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October 2018

September 2018

We Have Met Our Audience ... And She Is Us

With Gloria


Favorite Client Quote of the Week:

Me: What's your writing goal for this week?

Skeli: The acquisition of a dwarven-made sword


I have to admit, my writerly women, those words have never crossed my lips. But SKELI can say that because she knows her audience. To quote her further:

Nerds are a fascinating tribe. Nothing like a ComicCon for rubbing shoulders with my audience...everyone from cosplayers to comic artists. It is where fantasy readers flock as well. There is such a fluid relationship to identity there. Preferences may be judged (or spawn a lively debate; why or why didn't the LOTR movies blow chunks?) but people rarely are.

You see why I love Skeli's writing as much as I love her nickname. And her.

GLORIA (shown at left) is still trying to get her typical audience member into focus:

I've been thinking a lot about who my audience is and I know I have a picture. I have a person standing before me, but she's blurry. Out of focus. I tried writing down who she was and got stuck after 'Girl in her teens, hair pulled back into a simple ponytail. She’s scared of the dark because that’s when her mind refuses to shut off with the light'. I guess she's a mix of myself in my early teens and the girls I've gotten to know in my writing circles and church. Even so, there's something still hidden about her.


What strikes me in both of these is that SKELI and GLORIA recognize their audiences are, well, in part themselves. That's huge, because if we stand too far from the people we're writing for, we can come across as:

  •  condescending
  • preachy
  • been-there-done-that and now I know it all
  • patronizing
  • out of touch

Of COURSE we write from the wisdom we've gained or we'd just be one hot mess talking to a bunch of other hot messes, right? But if we've never been stupid, our wisdom isn't going to make for an authentic story.

Let me see if I can sort that out using some of my own books as examples. I hope that doesn't come across as narcissistic, but it's what I know for sure.

  • I didn't have to be overweight to write Healing Waters, but I HAD struggled with an eating disorder and the underlying issues of not-enough-ness
  • I'd never ridden a Harley (although I did try) or taken in prostitutes to write The Reluctant Prophet Trilogy, but I had wrestled with what it really means to be a Christian and how the institution (in my case, the Christian publishing world) can challenge your faith
  • I have an awesome husband and my daughter never ran away, so I wasn't writing from that kind of personal experience when I penned Tristan's Gap, nor did I have a domineering father, but I did have an exceptionally protective mother from whom I had to painfully break free, and it was that emotional journey I used in creating that novel, for all women who need to know they can make their own decisions and be independent even in relationships.

In every case, I had to know my audience, and in essence my audience was women like me who needed to hear the message I myself had to hear and apply at some point in my life. You can see how that changes slightly with each thing you write, yes?

As we end our September month of finding that audience member who perches on the edge of the screen or hangs out at the side of the desk, sipping a latte as we write, maybe we should see her (or him) as partially a reflection in our mirror. Asher mirrorFor me that would be that side of myself who thought she had it all together and just needed to check in with God now and then to see how I was doing. Perhaps writing my current books is a reminder that she can't live here anymore ...

If you want to comment, and of course I hope you do, will you tell us how your audience has a bit of you in her? If you're going to hang out with her in the writing of an entire novel -- or even a series -- or perhaps the season of a short story -- it might be good to find out what you two have in common. 


Also, I'm considering what our theme will be for October. Anything YOU would like to know more about when it comes to being a writerly woman? 



Nancy Rue   

Do You Hang Out With Your People?

Crazy group without Estherr



"My dog ate my plot skeleton."


Hey, Writerly Women! When I pose that question, I'm not asking about the ACTUAL people you binge watch re-runs of Gilmore Girls with. We're not referring  to your Tribe -- your peeps -- your besties. (If any or all of those terms are completely passe', please don't tell me).

I'm talking about your audience, the people you're writing for. And here's why I'm asking.

I used to write almost totally for girls 8 to 12, so I was often invited to teach workshops at writer's conferences on how to build stories for kids that age. Loved it and met some amazingly talented writers. But there was always at least one aspiring author who, when I asked the group question, how much time do you spend with kids, looked at me as if I had asked, "How often do you deliberately eat E. coli-infested food?"

That never failed to baffle me. A.A. Milne and C.S. Lewis notwithstanding (both claimed to have very little to do with children), it's fairly impossible to write successfully for kids when you don't LIKE them -- and it IS impossible if you never spend any time with them.

