Picking Your Audience: How Early Should You Do It?

I’ve often wondered about this. Some of you may be sitting there (or standing, depending on what you’re doing) and screaming at me for even asking such a daft question but is it really that silly?

Identifying your audience early shapes the story

Any story begins as an idea. An acorn, if you will, that will grow into (hopefully) a grand old tree. We, the writers, are the ones nurturing this growth from start to finish – and sometimes beyond, even if no one knows about it! It’s rarely a case of ‘this is my idea, no it’s time to get writing’ although even I find that hard to resist.

There’s the research element, looking at similar stories across a range of mediums and the market itself and the planning stages too, from character creation to settings and more. Then there’s the audience. What audience do you want to write for, is it suitable for your story and how can you ensure the two go hand in hand?

These are not easy questions and you may find yourself compromising in one way or another. The risk here is that you may become disillusioned with the entire project because it isn’t what you originally wanted to write, or for who you wanted to write to. That may mean you need to change one aspect to ensure that enthusiasm isn’t going to wane at any point.

The biggest benefit I find working this way is that it gives you a clear goal right from the outset of the process. Some people need that end goal in sight but it can take time nail it down so don’t think you can get past this in just a day.

Your story and writing style determines the audience

The flipside of this, however, is that I firmly believe some writers are better suited to different genres and audiences than others. I’m going to use J.K. Rowling as a partial example; Harry Potter is a phenomenal series but other works, largely adult fiction, hasn’t taken off. I’m not the biggest fan of her writing style, which is down to what I like to read and how I write, but there has to be a reason for that, surely?

I’m not saying she should write more Harry Potter, but maybe that audience is something to consider? We’ll see.

We can all write for different audiences, in different ways and styles but there are some that suit us better, that we feel more comfortable with and everyone, apart from the very best writers, will produce better work in their comfort zone. Even the ‘best’ will be better in their favourite zones but they have found a way to reach a high standard, a believable standard from a reader’s point of view, even outside it.

It’s something I’ve put a focus on over the last few years, writing outside of this comfort zone, focusing on different audiences. I won’t let many people see this stuff right now but maybe one day, I’ll get it to a level that I can be happy with. I’m proud of myself for trying and it does teach me a lot. It’s also why I can understand that some stories and styles just don’t work together.

Some rules are made to be broken but others, not so much.

Conclusion

Like with a lot of topics to do with writing, creative processes and indeed, the Arts in general, it’s all down to personal preference. I don’t think it’s easy to say “I’m going to write a young adult novel” and have it happen – at least not all the time. The project may start out with that intention but if you aren’t able to adapt along the way, I don’t believe that it will get anywhere.

Plans are great but we, as writers, change throughout the writing process. Almost as much, if not more, than the story we’re writing. Another part of this, is also understanding the markets and how they evolve as well. Everything’s connected.

It’s certainly an interesting discussion but not one that’s likely to be settled any time soon. However, that is it from me for 2015. It’s been a year full of ups and downs and I’m going to take a few weeks off over the holidays to recharge and to get ready for 2016. So, whatever your plans and beliefs are, and whatever you have planned over the coming weeks, enjoy it and I’ll see you in January.

Ciao!

Proofing and Editing: Five Tips to Keep You Focused

I’ve been fairly quiet on the blogging front this month – sorry about that! I do want to give Kat a big shout out for her guest post – it seems you guys really liked it and I’m super happy about that! Hopefully I’m going to have more for you all later in the year.

So, why have I been quiet? Well, as you guys probably know, I’ve been working on my novella for the last year or so but the last two-three months has seen me ramp it up and keep on with the editing and proofing of it, getting it to this stage where it’s almost ready to submit! Exciting stuff!

It’s got me thinking though; editing is often seen as the most boring and tedious parts of writing – and I agree to an extent. So, I’m going to share some of my top tips to get you through it without losing any quality. Aren’t you guys lucky?

You can thank me later.

Don’t read off a screen

Okay, I’m not going to lie that I’ve never been a fan of reading on a screen and e-readers in the past, I often find my eyes glaze over after a while and I have to go back and re-read things. The same is true for editing; it’s so easy to miss things on a screen compared to being on paper.

So, my first tip is to print it off and read a physical copy. You will be able to focus easier and your eyes won’t get tired as quick, which is a massive help.

As a side note, I think e-readers, Kindles and tablets in general have gotten a lot better over the years – especially the ones designed to mimic paper – and I do have one myself but not for editing purposes and I still prefer a good old fashioned book!

Use a pen and get messy

Following on from my last point, if you have a printed or hard copy you can make notes as and when you spot them. So many of my old drafts are literally covered in notes in all different pen colours (I have so many around that I use whichever one comes to hand first) and I use these notes to help me make changes in future drafts.

Never lose these drafts because you might want to look back to your old versions later to see the changes you’ve made and be sure they work better. Whether you keep digital copies or hard copies – or both – doesn’t matter. Make a note of everything, it’ll make you a better writer each time you edit something.

Be ruthless

This is probably the hardest part for many writers; deciding what exactly to take out, change or add. I’m not going to lie to you guys, it isn’t easy – and there isn’t a definitive right or wrong answer. Sorry.

In the end, you’ll have to decide what works best. The beauty of writing on word processor or similar program is that changes aren’t final (and this is why you should always keep your drafts somewhere safe).

To keep it simple though, if you have any doubts about a particular word, sentence, paragraph or entire section – get rid of it. You might need only small changes to make it work but you’ll know this straight away. Whatever the specific part is you have doubts about, remove it and see how it works. You can then add something else in. Don’t be afraid to try new things, it’s how we learn and grow as writers.

Set realistic targets

This is also really important. Unless you have a full day, don’t say to yourself you’re going to proof and edit 5,000 words every day – it won’t work. If, like me, you have a job to manage too, work out what’s manageable but make sure you have breaks where you put it aside for the day/night.

My latest project had chapters of around 2,000 words. The first few edits I did 1,000 words a night or so. By the final edits I was doing an entire chapter but I was only picking up final mistakes and changes – nowhere near as much as the early stages.

Editing is mentally exhausting – more so than the actual writing. There’s less creativity and more focus and thought so you need to take that into account. If you have other responsibilities, maybe make it 500 a night or even say 30 minutes. You might come back to it later that night and do another 30 but these are bite size chunks you can handle without sacrificing your focus and quality.

Reward yourself

Finally, give yourself a break every now and then. Watch an episode of your favourite show, some chocolate, buy a little gift (I stress little or you’ll be bankrupt in no time) or something that you can enjoy before getting back to work. Every time you meet your targets, do this and you’ll be more inclined to do it again.

Even if you don’t meet your targets in that period of time, make sure the rewards are there. Give yourself an EXTRA reason to do this on top of getting your writing done. It will help, trust me.

Obviously, this is by no means exhaustive so please share your own tips and methods if you have them. These are just the main thoughts I keep in mind and work to when it comes to the editing stage of any project. Happy editing!