girl think?
The only solution for me was to ask some teenagers directly. The first time I tried this it didn’t go so well. I was trying to chase down teenage nieces/daughters/friends of friends, and a lot of them weren’t all that interested in reading. But even with the little feedback I got, I knew I needed to make some serious edits. The main one being all the adults who read my manuscript chose the ‘right’ guy out of the love triangle, but all the teenagers chose the ‘other’ one. That was a reality check. #yold
So I wrote and rewrote. A lot. And then I tested it a second time with teenagers a year later.
By this point, I figured out how to attract serious test readers, and by the end of it, I had a 25+ page report full of feedback from teenagers all across the US on what did and didn’t work in my manuscript. It tested much better the second go around. They answered big picture questions, from relating and loving my main character June, to reassuring me that my ending–since it’s a mystery novel–struck that balance between satisfying and piquing curiosity. They also offered such unique specifics, such as my ‘texting’ seemed realistic and my teenage sarcastic dialogue was believable.
The whole process was so wildly helpful, the first time with editing my manuscript, the second time as a marketing tool to prove the viability of the manuscript. As I turned to the oh-so-daunting task of trying to get published, I realized I had a powerful secret weapon with my positive test results. I’d done the field work. I knew my manuscript was grabbing teens. Wouldn’t this get an agent’s attention?
And with that, I turned an idea–doing online testing for novelists–into a company: BookHive Focus Group Services. And here we are! One day, when my manuscript gets bought (as I hope it will) I’ll be thrilled to work with an editor. That editor, I’m sure, will not be seventeen. So it’s nice that I’ve had twelve real-life age appropriate consumers provide me with a backbone of knowledge that I can trust. This is what I want to provide to other novelists: a method of gauging whether their manuscript is solid and ready for public consumption.
These were some of the initial design inspirations for the company. Bees! Books! #BookHive
I think we write in order to feel something and to make others feel something, to transcend the everyday into moments of beauty, humor, and revelations, to tell stories, to learn, to have some ever-evolving creative footprint. And you know what? To put yourself out there–writing or otherwise–can be scary. But my hope is that BookHive can help other writers to clarify their voice and find their audience, leaving ‘yold’ fears and otherwise in the dust.
To become a Test Reader or to sign up your manuscript to be tested for our
$100 Launch Price, visit us at www.bookhivecorp.com
Jennifer would like to thank Brock Hotaling at Opstreams for creating the BookHive website, Jeri Stunkard via Crowdspring for all the design elements, her brilliant mentor Elisabeth Morten, her NYC Writers Group, her incredibly supportive parents Pamela and Hugh Bowen, and her husband Garrett Neergaard who always believes in her.