On the other hand, we have COLLEEN, who even in her 6o's is writing a very real, very funny, very rip-your-heart-right-the-heck-out series of books for this very specific target audience: Boy 2

That kid between 9-13 who many won’t notice or give a nickel for, but is off-the-charts notable and worth a million bucks. He’s ever more aware of himself, yet at the same time, the world around him begins to make a huge impact on his value system and conduct. He has a sense of what’s right, but might not be totally sure what that is or how to make it happen should he discover it. He’s extraordinary and has untapped potential, but is clueless of that truth.

 How does Colleen know this stuff? She worked with kids this age until VERY recently. She now has grandsons and actually plays with them. No head-patting and cheek-pinching for this lady. Totally out of the blue the other day she emailed me and said, "I love fifth grade boys." Beyond the fact that someone should check her for dementia, that's why her books are going to rock and they're going to sell.

Obviously this concept doesn't apply just to writing for middle graders.

If your audience is YA, are you hanging with teenagers -- or do you break into a sweat at the thought of all those hormones?

If you're into the New Adult scene, are you spending some time in coffee shops with the generation who is angry about the current state of affairs that's left them jobless after four years of college -- or are you writing about the way you think things should be for them?

If your target is that fantasy lover, are you in the world of fairy, elf and wizard lovers -- or just tucked away in your own world?


If we don't do that, here's what happens:

    * Our writing sounds condescending and patronizing, especially when we bring in the mentor, the pastor or the wise father who straightens that character out.

   * It never comes across as authentic.

   * We miss some really great opportunities for plot twists and conflicts.

   * The audience we're writing for gets about a chapter in, if that far, gives that derisive smirk, and thinks -- or, the good Lord forbid -- says out loud -- or, worse -- writes in an Amazon review, "This writer is completely out of touch with the people she's writing about." 

I have to confess that I'm actually right there at this point. The women I typically spend time with are wise, God-centered and in touch with their true selves or they're living into that daily. (Women like you.) The woman I'm writing for?

Business womanWhile she is intelligent, gifted and successful, she has little sense of the Divine. Perhaps she’s had no religious upbringing at all, or what she’s had was lackluster. Or Jesus was crammed down her throat so that she ran from all things Christian at the earliest opportunity. She may even have had an abusive experience of some kind in the Church. She didn’t even have to be Christian growing up. She may have been Jewish or Muslim or Native American and had one of those four kinds of backgrounds. In any case, she was in no way reaching out to God.  God is there, waiting, whispering. She may have heard without knowing and made some good moves in her life. Maybe she does have a decent relationship with someone and feels she’s a good mother. It could be she’s influenced her community in positive ways. Ah, but there could be so much more, and somehow she knows it.

(Disclaimer: I chose this photo at random from the internet. I have no idea if this profile fits her. She just looks like one of my characters)  Do I have any women in my life like that at this juncture? Do we meet for coffee? Text each other? Reach out when we're in crisis? Um ... no.

If the four books I'm writing are going to be real, I need to get out more. Find out what her life looks like, rather than assume I know.

And that, my Writerly Women, is what we all need to do.

If you want make a quick comment today, will you tell us if you hang with your audience? And if not, do you have any ideas for how you can?  I'm not even sure I know yet. I just know I want to honor ALL my sisters.



Nancy Rue






Getting a Visual

Loretta's audienceHey, Writerly Women. We've been talking this month about the importance -- okay, the essentiality -- if that isn't a word, it ought to be because we need something stronger than "necessity",  which applies more to things like having enough coffee and toilet paper -- of knowing exactly who you're writing your novel for. We need to know that exact person, the precise reader.

We need to be able to SEE her. Or him.

And why not? We're writers. We imagine people all the time and try to get readers to believe they're real. Only ...  these folks who are going to read our stories ARE real. We simply have to have a visual of who they are, right down to the individuals.

Client (and dear friend) Loretta has allowed me to share hers --     

As I wrote Sainthood, I imagined my readers this way:

Four people sit on a rock in the mountains, contemplating the meaning of their lives and where they are headed.

A sixty-year-old- man with a tailored white beard listens to the calls of the wildlife while watching the waves lap along the shores of the mountain lake. His life is much further along than he recognized, and he now contemplates what he will be remembered for.

 At the same time, a forty-year-old mother sits on a nearby rock holding close the breathtaking views while considering what it took for her to enjoy this escape.

Next to her is a twenty-two-year-old man who is just starting his life that so far has only been measured by completing tests and conquering job applications. He wonders where he is headed and seeks authenticity in those around him.

 The last man, a forty-five-year old priest dressed in jeans has rushed here seeking a last-minute reprieve from his parishioners who demand all his time and energy. He wishes to experience God in the quietness and beauty of creation, away from crowds and anyone who is in need of spiritual guidance…so he can regroup and find his own path again.

