Wednesday, December 2, 2015

IWSG: WRITING FOR READERS

Happy Holidays All

Here in the US it is the holiday season, starting in November with Thanksgiving, which officially opens the SHOPPING SEASON for Christmas. Although I enjoy the lights, decorations and sentiment of peace, love and togetherness, I'm not fond of the shopping mandate, the advertising that implies (and many times outright states) that the LOVE a person receives is dependent upon the price of the gift giving.

Color me a scrooge; I don't need all that advertising - as in constant e-mail spam - to remind me I'm broke. I'll give gifts when I feel like it, which is birthdays and whenever I see something that I think someone I care about would like to have.

Bah Humbug!

I caved into the shopping spirit this year, and have already got a good portion of my list completed. I've even been thinking of buying a four foot tree for the Cat to enjoy. Its early, we'll see about that one. My favorite thing about Christmas is the stockings. I love collecting items to stuff them with on Christmas Eve. Candy, lottery tickets, iTunes/Google Play gift cards, miniature cars and action figures. And of course a book or two for those who love a good read to cozy up to.

E-readers and tablets are making that book stuffing a bit more difficult; the generic Amazon or B&N gift card just isn't the same as picking out a specific book title. Unless the person I'm giving a book to is as difficult to buy a book for as I am. My grand daughter (11) is an avid reader, and she loves the feel of a paper book, but already she is proving difficult to buy a book to her tastes. Today she is into faeries and dragons, tomorrow she might prefer Greek Gods, and then there's the Monster High or zombie books she'll sprinkle into the mix. Like me, she needs to be staring at the book titles and covers before making a final decision about what to read.



Today is the first Wednesday of the month, and for my INSECURE WRITERS SUPPORT GROUP contribution I'd like to admonish all my author friends to remember their target audience. THE STRANGER READERS, not the fellow authors or critique partners that consistently view the working manuscript before its final publication. Yes, do listen to your crit partners and those you trust to give you honest feedback.

As a frequent critique partner and beta reader, I am often reminded that writers have a tendency to want to please their writing groups as much as their target readers. I am guilty of this fallacy myself. Too often when starting a project, I think of what my critique partners would like to read in the story I'm producing, and I forget that my friends/co-authors are not the purchasing audience I want to entice with the publication. Admittedly, writers are also readers; but I have noticed (for me anyway) that being a part of a story's creation can remove the wonder of discovery that makes that stranger reader so important..

Congratulations to all the NaNoWriMo participants that completed their commitment; and for those that started and did not finish, kudos for the attempt. Keep at it, some people write slower than others, but the revision process is in all our future stories.

Be sure to visit the IWSG founder Alex Cavanaugh, and his co-hosts this month: Sandra Hoover, Mark Koopmans, Doreen McGettigan, Megan Morgan, and Melodie Campbell. For more IWSG posts, and to add your own link if you are not already a participant, visit the IWSG sign up list.

56 comments:

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Stuffing the stocking is the fun part.
Get your cat a tree. He needs ornaments to knock down.
I've bounced ideas and directions off one of my critique partners, but I've not written specifically for them. At least I don't think I have...

L. Diane Wolfe said...

We have to please ourselves with our writing, too.

Our little Rocko loves it when we put up our two trees. She loves sleeping under them.

Pat Hatt said...

I write what comes to me, always the way at my sea. Hey, maybe a winning lottery ticket will get stuffed in a sock, you think? lol

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Donna - well done on working out what you can do, gathering small things through the year, and then this year - getting so much done. I write my blogs as I do - though often I'm asked to do others and they I'm afraid get forgotten about - not because I want to .. just the creative spirit abides here. Cheers Hilary

Munir said...

Thanks for the post. God Bless Alex and his co- hosts.
I wrote only on the first day of NANO and could not continue. As always I keep putting my hobbies last and because of work and house work, get too tired to get to what I like. May be next year, it will be better.

Roland D. Yeomans said...

Diane is right: if we please ourselves then we will please like-minded readers. Not a bad thing. :-) Happiest of holidays despite the ads to lure you into over-spending!

VR Barkowski said...

I write for neither stranger readers nor critique partners. I’ve gone so long without being read, who likes or doesn’t like my work means very little. All I owe my reader is a well-told tale. What I write is up to me.

