Lots of advice on writing centres around our practice – write/work daily, journal, read widely and often, free write, don’t self-edit the first draft – the list is endless.
How about we focus on the reader instead?
Readers are what we all want.
So let’s look at this from their perspective.
After all, the main aim of all writing is to keep the reader reading.
But what can we do to improve the chances of this happening?
It can be tricky, especially as every reader is an individual with their own tastes, interests and needs.
Generally speaking though there are some keys that we can keep in mind when writing, to help entice the reader to continue on line-after-line, paragraph-after-paragraph until the end.
1. Involve your ‘offering’ in the reader’s life
Writers can often tend to be introverted and reflective – observers of life with voracious appetites for curiosities. Writing that reflects an ‘observatory’ stance (as opposed to involving) is often boring for a reader. Desire drives our life, interests and storytelling. Use it. Often.
2. Make your ‘offering’ do something
Readers associate and identify better with ‘offerings’ that make things happen to them, instead of because of them. Highlight consequences, subtexts and side-tracks to give the ‘offering’ flesh on its bones. This gives an active stance versus a passive one – which is far more attractive.
3. Readers care about: story, characters (or offering), a problem, theme, atmosphere/setting
These elements are all interrelated. They each contribute to the whole. But chances are, you won’t always have space or time to include them all – unless you’re penning a novel. If you have to eliminate some of the elements, if all you end up with is a) story, and b) offering, then people will still read about – if done well. However, take the storytelling aspect seriously if you want your readers to get to the end, feel something and then act in some way.
4. Most readers can’t recognise what’s good writing – instead make it appealing and memorable
Make sure your writing is polished, avoids clichés and long sentences. Write to appeal, and don’t overly fuss about style – writing is not a formulaic process. Technique is appreciated (and noticed) more by specialists than the average reader – who’s only real aim is to enjoy their time spent reading. Remember that readers don’t start a book in search of breathtaking sentences.
5. Add a touch of humour
Fun and humour is as an essential emotion in writing as desire, tragedy or drama. Many readers only read for pleasure, and that includes laughter. A writer that brings a tear to your eye from laughter is often (if not more) memorable than one that comes equipped with a tissue box.