I don't know about you, but I can almost smell these people. That's because Loretta describes her audience the way she portrays her characters. That's how vividly we need to picture them too.

We need to be imaginal about our audience.

Another among us here is still figuring out that one reader. So far, she has the general idea:

My ideal readers are women , but I would be thrilled if men read my book too. I want to reach people that have tried to bury their pain and think that success and wealth is all they need, just like my protagonist. I long to see families reconciled after years of hurt, misunderstandings and dysfunction. And I also want to reach readers that can identify with my strong female character. Women who have suffered great loss and are afraid to love again.

She's getting there, right? But in terms of imagining a reader perched on her desk as she writes, it's going to get fairly crowded. Instead of serving her reader a latte, she's going to have to open a coffee shop.

HELP A FELLOW WRITERLY WOMAN OUT: If you were writing to your fellow writer's audience, which one of that group of hurting people would you choose to focus on. How would you describe him or her in about five sentences, being as specific as you can? 

Since I can't resist, here's mine:  She sits in the bay window while her mother in law bustles into the kitchen to freshen up her tea. Thank the Lord the usual selection of self-help books is missing from the window seat. The woman has finally gotten the message that there are no Five Steps to Recovery from Whatever Blocks Your Happiness, at least not for her. Margie's audienceBut as she leans back to try to ease that familiar dull ache that has no end, she feels something hard behind her and pulls out a book -- of course.  This, however, appears to be a novel, and a fan of the pages brings her to a line that actually makes her pause in mid-ache. Are you serious? Does somebody actually get what this feels like?I took it with me.

Let's see what you've got. Or share your own. Be imaginal. I don't know if that's a word, either, but who's checking?



Nancy Rue




Seriously -- Who's Going to Read This?

ALA with MaryHey, Writerly Women!  Back when Mary Weber, my very first mentoring client, was a newbie ( she is now, like, the queen of Christian fantasy and teaches workshops and oh, my gosh I'm so proud. .. Now, where the heck was I going with this?) Anyway, at the American Library Association Convention that year, she asked the question we all ask, "Who is going to read my books?"

I went through a season early in my writing career when even though I had a contract I could NOT go into a bookstore. Really. If I did force myself to enter, I'd walk up  and down the aisles and imagine those thousands of books sticking their tongues out at me and neener-neenering, "We're on the shel-elves and you-'re no-ot!" I had to flee before I evolved into a full blown anxiety attack.  Who was going to read MY stuff when there was so much already out there?

I don't even know, and that's not the point here anyway. The question "Who's going to read what you write?" is about our AUDIENCE -- and that's what I want to explore together this month. Here's why.

I'm 120 pages into my current manuscript. I have been for a while. It's not that I don't have my usual massive outline. It's not that I don't love my main character. It's not that I don't have confidence in my voice. Until I went through a deepening of my spiritual journey this summer, I didn't realize just what the Sam Hill was keeping me stuck at page 120. 

I'd have to write an entire non-fiction book to explain how my study of Mary Magdalene led me to this conclusion (really, don't ask unless you have time for a treatise, and no, it has nothing to do with The Da Vinci Code), but it finally came to me that the reason I stopped writing was this:

I didn't know exactly who I was writing for.

And I mean exactly. I knew "women". I even knew "intelligent women." What I'm talking about is the one specific woman who I want to pick up my novel. The one woman who has to read it or I haven't done my job. I have to know who she is, down to the way she orders her coffee at Starbucks or I can't finish this book.

The thing is, that's exactly what I tell my clients to do. Here's one of my favorites. You're going to LOVE this.

    The tall young man with dark shaggy hair leans his hand over the bookrack, examining the titles with his baby blue eyes. He bites down on his pierced lip, lightly touching the spins with his thin delicate figures. His pale face, with one bluish tinted bruise on his left eye, gazes suddenly at the book on the bookshelf entitled “The Heart of Death.” Thinking it is some kind of Gothic novel, like the black clothes he wears, he picks up the book and cradles it in his arms as he opens the book, turning the fragile pages as he reads the words. A tear emerges from his eye as he begins to read, feeling the ache in his heart from his current circumstances. And he is enthralled. Goth girl

That is how fine a point we have to put on the image of the person we are writing for. That is what drives us. That is what sits us down at the computer and keeps us there. And that's what this month on the Doorways blog is about. I'm opening the door for you -- challenging you -- to share a paragraph describing your ideal reader.

Will you do it?

Will you email it to me?

Or will you type it out in a comment?

Will you let it focus you right into that next paragraph in your work in progress? 

I'll keep opening the doors. You keep walking through them. I'll walk with you.



Nancy Rue