Monday, December 26, 2011

Writers: know your audience

I had to go to the post office sometime in the autumn, and when I dropped by early in the morning, I was surprised to see a huge line. I'm used to going in the early afternoon, and being one of the few people there. So I got in line and waited. And waited.

One of the workers was trying to explain to someone that he needed to write the send-to address on his package.

"But it has my name on it," said the customer.

"Yes," said the postal worker, "but who are you sending it to?"

Lightbulb moment. The man took out a piece of paper and copied an address onto the package. That stuck with me all day. How can a person expect to mail a package but not put the destination on it? What did he expect to happen?

Well, writers do it all the time.

I see a lot of writers trying to pitch books that really wouldn't appeal to anyone but themselves. Or they might resist making needed edits. If you try to tell them this, they'll say, "But I'm the writer! I decide what happens in the story!"

This is entirely true; however, readers can decide not to read it.

When you're writing your book, in that precious, embryonic stage, definitely write whatever you feel is necessary. But once you open that door to criticism, be ready to take it. Get advice from other writers, preferably, whose opinions you trust.

I see a lot of writers taking off now in indie publishing, and it's clear they didn't just finish a manuscript and upload it. They took time to revise, and they know what sells and can write it in a compelling, illuminating way.

You're not just keeping a journal here. You're writing to help entertain, amuse, or inspire other people. Keep your audience in mind. When you release that book, who do you want to read it?


twentysomethingfictionwriter said...

I totally agree with this. Very good advice. I try to do a little of both. I entertain myself and my audience and hopefully we meet in the middle :)

S.M. Boyce said...

Very good points, but I have another perspective for you if you want to hear it.

King makes the argument in his book On Writing that we write for that "one person" in the first draft, and only that person. Everyone has a "one," be it yourself or someone else. For King, it's his wife. For me, it's actually a toss-up between my husband and my Dad, because they are both huge advocates for my work. You write the first draft with the door closed and without mind for what others will think, except for your "one." You wonder if they'll laugh at one part, or scratch their head at another, or want to throw the book at a wall ever (hopefully not).

Then, when your first draft is done and you open that door (and open yourself to revisions), you look at the overall audience. Obviously, I'm hoping more people buy my book than my husband and father. lol.

Point is that I don't think you can successfully start out writing for the masses. Start out small, honest, and just get the idea out. Once you hit editing and revisions, that's when you make it the next American epic.

-S.M. Boyce
Author of The Grimoire: Lichgates
>"Once you open the Grimoire, there is no going back. The adventure will be worth every hardship…if you survive.
Snag your copy from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords