Friday, September 19, 2014

Focus on Your Reader

Throughout your schooling you were taught one thing—that the writer is the most important part of the process.  But when you decided to start writing, expressing your ideas and thoughts, you discovered that not so many people wanted to read your work. In fact, it may have felt as if no one was interested. To make sure people are interested, you must focus on them, your readers.

Sure, the ideas you work with mostly originate with you. Many beginning writers keep journals in which to record their ideas and their musings. But no one reads your journal but you. When you write for your readers, you have to look at your writing in a whole new way.

When you record your innermost thoughts and experiences in a journal, you do it in a highly personal and uncensored manner. But often these writings are haphazard and unorganized. They make sense to you but to your readers they appear chaotic and disorganized. That’s because they were never meant to be shared with your readers.

Keeping a journal can be a healing process after a traumatic experience. It can guide you through the early stages of becoming a writer. It lets you see your mistakes and bad habits and the patterns that develop so you can correct them later on. But keeping a journal won’t improve your writing because you don’t pay attention to style and technique, two things your readers look for and want to see in whatever they read.

Learning to write for publication is somewhat difficult for the average beginner. You wrote all those compositions in school for one reason—to practice the writing skills you were taught. If you could go back and read them, you’d discover that they are probably boring and don’t speak to you at all.

So to write material worthy of publication, you must make a definite shift in how you interact with the reader. What the reader wants and needs is of the upmost importance. Your creativity will have to move from self-orientation to interaction. Whatever your motivation, you need to move from daydreaming to a purposeful way to express your thoughts and feelings so that your readers will empathize with you. When you tell a story, you must engage your readers—you must make them feel a part of it.

There are a lot of people who go through a traumatic experience. They’re either overjoyed or deeply hurt by it. For those who come through feeling a sense of euphoria, sharing that with readers may be an uplifting experience. But those who are deeply hurt only want to lash out and blame everyone. Sharing that with readers turns them off because there’s nothing in it for them. Writing a memoir can be cathartic, whether or not writing makes you feel better is secondary.

There are many reasons to write. Ask yourself why you want to write. Is your goal to entertain or inspire foster understanding or inform? To make your article or story hit home with your readers, it must first be meaningful to you. It must satisfy your own curiosity.

Not only are you a writer, but you’re also a reader. You have the opportunity to see any piece of writing from your readers’ perspective. First and foremost, you must make whatever you're saying clear. You need to transform your ideas and facts into something that better serves others. By taking your specific circumstances and tapping into universal themes, you can create a story that's more relatable to your readers. And in doing so, your story transcends yourself and becomes meaningful to others.

So before you write anything, ask yourself who will be the main audience. How old are your readers? What gender are they? What demographic group do they belong to? How educated are they?

Paying close attention to the answers to the above questions will not only make your writing better, it will also make it read. And isn’t that the goal of writing for publication in the first place?