VR Barkowski

Stacy McKitrick said...

I love shopping for stocking stuffers. I usually find things all year long and save them for just that (provided it doesn't have an expiration date!).

I write to please me. Otherwise, why write it? I do love it when someone gets my story, though. I just want to hug them!

Juneta Key said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Juneta Key said...

I like one of the comments above about get your cat a tree. Here is a video of cats have a Merry Christmas. I thought too funny and too true. https://www.facebook.com/channel4dubai/videos/10152984844548223/?pnref=story

I hate black Friday and never go, but roommates love it---they were up at dawn to get the deals bah humbug lol My shopping is done though and most of it wrapped under the tree.

Happy Holidays
Juneta @ Writer's Gambit

dolorah said...

Alex: he has a four foot scratching post/tree all year. Doubt he'll leave the ornaments on my tree alone. Its good to have someone to bounce creative off sometimes.

Dianne: deinitely. If my cat would just sleep under the tree I'd be ok with that.

Pat: the rule is if it wins more than $100 I get a share :)

Hilary:I am pleased with myself.

Munir: writing on a specific schedule is not for everyone.

Happy holidays Roland

VR: your book is on my TBR list and I'm hoping to get to it very soon.

Stacy: I'm more of a last minute shopper. This is way early for me.

Juneta: lol, he's got his own already, so I hope he leaves my shiny one alone - if I get one. Thanks for the video, was too funny. My daughter and son-in-law went to black friday; after turkey dinner they were like, ok we're out of here, stay or go, somebody watch the kids, bye!

Jeffrey Scott said...

Wow, that's a great reminder to remember who we are writing to. That target audience, not just the person(s) that may be willing to beta-read your book. As I've been rewriting an older story I wrote as a teen, I have to remember to keep it at that teen level as I do the rewrite. For fear of chasing any possible reader away.

Olga Godim said...

Interesting post. I don't usually write to please anybody, and maybe that's the problem. Maybe I should start writing with a certain audience in mind. Because currently, my sales suck.

Nicki Elson said...

Stranger reader - I like that term! It's such a mysterious beast to me. I hope to figure it out one day.

My day job is to do online and print marketing for a local retailer. I'm SO sick of ads and product pushing. I'm trying to instead emphasize the experience (it's a totally cute maze of homey boutiques) rather than all the things we hope customers spend $$ on once we lure them into our trap, mwahahahah! And yet...I do 90% of my personal shopping online.

Botanist said...

I also like the term "stranger reader" and the reminder that we need to please ourselves. Spooky timing on this, because I've just been writing about critiquing, and I emphasize the point that we get critiques to strengthen our writing - not to please our critiquers!

Lynda R Young said...

Good point about writing for our CPs. I've done that. Oops.
And I love Christmas too and all the tinsel and sparkles and, of course, the meaning of the season, but am not a fan of the shopping experience. I do like the giving experience, so I put up with the shopping experience, though.

L.G. Keltner said...

I also love stuffing stockings! A book makes a wonderful stocking stuffer.

I'm not sure what a stranger reader would like in a book. I also don't always know what my target audience should be when I sit down to write something, and I have moments where I worry that, no matter how much I might like what I'm writing, that I'm somehow doing it all wrong. Insecurity is no fun at all.

authorcgcoppola.com said...

Ah the Christmas (holiday) season, when I go essentially broke.

I think writers want to please everyone with their writing, but it just doesn't happen. To anyone. Write the story you want to write - simple as that. Great post :)

dolorah said...

Jeff: I never thought that a writer would have a story not targeted to a certain reader. Interesting.

Olga: I don't know if that is the problem with sales. As a reader, I look for certain concept points in a genre I like. I want something different in an epic fantasy as opposed to an urban fantasy, and different in a horror than a romance. While I like a certain amount of romance or mystery world building, the expections are are different. Its possible I'm not the typical reader though.

Niki: Thanks :) I do understand we need marketing and advertising, I just have issue with the excess this time of year. I do most my shopping online too.

Botanist: Cool, we're on the same page, lol. And yes, critiques are to strengthen the writing/story, which why I advocate that a critiquer need not be a fellow genre writer.

Lynda: I love the giving aspect too, which is why it is so hard to wait for the specific day.

