Lake Atitlan, Panajachel, Guatemala

“Reading and writing are acts of empathy and faith. Guard that trust carefully — in this rapidly changing business, it’s the only sure thing.” ~Erin Keane
"Never give up. And most importantly, be true to yourself. Write from your heart, in your own voice, and about what you believe in." ~ Louise Brown

"Write something to suit yourself and many people will like it; write something to suit everybody and scarcely anyone will care for it."
~Jesse Stuart

"A writer's job is to take one thing and make it stand for twenty." ~ Virginia Woolf

Thursday, April 21, 2011

R is for Reader

No writer should say, "I am writing for me. I don't care who reads it." Because anyone who says this is either--

lying
deluded
talking about a personal journal  
never read a book and thus has no concept of the author/reader relationship
is participating in NaNoWriMo

The READER is king in the writer's world. It's all about connecting with the READER. A writer should have the READER  in mind as he writes. Stephen King has often stated that his primary reader is his wife Tabitha. He writes with her in mind as his audience. He knows if she gets it, then his demographic will, too. She represents his demographic. Tabitha King has made her husband a best-selling star among authors.

Who is your READER? Who do you write for, or think about as you work, perhaps even chuckling to yourself as you type out a scene, "Oh, yes, she is going to love this part"?

37 comments:

  1. Is it cheating to say that I write for readers like me who like things that differ to the norm? LOL That's kinda writing for myself, innit?

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  2. Great 'R' topic! Right now, I'm writing with my family in mind...my Mom and sisters. Happy Thursday! :o)

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  3. Oh Karen, you are so right! If you're not writing with target readers in mind, then you're not writing something that is marketable.

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  4. I don't write for anyone specific but I try to write for a less tolerant and more critical version of me :)

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  5. I write for the person that can’t stop reading even though it is 2am. Who shows up at work the next day with blurry, bloodshot eyes. Someone who can't stop thinking about my story long after the last page is turned.

    Yes. I write for that one.

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  6. I'm not limiting my readers by age or gender, but I am aware that my writing might appeal more to women, I hope a wider audience of course. ;-)

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  7. as an indie author and sensitive soul, when i write, i *have* to write the first few drafts for me, otherwise i worry too much about what readers will think and it stifles my creative side. i wait until the final draft to start thinking about the reader.

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  8. Reader is the perfect "R" word! Since I write across genres, I write for lots of people. My sister, though, comes pretty close to being my ultimate reader as she reads across genres. Plus, she can be totally brutal.

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  9. I'm hoping I write for loads of quirky people like me! LOL!! Yay for readers!!! Take care
    x

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  10. Participating in NaNo - that's funny!

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  11. I'm kinda with Jessica on this one.
    Karen

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  12. Good ideas and good comments. I'm not a writer but I guess I post for myself as I'm doing with Flamenco for the whole month. It's not a wildly popular subject. You just hit 800 followers. I remember when I was your 200 follower.
    Manzanita

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  13. Manzanita, I'm so glad you were my 200th follower! I didn't realize that, but I love your blog and sorry I've not been by on the Flamenco month. We are moving on April 30 and Blogger is so slow I can only get to about 3 or 4 blogs a day.

    Karen, Writing for yourself at first is a good plan. I think I do the same. Then when I get into editing I visualize the reader a lot more than when I first start out. I think it would be so cool to have that ideal reader one writes for, like Stephen King does.

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  14. I definitely write for the reader. I don't believe that requires me to write things that I don't also enjoy reading, but when it comes right down to it, I want to entertain people. I want to give them something they can hold and enjoy. Sometimes that means what I want to get out of my story has to take a back seat to what's better for the story as a whole.

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  15. I write because I have a story to tell. And I do have an audience. The trick is to reach them. So yes, I do write for the reader, but in my own style of writing.

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  16. I used to write for me, I thought. Now I crave outside comments.

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  17. I usually tell people that when you feel like there are only 2 ways to go on something, it's time to look for a 3rd somewhere between the two. And there are probably many that lie between.

    The quote in your heading says: "Write something to suit yourself and many people will like it; write something to suit everybody and scarcely anyone will care for it." (Jesse Stuart) In your post, you present a third possibility -- one that sits between the two in the quote -- probably the wiser choice.

    I must admit, to the greatest extent I possibly can, I write to suit myself in style, content, and especially copy editing. How can I do this and not fit one of your 5 given foibles? Because, I have made myself the Reader. I constantly ask, "What if I was reading this?" I love putting myself into that position, in the same way I would if someone else wrote it.

