Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Common writing mistakes #1 – Who is the reader?

There are some common problems (or iss-ewes, if you watch Kath and Kim) that pop up in manuscripts – usually more in fiction but, as most aspiring writers are writing fiction, it could be relevant to some of you. The principles apply for fiction, non-fiction and children’s writing, though. So I thought I’d identify some of these problems/iss-ewes in the hope that it may help some of you with your writing.

The first one is: WHO IS YOUR READER? It becomes quite obvious early in a manuscript if a writer has addressed the story only to him or herself. This is a problem that usually arises with a first novel, but it’s a killer, because if you’re the designated reader of your own novel, who else is going to want to read it?

There is nothing wrong with writing a novel only for yourself; the difficulty arises when you send it off to agents and publishers and then become distressed when they don’t want to see your story published. But they’re just being pragmatic – if they can’t identify who your reader is, they’ll logically assume the reading public won’t be able to either and thus won’t buy the book. So if you’re hoping that a publisher will invest some money in publishing your pride and joy, you need to make it easy for them to identify who they’re going to sell it to. Quite early on in the writing process, identify your target readership and keep them in mind while writing. This is no different to a musician deciding whether they’ll write a pop song that lots of people will like, or whether they’ll record a three-hour chord progression that only they understand.

You may need to give your novel to trusted friends and readers, or investigate some professional development programs, in order to work out if you have this problem – let’s face it, if you’ve written the novel for yourself, you’re unlikely to truly see that it is a problem. Remember also that it’s only a problem if you want to get your book published – if you just want to read it to yourself, don’t worry!

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