The Half-Truth of Writing for Your Audience

IMG_2016_02_06_340March 23, 2016 - What writer hasn’t heard the words of wisdom, engraved in stone, that we have to know our audience and write for them? We have to start where they are, give them what they need, and speak the language they understand.

I think the hardest part of writing may very well be defining our audience! I spent at least two years after Finding Eagle was technically done trying to figure out who would read the book (and why I couldn’t push the “publish” button).

My breakthrough came when I happened to read the standard question in a book for authors: “Who will read your book?” It was then followed by another question that hit the nail right on the head: “And why will they love it?”

The “Why will they love it?” addition takes the question of audience out of the intellectual realm and puts it squarely in the emotional arena where we can process it more authentically. For my part, I immediately saw what was missing in my book, added two chapters, and pressed “Publish.”

This is a step forward, but I contend there is still another obfuscating factor in writing for our audience and what they need and want. The simple question is: “How do we write what our audience will buy and still be true to our own voice?” When I focus too much on audience, all I get is pap – if I am able to write anything at all! The only way I can write the good stuff is if I write it solely to myself. I write what I need to say. I don’t censor how I say it. I judge its quality by how I feel when I read it.

Once I have written what needs to be said and I am happy with it, then I am ready to look at my audience and whether my writing makes any sense to them. This is a two-step process: 1) write for yourself, then 2) tweak it so it is understandable to others. This is how we maintain self-authority and our creative process and also give the audience a rich and powerful read. If we are always looking through the eyes of others, we will never see our own truth.

Happy Writing!

* photo (c) Art Held