Okay, let’s step back one second – if you are writing for the sheer love of writing and care only about entertaining yourself and never showing your work to anyone ever, great. You don’t need to consider the reader (because you already know “you”, right?)
However if your writing will actually be released from the death grip you hold it in, and be sent out into the world to be published, to be read… then you do need to think about those people who will be your readers.
Write what you love
This piece of advice comes up all the time and it’s pretty valid. You should enjoy what you write. You should write the book you want to read… but not just you. If you want to be published, then you need to make sure there is at least something in your book that others will like too.
Of course there will be people like you, but you still need to take that step outside your head and consider other readers. Even just a little.
I find this a lot with stories people ask me to read – usually it’s fan fiction and often it contains more sex scenes than an erotic novel. If you are going to do that, then at least mark it as an erotic story – because 9 times out of 10 there is no real plot and just a lot of sex… which honestly, is pretty tiresome to read. (unless you’re into erotica that is)
(I must confess I’m not a fan of fan-fiction – I actually prefer people to come up with their own ideas, their own characters and plots. I think people who get caught writing a lot of fan-fiction can become so limited that they don’t open up to the possibility of being better writers. But that’s a topic for another time…)
Know your Readers
You will probably get a feel of what your reader will be like – what age range, what fan style you will get. If you are writing young adult books then you will know that while you might get younger and older people liking it, your majority readers will be in that “young adult” bracket.
So make sure it is appropriate for them. Don’t start writing something for teenagers and then go off the deep end and fling in X rated sex and overly excessive violence. (yes I have seen that happen!) Your readers will not be prepared for it and most likely it will completely mess up the overall flow and style of the book.
Stick to the Script
I’ve mentioned this before (probably a few times) but heck let’s trot it out again… thinking about the reader is important but a reader should NOT dictate your writing. I’ve read books where characters change so much or end up romantically with so many different people throughout a series, it feels as if the author was trying to appease all the different fans.
Is that actually happening? I hope not. But it does make for strange reading when characters are bouncing around with everyone or there is the inevitable (and often boring) “love triangle” (I hate those) that the author will throw a character into.
Don’t get me wrong if the plot is heading that way anyway and the character IS the sort of character to be romantically or physically entangled with everyone in site, then fine. But often that’s not the case.
Things like this can feel forced. You will always get fans who are upset that character X got with character Y or that character A died! That does not mean character X should now get with character Z or that character A should be magically resurrected… unless you have actually written your plot that way (which I have read and liked when it was done well).
I read somewhere how many books share a common theme that is identified with by many many people: the sense of companionship in stories.
We live in a world with enough technology to talk to people across the world in different languages and yet we are becoming more lonely than ever. People don’t keep in touch with their friends or family, don’t visit people, don’t know their neighbours… people feel isolated and alone.
It is one of the reasons that books with groups of friends or fellowships of strangers do so well. It is that idea of people coming together to overcome an obstacle or complete a quest. The building of bonds and friendships even through hardship and grief.
I even did it myself, I went through my favourite books and realised that they almost all had a group of people, often those who didn’t know each other at the beginning coming together. They formed a family almost and supported each other. There was loss and betrayal but overall there was individuals who joined forces.
The worlds we build
This is a powerful message and should not be ignored. It is one of the reasons people like to identify with characters. It is why fans will contact authors and state how devastated they feel that the novel series is over. It is why readers will become so invested in the story that they can get physically saddened or elated when things happen.
A good book can draw you back again and again. You can re-enter that world and feel like you’ve come home. That you are seeing people you love again.
I have several book series that I can read over and over, they are like friends. Those people who know me who are non-readers often ask how I could possibly read a book I’ve read before. Some people don’t understand… but as writers, I know you do.
I guess this is where test readers come in – these are people who can read through your manuscript and give you their thoughts. Having test readers can give you suggestions and thoughts on how the writing is going and whether other people would find it appealing. I’ll cover test readers in another article.
This is just a few things to think about when you write…
Happy writing everybody
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