By: Marilyn L. Davis
“If the wrong reader comes across the words, they will remain just words. But for the right readers, your vision blooms off the page and is absorbed into their minds like smoke, where it will re-form, whole and alive, fully adapted to its new environment.” ― Mary Gaitskill
Who Did You Write for Today?
Most writers that I know want to write content that pleases them; all the while, still taking into account that if it’s not written for a particular reader, they might as well journal.
Each day, the web gets crowded with more blogs. For this reason alone, it’s getting increasingly difficult to attract readers and still remain true to your message, style, and tone.
As the Assistant Editor at Two Drops of Ink, and Editor-in-Chief at From Addict 2 Advocate, I see a lot of submissions. Many of these have a compelling message – if either of the sites were about home decorating, real estate, or party planning, which they aren’t.
Unfortunately, none of the readers at either site comes to read about those topics, and that’s part of the problem. A writer needs to know who they are writing for, and if they’re submitting guest blogs, which sites would be the best forum for their topics.
How to Get Noticed by a Reader
Write for a specific audience, and know their needs. Each of us should have a target reader in mind because, without that imagined reader, we’re just writing without a clear destination. If it is a how-to article, be sure it makes sense. Make sure you have tried the methods you’re discussing.
In my niches, I’m writing to the addicted population or other writers. But there is a common thread. Both of these populations want to improve something. I think that I can offer the reader ways to improve their lives or their writing. Does that read egotistical?
I would hope not, as a good portion of my motive is still about educating in the sense that “Hey, here’s what I did and things got better. Try it, and let me know how it works for you.”
I may write about relapse prevention, or constructing Swan Lake Sentences, but both have made my recovery and writing better.
Your target reader wants to know that it’s not just some arbitrary how-to that you believe will work, in theory. Shoot, they can Google that info.
They want to know that you did something and are giving them the results.
Narrow Your Audience: One Reader
I understand my readers; however, when I’m writing, I try to think of one person; it makes my writing more conversational. I’m sure there are some out there who envision themselves writing as if they’re giving a Ted Talk to a crowded room.
That fills me with stress and anxiety – what would I wear, would the microphone work, would there be any laughter? If you’ve ever done any public speaking, an audience of 500 can seem intimidating. So many faces, ideas, needs, and opinions, and, unfortunately, imaging them in their birthday suits can backfire.
I digress, and when that happens, we can get into obscure or tangential facts. When we write for that big audience, instead of writing for one, we get off track and occasionally get pretentious.
Granted, there are pretentious readers, too. Some want to comment and critique and put me in my place. I got criticized for giving what one reader considered a weak link. His links certainly addressed the topic, but the language was arcane and better suited to a white paper or journal submission.
That link would not have been beneficial to my readers.
However, I took the time to read all of his links and decided that it was good information for his readers.
I know my place, sharing what works for me. Period.
Your Voice – That’s What Your Readers Want
If it was good enough for Kurt Vonnegut, it’s good enough for me: “Find a subject you care about and think others should care about.” Now I know that all the rules say don’t end a sentence with a preposition, but in his sentence, he does, and so what. We all get the intent. We understand the reasoning. We actually think the same thing. That’s my reader.
Where Are Your Readers?
So where do you find your readers? If you’ve isolated your niche, then you can find them through pages on Facebook, by subject on Twitter, and groups on Linkedin.
Venturing into discussions on any of those sites familiarizes you with what people are looking for to improve their lives, writing, or simply connecting with like-minded individuals.
It’s the connections that our words create that gives us readers. Good content isn’t generic or impersonal. It must sound like you or it’s not you; it’s a rehash of someone else, and if you’ve managed to get a following, they want your words, phrases, and quirks.
Yes, quirks. Those eccentricities, peculiarities, and traits that make you able to write about your topics with fresh appeal. Sometimes, it’s those choices of words that prompt additional information from your readers, too.
Reader Comments Help Extend the Post
Readers engage in the conversation by adding additional information to your post. I wrote a post about Swoopers and Bashers. A reader, from Scotland, commented on my post on a Facebook page for writers.
She referenced Pantser and Planners, the NaNoWriMo equivalents. I thanked her for adding value to the thread by listing other terms and phrases to describe the writing process. This educated me and added other information for readers as well.
There will be different uses for our common denominator – the words we choose, versus what others call a particular thing. In this case, she added a link, and I didn’t feel slighted in the least.
There are generational differences to consider in our readers. NaNo is newer than my inspiration for the post. Judging by her avatar, she’s younger than me by decades, so the examples we provided were appropriate to our respective ages.
Find Your Tribe
Age, eras, and generations are another way to isolate and find your right reader. I won’t ever be young again. Fact. I know that when I’m writing about addiction, there is a significant number in that population that are young, and I try to use language that will at least meet them half-way.
However, I’m not going to try and write about addiction and recovery as if I’m twenty. It would be hard to claim 28 years in recovery and then write as if I weren’t even that old.
Each of us will use language that’s familiar to us, and if our readers comprehend it, they just might return if we’ve given them information presented from a different perspective, added an additional insight, or helped them with a life issue – and improving our writing is a life issue if that’s what we’re doing for a significant portion of our day.
Since I’d like this post to get extended and the knowledge for all of us expanded, please leave a comment about how you found your readers. I’m sure it will help me find mine, too. Thank you.
We also want to extend an invitation to guest post. Please read the Submission Guidelines, and then see if some of your readers aren’t already here.
Two Drops of Ink: The Literary Home for Collaborative Writing