Weekend Edition – Finding Your Readers Plus Good Reads and Writing Tips

So Many Fish in the Sea, So Many Readers in the World

wooded roadWriting is an intrinsically challenging task. To do it well you must corral and harness many different parts of your intellect and spirit. You must learn to manage the diverse elements of your vision, imagination, and craft so that they move in tandem, pulling your story forward. The process requires varying degrees of earned skill, innate intuition, and stubborn stamina.

If, in addition to getting the words on the page, you also hope to have others read those words, you introduce an entirely new layer of complexity to your literary endeavors. In essence, you invite strangers to collaborate in your creative process. Because, make no mistake, crafting your story with a reader in mind (even an as yet unknown reader) changes both the writing experience and its outcome. As Samuel Johnson said, “A writer only begins a book. A reader finishes it.”

As if the prospect of putting your words out into the world where they will be subject to comment, critique, and interpretation isn’t scary enough on its own, there is the matter of finding readers in the first place. The road to connecting with your audience can be a long and lonely one. Leading you through dark forests and across parched stretches of desert, it is pockmarked with potholes of doubt, misleading detours, and (on the worst days) roadside hecklers. This is not a path for the weak of heart or intention.

And yet, for those of us with a writer’s heart, it is not so much a matter of courage as it is a matter of simply putting one foot in front of the other. As it turns out, we are not separate from the path; we create it with each step we take.

But, sometimes, we forget this truth.

We falter, unsure of our next step, and we wind up putting our feet down on someone else’s path. We are distracted by the story of another writer’s success or swayed by other people’s presumptions about the kind of writer we should be. Though it looks as though we are still making progress, we have actually lost our way. We trudge happily (or, laboriously) along the road, hoping at each turn to finally meet our audience, completely unaware that we have taken a wrong turn and left our audience somewhere back there in the wilderness.

There is nothing wrong with wanting to find your audience by writing the Great American Novel, hitting the bestseller list, or having your books turned into box office gold. These are lofty goals to be sure, but that does not make them any less worthy. A word of caution, however, is warranted against allowing a single goal to consume you to the point of creative blindness.

The world of writing is vast, diverse, and always evolving. While it is admirable to commit, heart and soul, to reaching a specific audience by accomplishing a particular writing goal, it is not the best creative practice to let your pursuit of that one achievement blind you to other writing opportunities that might be uniquely yours.

For instance, while publishing a novel is a common, almost ubiquitous, goal of aspiring writers, it is only one of many possible ways to share your writing skills and stories. In addition to the long list of literary genres applied to novels (literary, historical, romance, mystery, cozy mystery, science fiction, fantasy, epic fantasy, urban fantasy, realism, magical realism, erotica, parody, paranormal, paranormal romance, fan fiction, dystopian, etc., etc., etc.), the world of writing also includes many different forms: essays (opinion, humor, editorial, lyrical), short stories, flash fiction, poems (in all their various forms and structures), scripts, non fiction (on every and any topic under the sun), journalistic stories, creative non fiction, educational texts, business writing, copywriting, and the list goes on and on and on.

If you have chosen to commit the lion’s share of your writing time to the pursuit of a particular goal, that’s fine. Just be sure it’s your goal, and not someone else’s. Also, don’t let your focus on that goal keep you from doing the two things that all artists must do to keep their creativity alive and connect with other artists and potential audiences: LEARN and PLAY.

Even if you are bound and determined to become an award-winning, bestselling novelist, know that there is still a lot you can learn about not only novel writing, but about writing in general. Be committed. Pursue your dream. But, make time to EXPLORE and EXPERIMENT.

Do not let your writer’s world get small.

READ EVERYTHING. Let your curiosity guide you. Taste all the different formats and genres. Indulge in the experience of reading the work of unfamiliar authors, new and old. Crack the stories open. Analyze them. Look at them through the lens of your life experience and your writing experience. Take away what serves you, and leave the rest. Remember that most innovations are mash-ups, putting two things together in a new way to create something new and exciting. Try out new combinations.

WRITE EVERYTHING. Don’t box yourself in with restrictions about the kinds of things you write or the way you write them. PLAY. Dabble. Turn things upside down. Try “translating” a story from one form to another. If you consider yourself a short story writer, take one of your stories and rewrite it as a poem or a play script. If you think of yourself as a serious journalist, take a piece you’ve written and make it into a humorous parody or a fiction story. Give yourself writing prompts that stretch you beyond your comfort zone. Don’t let your writer’s road take you in circles. Remember, each step that you take creates that road in front of you. Step off the beaten track and explore some new territory.

The search for your audience, your reader, may not be a linear journey. It’s more likely that the path will wind much, taking you through strange lands full of unfamiliar people and giving you the chance to discover unknown parts of your creative self. It is only by taking this journey and learning about yourself that you will finally be able to recognize your readers when you meet them.