LG: if you write what you love, then you are doing it correctly :)I think there is an audience for everything; writing for a specific reader type just ups the chances it will be listed in the appropriate genre.

Denise Covey said...

Right on with the reader audience. There's so much conflicting advice here...like write what you want...but someone's got to like it enough to buy it.

Happy Christmas Donna! Enjoy all that non-shopping and family and cat celebrations.

Denise :-)

Dixie@dcrelief said...

The only cat around here is a wild one that eats my birds. I don't think a tree would hold his interest- I could be wrong. I was one time in Springfield.

Laurel Garver said...

This is exactly what I needed to hear today. I just got a critique from someone in my writing group that I think if I followed would make the story appeal more to adults than to teens, my target audience. I didn't think the comment itself was off base, but the suggestion of how to fix it might be. I need to keep my ACTUAL target audience in mind when it comes to how I fill in the details that are missing.

Buying books for others IS really tricky, and plenty of people prefer the gift card because choosing is part of the fun for them.

Go for it with the tree, Just use fabric, paper and plastic ornaments. We got some very durable ball ornaments at Target that the cats love batting at. :-)

Diane Burton said...

Good reminder about our target audience. Try to enjoy the holidays.

Loni Townsend said...

I agree with your shopping methods of buying things when you feel like it. I haven't even looked at shopping for Christmas yet.

With my critique group being a mix of genres, I have people who sometimes get confused with my story. But then they don't typically read fantasy, so I have to take feedback with a grain of salt. :)

Rachna Chhabria said...

I love everything about Christmas: the decorated Christmas trees, the stockings and the family gatherings.

Donna, I agree with you about a writer's tendency to please their critique partners. I am guilty of that, especially when I do my revisions after they have given their feedback.

Christine Rains said...

Sometimes I feel like a bah humbug too. But I have all my shopping done. I'm also guilty of trying to please my critique groups. They teach me so much, though.

dolorah said...

CG: I hear ya on both counts

Dx: Readers can be such elusive creatures.

Dixie: you, wrong? Never! I hope you feel better for the holidays.

Laurel: I imagine its hard to remember that maturity gap since so many adults read YA. I've had styrofoam ornaments before, what I really worry about is him climbing the tree and shredding the presents. He loves paper!

Diane: you too

Loni: they are probably best at catching technical errors; pacing, word misuse, plot gaps, character inconsistencies . . .

Rachna: yeah, I always want to use the feedback, but I stop short of angst and eye rolling, lol.

Christine: I have learned so much from my crit partners over the years too. Their feedback has been invaluable.

Lisa said...

I don't have a critic group, but wish I did. I don't have a cat, and am completely happy with my little (9 pound) dog. Ever since my kids have grown and gone, we haven't put up a tree much so he doesn't even know what one is! I use beta readers before I send my mss's to my editor, and I pay close attention to their comments and feedback... Merry Christmas!!!

Gwen Gardner said...

I don't have a Christmas list these days. I get tired of the pressure to shop and buy. I put something together for my daughter and her husband, then the hubs and I do stockings but that's about it. Nothing under our tree, but we love the smell of the pine and the lights and of course the feeling behind the occasion and season.

farawayeyes said...

What no BOTB, shame on you. Seriously, I do understand, it's hard to keep up with everything, hard to want to. For the third month in a row, I've missed IWSG. I'm probably off the list. Maybe I'll make it back after the first of the year.

I too get aggravated with the commercialization of Christmas. I finished my gift buying a month ago. BUT, that said, you gave me some great ideas for stockings, which, I agree, is the best part.

Your advice about writing to your target audience is stellar. I'm afraid I'm guilty of writing for myself, and not always considering who my target audience is or what they might like.

As promised long ago, I'll let you see shortly. The work I want to send you isn't in my laptop, but on an old computer so I need to put it on a thumb drive and load it here so I can send it. I have just been overwhelmed with everything lately, but I am determined to get if off before Christmas. You get to it when you can. Hoping we can get together in January.

Donna K. Weaver said...

I just write the story I would like to read. I'm reaching out to people with similar tastes, recognizing that that won't be everyone. And might not even be a lot of people.

alexia said...

Yeah, Christmas is way too commercialized, just like the rest of the holidays. But I love it anyways!

