Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Who Are You Writing For?

                                                                                                Photo by Donna Weedon

There's so  much information on writing out there, so many helpful tips that it's hard for the new writer to come to grips with what he or she actually needs to do to communicate with their reading audience and create a really engaging, begging-to-be-read novel.

There's no magic answer, no 'simple fix' direction that will get you there if you're in this boat. Should there be a lot of dialog or a little?  Should you write in first person or third person?  Should you introduce a lot of background information immediately or spread it out throughout the length of the book - or both?  Formal language or relaxed?

One of the first major steps to take as a writer is to define for yourself who you're writing the novel, article, script or other work for. In the case of a novel it may well depend on what genre you're writing for. 

You write for a different audience if you write romance rather than western, thriller rather than science fiction, fantasy rather than mainstream.  For an article it makes a difference if you're writing for a woman's magazine, an in-flight magazine or perhaps a kid's magazine. A script?  Well, you're writing for the 'reader' as well as for the agent or studio head who could well get the thing produced.

For purposes of this post let's stick with writing a novel. Whatever you're writing, pause for a moment - maybe two - and think about who's going to be reading your finished work. Do you see your readers as predominantly male or female? Rabid fan of one genre or another, or a reader out there just looking for something interesting who moves between genres? Or is your reader someone who seeks out only tales of adventure or fine literature? 

Do you perceive your reader as older, younger? Try to form an image of your 'average reader' in you head. This is your audience. This is who you're writing for and simply knowing who your reader is should give you a leg up on what you write and how you're writing it.

It will influence the words you choose and how you deliver them. Most of said influence will be unconscious, your inner writer picking up on the signals you're sending to it.  Some will be conscious decisions on how to present your story based on your understanding of who your reader is.

Every writer's style is different and really no one can tell you as the writer how to develop your style. That will come with writing and time, and, I believe, knowing your reader.

Understand from the beginning that not every writer can appeal to every reader. We'd all like to believe our creations will be universally read and loved by all who read them. Untrue. But, we can understand who our readers are and by knowing that, craft our writing to be the very best our readers expect of us.

So think about your story, the mechanics of writing it, the planning and plotting, what you love to write - but don't forget to think about who your readers are and invite them along for the ride.

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