The world of writing is vast, and so is the world of readers. You do not need to co-opt someone else’s readers or dream of writing success. Dream your own dream. No matter how crazy you may think your idea is, there is a reader out there waiting to read exactly the thing you are writing. The possibilities are truly endless. Not all of them have mass appeal, and that’s okay. That’s more than okay. Explore. Play. Experiment. An audience of one is still an audience, and if you are able to truly connect with one person, that one person will help you connect with another person, and another, and another. And, suddenly, your audience of one is growing.

What I’m {Learning About} Writing:

In a recent episode of the Writing Excuses podcast, Mary Robinette Kowal (one of the four regular hosts of the show) said this about books:

“The book is a way to hack the brain … When people pick it up, they are picking it up to produce a specific emotional state in themselves.”

Think about that for a minute.

What kind of emotional state are you promising your readers? What emotional promise does your story make? How are you going to keep that promise?

Thinking about your story in the context of the reader’s emotional state is subtly different than thinking about the “kind” of story you’re writing.

What I’m Reading:

I’m about two-thirds of the way through a new novel. I’m really enjoying it, but not quite ready to share. In lieu of writing about that particular reading experience, I thought I’d share a wonderful source of reading recommendations who has been around for quite a while, but whom I’ve only just recently discovered: Jen Campbell of the blog This is Not the Six Word Novel.

The book I’m currently reading is one I picked up because of one of her recommendation videos. Here’s her most recent one. I hope you find something interesting to check out!

And let’s not forget the blogs. Here are a few of my favorite writerly posts from this week:

Finally, a quote for the week:

pin write what you wish

I wish you luck and joy on your writer’s road. Happy writing. Happy reading. See you on the other side! 
Jamie Lee Wallace Hi. I’m Jamie. I am a content marketer and branding consultant, columnist, sometime feature writer, prolific blogger, and aspiring fiction writer. I’m a mom, a student of equestrian and aerial arts (not at the same time), and a nature lover. I believe in small kindnesses, daily chocolate, and happy endings. Introduce yourself on Facebooktwitter, Instagram, or Pinterest. I don’t bite … usually.
Forest Road Photo Credit: WarzauWynn via Compfight cc

55 thoughts on “Weekend Edition – Finding Your Readers Plus Good Reads and Writing Tips

    • I’m so glad you felt uplifted and inspired. That’s wonderful to hear. Thanks for coming by & sharing. 🙂

  1. Inspiring post! Thank you! 🙂 Trying new things and experimenting is important and keep things fresh. Science Fiction and Fantasy are my genres of choice, especially for fiction writing, but I love the versatility of them. My current Fantasy project had no vampire in it, so I eventually came up with a book series idea centered on a female vampire, in another universe. I have several universes in which I write and it is a lot of fun, just like I enjoy writing about different topics/characters in nonfiction. I would have never thought I’d write a short story, but after my 10 year break of original fiction writing, I have dived back with short stories, whether linked collection or one shots. I am having a blast with this. I have a couple of universes where I even allow myself to be a pantser instead of my usual plotter self.

    Have a wonderful weekend! 🙂

    • Love the diversity of your writing & your relish for the challenge and adventure of all those different universes. So good to hear that you’re back to writing original fiction along with your nonfiction projects. Even better to hear how much fun your having!

      Thanks for being here!

  2. Reblogged this on The Last Wave: An NDE, Ebook and commented:
    This article about what writing really means, deep down, to writers, is eloquently written and no one could say these things better. I am enlightened after reading some of these insights about why authors do what they do and what keeps us going, and even more importantly, what do we want to communicate through words. I think I will put this post somewhere that I can reach out to when I am getting frustrated or questioning the author’s path.

  3. I read with anxious excitement to learn more! This post hit the nail on the head for me! It’s exactly what I needed to get me going and keep me inspired to become the writer I’ve always craved to become ! Thank you!

    • So nice to hear, Lia. I’m glad that the post lived up to your expectations. (I’d hate to have disappointed you!) 🙂

      Here’s to inspiration and continuing with your work!

  4. Great post! All very true. I think what you say about dabbling is spot on. THis may be why I have become kind of a blogging nut, because you can write about anything you want, and it’s okay. People read it and they either like it or they don’t but it’s out there being read. Writing a novel, is such a lonely pursuit until you forget your characters are only fictional (and then they are with you with you wherever you go). Thank-you!

    • Thank you. 🙂
      I agree that blogging is a great way to share some work in a more “casual” way than, say, a novel or even a short story. It’s a more conversational medium that is flexible enough to let you play with all kinds of ideas and topics.

      I love the idea of forgetting that your characters are only fictional. It made me imagine having creative meetings in my head with my cast of characters gathered around a board room table, or maybe on the couches in a coffee house, brainstorming about the latest chapters, character arcs, and bits of dialog. Makes the writing process sound much more fun!