And yes, you are right about writer/readers vs. just reader readers. The tricky thing is, it's harder to connect with the regular readers and get yourself known to them!

Tammy Theriault said...

Truth be told, I am ruined too now after becoming a beta reader. Everything is a critique. Lol

DEZMOND said...

a tree for the cat? Such exquisite delight!

Deniz Bevan said...

Ooh, you make stocking shopping sound like fun!

I never show anyone a draft until the story is completed and I've done at least one ediing pass. I'm always so afraid of being unduly influenced!

Chrys Fey said...

I bought my cats a 4 foot tree and they love it! I added some cat toys and they play with it all the time. I put aluminum foil around the base of my tree and the presents under it to keep them away, as they destroy everything, and it works like a charm.

My oldest nephew recently got into the I Survived books, so I bought him 3 of those that he hasn't borrowed from his teacher or checked out from the library. For my youngest nephew, I got a big book all about turtles as he's obsessed with them.

I do work with beta readers when my manuscript is complete and listen to their opinion. It's my job to decide if their suggestions work and if they'd be right for my haracters and stranger readers.

Chrys Fey said...

I bought my cats a 4 foot tree and they love it! I added some cat toys and they play with it all the time. I put aluminum foil around the base of my tree and the presents under it to keep them away, as they destroy everything, and it works like a charm.

My oldest nephew recently got into the I Survived books, so I bought him 3 of those that he hasn't borrowed from his teacher or checked out from the library. For my youngest nephew, I got a big book all about turtles as he's obsessed with them.

I do work with beta readers when my manuscript is complete and listen to their opinion. It's my job to decide if their suggestions work and if they'd be right for my haracters and stranger readers.

dolorah said...

Li: my cat has not seen a Christmas tree either; I'm basing his desire to tear it up on previous cats, lol. Poor thing. Critique groups are nice, and helpful. Cool that you have beta readers at least. I'm sure you're editor is all the crit group you need though :)

Gwen: I haven't had a real tree in years. I love the smell of pine and all the lights and decorations too.

FAE: yeah, BotB was too close to IWSG, and I'm not a great blogger these days. I am hoping you find some joy this holiday, perhaps I can help that out :) I'll be looking for your e-mail. In fact, I'll send you one. Gonna be in your area Dec 11, might spend the night if you're not working?

Donna: I'm sure you are reaching lots of readers.

Alexia: I always wonder if any of my stories were read in the publications and what the reader thought of them. ezines and anthologies don't get reviews often.

Tammy: yeah, me too, lol

Dezzy: but of course!!

Deniz: once my last one moves out I'll probably not do those any more. I'll miss it. I don't like showing my first draft to anyone either.

Chrys: I do worry about those presents under the tree; he loves paper. He has two modes: too playful and sound asleep. He's spoiled.

Robin said...

First, we missed you this BoTB. Alas, I didn't put an IWSG post. For those who think you can do/have it all, I say: Phooey. At least I've never managed it.

As for the writing thoughts... I think when we strictly try to please one person with something meant for everyone... well, we're doomed to fail.

Cherie Reich said...

We haven't done stocking stuffed gifts in a long time. Some people can be hard to buy for too. That's why gift cards are nice. I'd much rather get a gift card than something I don't want/need.

And we do often want to please everyone with our writing, which is unrealistic. It is best to keep our target audience in mind when in the editing stages.

Sandra Hoover said...

Like you, I love stuffing the stockings. I hate the commercialism of the holidays, but enjoy the quiet time spent with family & friends gathered around the fireplace & tree. Great advice about writing for your target audience. Thanks for the reminder. And thanks for stopping by my blog to visit today.

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

Good point about putting the reader when writing. I love doing the stocking thing too. I have a lot of boys so I always put in some beef jerky. Two of my kids always get book gift cards. My college age daughter always gives me a list of books she'd like to have, usually nonfiction reference books. Also for all of them, razor blades because they're so dang expensive.

Yolanda Renee said...

I enjoy the lights too, have mine up, blue being my favorite. Shopping done, all online, not one for the massive crowds and lines. The stockings are always fun.
I write for me, wish I could write the popular genres - the ones that sell, but I go where my imagination takes me. The first time I read the formula for romance novels, I found it limiting. But maybe I needed those limitations - might have been a good learning tool.