    Ego? Not at all. Philosophy calls me a Logical Objectivist...it's both a blessing and a curse. Maybe I'll fit this into an upcoming blog post...hhmmm :~)

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  18. I write for the kid I was at around ... 17. Who wanted so bad to find a story that was for HIM.

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  19. Matthew, I can't imagine a better reader to write for.

    Kathy, Your comment brought up a lot of issues that I didn't address if I wanted to keep my post short. But I definitely agree, and I am convinced of the truth of my quotes above or I wouldn't have them there. Writing for a reader to be popular while not being true to oneself is the wrong way to go! Thanks for your thoughtful comment.

    Heather, I crave readers. I find it motivates me to write more when I go back and read reviews of my books. I think, Yes! This person gets it! I will write for them.

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  20. I think I write for myself first, and then the reader second -- on the first draft. Then as I revise, I have to start thinking about the reader, to ensure things make sense, the pacing will work, and the story itself will hold attention. I don't think I've ever written with one particular person mind mind, though. But I imagine that may simply be a reflection of where I am in the journey -- perhaps as my voice is shaped, I'll feel more comfortable directing the work at one or two readers specifically.

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  21. I think I write so my family will have a few documented stories about what life was like in my younger days and also for those old farts like myself who share some of these memories. Also I find that if I write things down I can stop dwelling on them and move on.

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  22. I knew a "writer" who refused to think of the reader. She managed to take a story that was fascinating and make it impossible to read. Then when she asked for, and received, feedback, she just made excuses about why she wouldn't change it. Such a disappointment.

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  23. I'm not a writer, I struggle to even do a letter, but I really enjoyed this post. As a salesman, it is essential to know your audience. If you don't you will never have the success you do when you focus and then pursue. Sure you will sell to others than your original demographic, but when I am promoting a product I have to work specifically on my demographic, that is the money group. I think it would be the same with writing.

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  24. I write for readers like me. But maybe I should recruit a reader. Sounds sensible to me.

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  25. Déjà vu ....
    Did I get a sneak peak of this one sometime. Loved this one that I get, in any case. LOL

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  26. I actually just wrote a blog where I said I was writing my book for me, because I have to tell this story. Thanks for the thorough chastisement. You're so right! I think I'd like to be like Tolkien, to write for my children. But I need children for that. So I'll write for my husband? Oops, don't have one of those either. Will have to think of someone . . .

    Thanks for getting me thinking!

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  27. I'm with Matthew, except that I write for the kid that I was at 10. The kid who lives in her head and sees magic everywhere. The good kid who gets to be naughty vicariously through the adventures of story characters. The nerdy kid who turns out to be a hero. The quiet, bookish kid who solves the mystery. That kid.

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  28. This one's a bit dicey, because it's easy to oversimplify and say, "I think ---" When there's a bit more to it than ---.

    I write stories I want to read. But when I'm editing, I'm aware there are other folks along for the ride as well--or will be, with luck.

    So yes, I write for me. But I include others, too.

    I think the question of who you're writing for can be significant. Don't know about the rest of you, but I've a tendency to shift my vocabulary, sentence structure, and even my tenor a bit, depending on who I'm speaking with.

    I've not noticed it, but I suspect I do the same in my writing. So that person I'm picturing as I edit may subtly shift my sentence structure or word selection, without my being aware of it.

    Much to think on, here. Thanks for the post.

    Best,
    Joe
    r: RSVP

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  29. My reader is my daughter. We both LOVE children adventures/fantasies. If she likes it, I've succeeded.

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  30. What a great topic to ponder! To tell you the truth, I like to write what's on my mind...:)JP

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  31. Really great post and congrats on hitting 800 followers!

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  32. Melissa, Thank you but it's a funny thing. I keep getting one and losing one, so I'm glad for those who follow me and keep me at 800. When I was at 777, that was pretty cool. I felt lucky.

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  33. Great post I love to write for my children. My son has given me the best compliment ever when he told me I was his favorite author.

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  34. I totally agree. No-one writes without the hope (at least) that someone somewhere will read what they've written. Otherwise it's like talking to yourself: it might enable you to organise your thoughts, but not to communicate them.

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  35. I find it interesting that you had this post because I just read a quote by JD Salinger who only wrote a couple of books for the public. The rest (apparently volumes) he wrote for himself.

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  36. Clarissa, That is interesting. That's the way he wanted it. He couldn't stand the acclaim and the public eye on him.

    Frances, To me the writing process isn't complete without the readers.

    Josh, That is so sweet! What a wonderful compliment, that for sure would keep me going!

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