Hey, 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.
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.