Doreen McGettigan said...

My husband and I have not had stockings for Christmas in years and last weekend I bought 2. I cannot wait to stuff them!
I needed
this reminder to remember my stranger readers. Have a peaceful holiday.

Doreen McGettigan said...

My husband and I have not had stockings for Christmas in years and last weekend I bought 2. I cannot wait to stuff them!
I needed
this reminder to remember my stranger readers. Have a peaceful holiday.

Lexa Cain said...

I don't think you're a Scrooge at all. Just frugal. I only send e-cards now on Christmas or birthdays. Being retired, I can't afford more. Since my CP group is composed of people more "normal" than I am, their opinions are vital. (In the spirit of Stranger Readers, I may hit you up to beta my novel.)

Arlee Bird said...

I stopped Christmas shopping after my work life ended. No paychecks, no extra pocket money for gifts. I'm content not to receive any gifts that aren't useful to me. I do miss my mother's gifts which in my most recent years were shirts that were ideal for me--she had a knack at finding shirts that suited me best, many which I still wear to this day.

Being old-fashioned to an extent, I'd much rather have real traditional books unless someone wanted to give me an e-reader with books already loaded to it.

It's difficult to know what may click with audiences so I think the best thing is to write for oneself with the audience in mind, but not controlling actions.

Arlee Bird
Wrote By Rote

Medeia Sharif said...

It's hard to shop for books for others. I don't always know what they want. My CP's all write kidlit, so we all have the same audience, although I do think about whether or not they'll be pleased with my writing.

J.H. Moncrieff said...

I love stocking shopping too, which is a good thing, since my parents both "hire" me to do theirs for each other. And then I have my boyfriend's to fill. I did one for my best friend this year too.

I agree with keeping the reader in mind, and the same goes for blogs. When I stopped writing for other writers in favour of writing for readers, my traffic and participation increased dramatically. Most of my comments still come from writers, but thankfully they're writers who are also interested in my books.

Tamara Narayan said...

The writing group I belonged to fell apart over a year ago, so I'm a bit adrift. I don't know if I ever wrote toward any of their tastes, but I did make sure to bring in thoughtful submissions, because there was one fellow who didn't have any qualms calling me out if I brought in crap. (He was also one of the most useful members by far.)

Shopping? Well, I thought I could scale things back this year, but with two kids, I get into this vicious cycle where I buy something for one, and then I have to buy something on a similar level for the other and it keeps going and going until I have a closet full of stuff and a credit card on fire. Well, at least I can save some items back for their birthdays.

Michelle Wallace said...

I love writing suspense. This I know. Most of the things I write inevitably land up with twists and turns. But with a literary slant. Who am I writing it for? I've never thought about it. Suspense readers? Maybe. For myself? Definitely.
I've never really analysed my target audience. To be honest, I have no idea who they might be.

A Beer For The Shower said...

I never actually thought of writing in such a way so as to cater to a critique group. I always just write for myself. And as a duo, we just write to make each other laugh. It's just a bonus if other people appreciate it.

And I'll admit, even though I mostly sell ebooks I still prefer to buy physical books as presents for my loved ones. And not my books, either. That just seems so tacky.

Shannon Lawrence said...

Excellent point about critique partners. My main beta reader only gets the book when I think it's at a solid place, and she's not part of the planning, which helps, I think. She's also not a writer. But we can't write to our critique partners' preferences. At least in my case, several of them are not at all in my target audience.

Michael Offutt, Phantom Reader said...

I can't wait until I have a house (and hence more room) to put up Christmas stuff. I think I'd like to put up a tree. Anyway, I've got no room now so I'll continue with the tradition of putting nothing up to celebrate the season. Excellent advice on the writing to your audience part.

Misha Gericke said...

I agree with you. Readers don't see things the same way as writers. And often, I can SEE where a writer has listened to too many CPs.

Also, for the past few years, my family has made a rule of not spending more than a specific amount on a gift. (Say $5) It actually makes gift giving more fun, because you have to be really creative to make that budget work.

Nick Wilford said...

Good points about bearing the audience in mind, but it can be hard to second guess what that audience is after. If we write what's pleasing to us, the enthusiasm and joy will be picked up by the readers and they'll keep reading.