      PS – Saw on your site that you’ve seen a ghost. Thought you might like to hear my ghost story: http://www.suddenlymarketing.com/off-topic-friday-ghosts-ive-known/

      • Very cool. Have you seen ghosts as an adult? I wonder why it is that children are so open to such things, but adults are not. When do we lose that receptivity (is that a word – or did I just make it up – either way, I like it. Thank-you for sharing that post with me, I LOVE that kind of thing!!!!!!!

      • I can’t say that I have seen any ghosts since I was a kid, but I haven’t exactly been looking for them either! 😉

  5. Pingback: Weekend Edition – Finding Your Readers Plus Good Reads and Writing Tips | chrispavesic

  6. Great post! Most writers seem so caught up in reaching the writing goal that they aspire to achieve, yet many forget the lessons that can be learned from other writers as they journey along towards their goal. That’s why it is important to read and explore as many different forms of writing as you can and learn and explore by the examples that are discovered. I’m not saying to copy, that should never be done, but read other writers’ works to achieve inspiration and to see what the written word can truly achieve. More often than not, I believe encountering different writing styles and voices can help you develop your own writer’s voice – something that will help you achieve your writer’s goal.

    • I heartily agree. Studying the work of other writers is SO important both to learning the craft and to discovering and defining your own voice. I also think that there actually IS a time and a place to “copy,” but that’s a post for another day! 😉

      Thanks for coming by. Nice to have you here.

  7. Reblogged this on iHawku Entertainment and commented:
    Amazing post. I am so Inspired and Hopefully someday soon I will have a much bigger audience. I am learning about what it means to be a blogger and a writer and I can’t until I see many people inspired by what I write.

  8. Great Post! I feel inspired and I am learning what it truly mean’s to be a writer and hope someday other’s find my writing inspiring also. I reblogged this over at my site. Very Inspiring and Thank you!!! ^.^

    • Thank you so much. Nice to “meet” you & glad to have you here. Good luck on your writer’s journey to discover your voice and your audience.

  9. Some beautiful advice there Jamie – so much of everything we do is bound up in really knowing who we are, why we are here and where we are going – the essential ingredients of authenticity. I also loved that article about George Martin. Such a great story 🙂

    • Thank you, as always, Sara. Authenticity is the thing, isn’t it? That’s the goal – to be who you truly are and say what you truly believe. It seems a simple task, but – man, oh man! – it’s a lifetime’s worth of work.

      And – yes! – loved the article about George RR … fascinating approach.

      • Simple but not to be confused with easy…:)
        I love the simplicity of George Martin’s approach, although I must say I do like my nice computer and my modern programs!

      • Ahhh yes … simple is never as easy as it seems it should be, but it is always worth the effort! 😉

  10. Thanks Jamie! These words offer sound advice. My novel is really starting to come together now but I am staying grounded and trying to share my writing skills with othersin

    • Hello, Mark!
      So glad to hear that things are coming together on your novel. You’re an animal! 😉

      And glad to hear that you are playing around with other forms as well. I think it helps keep us fresh and energized when we can switch things up now and again.

      Happy writing!

  11. Hi,
    Writing is the most beautiful gift from god we have. who wants to use this for our daily life, we will be reach at top. thank you so much for this beautiful sharing. 🙂

  12. Excellent as always, Jamie. I could comment on so many of your ideas, but you’ve more-than-adequately said it all 😉. Looking forward to so many of your recommencations. Cheers!

  13. This being my first day on this site – and learning the “ropes” has been fun and challenging 🙂 Your writings are most helpful and I thank you for your inspiration !

    • Welcome, Mimi! 🙂

      Thanks for being here. I’m so glad you enjoyed the post.
      If you have any specific questions, drop a line back. There is a lot of great information here on Live to Write – Write to Live & I’d be happy to point you in the right direction if I can.

      Thanks again!

    • Great post ! I always learn something new or you say something that makes me think. I am curious if you know how I can get people to read my blog. It has been out there for a few
      Months but no one had seen it. I use the tags and categories but I am doing something wrong. If you or any
      Of your readers can help I would appreciate it. Thank you. Denise

  14. we are not separate from the path; we create it with each step we take.

    We falter, unsure of our next step, and we wind up putting our feet down on someone else’s path.

    Love these comment, it is the intention of just pushing forward, one step at a time and enjoying the process, I believe is the key. We have to contribute with all we are able to give, as we are the unique individual that we are, no-one can give what we alone can give. It is about believing in yourself! Having to be at times your own cheerleader.

    I love you incites and inspiring comments, encouraging all writers at all levels. Also I appreciate the links to helpful resources. Thank you.

    • Although it is nice to have others cheer us on, we are actually our own best cheerleaders. Only through our own hopes and beliefs can we actually accomplish the things we set out to do. No one else can do it for us.

      Happy writing. Thanks for being here.

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