You write to be read
You write to be read. And to be read, you have to write for a specific audience. You must be ready to tell a publisher the type of person you believe your ideal reader is. No agent/publisher will take you seriously if you say, ‘I am writing this for everyone.’ Trust me, say that, and they will not turn one page of your manuscript. Make sure you have a specific target audience in mind. Although, it is not your job to sell your book; it is your job to write a book that will sell. If publishing is the goal. Sometimes it is not. In that case, this post is not for you. The topic of your audience will be part of the first conversation you have with an agent/publisher. Get yourself ready for it.
How does a writer determine their audience?
Well, for one thing, start with genre. Are you writing science fiction? If so, that genre’s interests varies exponentially. Are you targeting young adults, boomers, or someone in between? Does gender play a part? Etcetera. Basically, where do you imagine seeing this book stored on a retailer’s bookshelf? I know, I know; at the front door. But again, the agent/publishers in your future want a practical answer. Think about this a great deal, before throwing too much time into wrestling syntax. This does not mean you have to handcuff yourself. Write whatever you want. But know whom it is, you think, that would read your novel.
I know this is a short post, and I am sorry about that. The last couple weeks in my Inspirational Writing class, led by Karen Kingsbury, we have focused on who our audiences are. She and my adjunct professor are doing everything they can to drive the point home. As always, I share what I learn with you. Classes are going well. I am still holding onto my 4.0. Which is no small feat for a guy who returned to school at thirty (humble brag). Again, I wish this week’s post was longer and more in depth, but it has been crazy busy.
Please let me know what you think. Share your ideas with me. And if you have not already, please subscribe to my blog. Thanks.
I identify as religious. I am a very spiritual person. This morning I am reminded of the Old Testament prophets. They were different than their contemporaries. They often called out others for the disregard of what is important in life. They shouted from atop the ramparts of ancient Jerusalem; we do it on Facebook. Their contemporaries always complained those prophets shared too much. They annoyed and shamed them. They should give it up and get on with the rest of us. Live in the real world. Sound familiar to anyone who labors to improve social justice, science advocacy, etcetera?
My entire 2020 has felt like a long lamentation in the wilderness. I cry out, REPENT! They say, respect other people’s opinions. I say Black Lives Matter, they reply All Lives Matter. I say, show it then, wear your mask. They say, fuck off. Our world is not so very different than that of ancient Israel. People do not have the capacity to change as much as we would all like to believe.
What was it like for Nathan, Ezra, Isaiah, etcetera, begging the Israelites to turn away from evil? It is quite similar to what activists experience today. The prophets lectured from rooftops, nearly always unsolicited, and as a result, they were hated by all. They preached about returning to a sense of community. The audacious notion that we should love one another, resist selfishness, and refrain from thinking your life means more than another. In other words, give up your idols. Ironically, they prophesied devastation, plagues, financial ruin, military loss, and inept leadership would be the consequence of human denial. See, we don’t really learn. Look at the world around us. People’s selfishness will always fan the flames of despair. Today we preach, wear a mask, love thy neighbor. People say, respect my rights. The masses are their own tyrants.
“When the mob gets involved in reasoning, all is lost.”Voltaire
Like the prophets of old, I cannot respect the ‘rights’ of anyone who believes their actions do not carry consequences for the greater community. The language of ancient Israel was religion. Today it is science. But both share the same ultimate truth. We have to work together, listen to wise counsel (science), and stop thinking this world is everyone out for themselves. The latter is a worldview that is a direct offense against God. In America, where I live this is particularly hard. We have an entire economy (capitalist) built on the idea that everyones selfish actions together, ultimately benefit everyone else. I am not anti capitalist, but I am against notions of individual self interests outweighing the collective good of everyone else. Sure it works on paper; there is no denying that, but it robs people of their souls. That is another rant for another time.
I believe the commandment loving thy neighbor is a non-negotiable. Jesus said loving your neighbor encompasses the entirety of the law. This means, for example, during a global pandemic, you wear a F..KING mask! You listen to those endowed by their qualifications; experts. You may have the right to be careless with your health, but you do not have the right to risk the health of others.
To love another person is to see the face of God.Victor Hugo
Lately, my social media has come under hard scrutiny. These are some of the rebukes shared with me: I post too much against those who deny science. There is a proper place to say things. Back off; shaming does not work. God will protect me, you do you, I will do me. Lets bring up the Old Testament prophets again. These are almost identical complaints they received from their communities. Standing in the market square, telling others they should care for the poor and stop their vile practices of child sacrifice for gain was unpopular. The people mocked them. Beat them. Often the prophets paid with their lives. The lesson here, people do not like being told what to do. The reality, the masses have to be led. Before modern globalized leadership continuity, the world was millions of tiny factions, constantly warring with one other. Think of the stone ages. If you leave radicals to themselves, they will destroy society. There is no utopia. There is only the noble idea of working together. Selfish ideologies are sins against community.
I cannot be silent. I have an obligation to my faith to lift up the example of faith. So do you!
The very people who claim they aren’t sheep for disobeying science; are indeed the most sheepish. A cacophony of experts, largely unbiased, all say the same thing; follow the science; the modern, love thy neighbor. Instead they hang on the words of incapables. Like the ancient Israelites hanging onto idols. They put loyalty to a President and their self interests over the collective welfare of humanity.
There is no utopia. There is only the noble idea of working together.
— W. Alexander
I believe there are two fundamental reasons behind their disconnect. One, they are preyed on by agenda focused conspiracy organizations. This whole QANON is nothing more than the Golden Calf the Hebrews started worshiping in the desert. These people are unable to accept truth; so they create their own. We all know how that worked out. And we all know how these Q people will work out; shamed and left behind. Two, humanity is tribal. Fear polarizes our species. The masses, throughout all of history, given to manage their own self interests, do just that; act only according to their own individual interest. This philosophy is a breeding ground for selfishness and greed. They do not love thy community; despite praying to a God who commands it. It is the obligation of mankind to love one another. Love can be a visible comfort to all by something as simple as wearing your mask.
“It is the obligation of mankind to love one another. Love can be a visible comfort to all by something as simple as wearing your mask.”W. Alexander
I wonder if anyone else notices just how loud the forest is? A living organic city. One where God is still mayor.
You write for the reader. If you forget that, you have lost your way.
There can be no happiness in achieving someone else’s dream
A writer reads. Not all readers love to write, but all writers love to read. And the great ones read several different genres and styles. The most important thing to understand about writing well; you must read a lot. And often.
I am not talking aptitude for writing essays. That is easy. Writing creative fiction or creative non-fiction, means you cannot, for example, overuse determiners and transitions like you would with a school essay or professional email. So, scratch what you have been taught up to this point. Do not just take my word for it. Grab any creative book. Fiction or nonfiction, it does not matter. Open it to any page. Circle all transitions and determiners you see. Find any? Yeah, I told you. They rarely show up. A professor of mine advises keeping them down to one or two per page (in story telling). Now compare that with your writing style. I know, it sucks to see it. But you are welcome. For now on, you will write better fiction or creative nonfiction. This tip alone will improve your writing immediately.
I promise what you are trying to convey will stand on its own. Obviously, I am using determiners and transitions right now. That is because I am not writing poetry or a story. I am writing a formal blog post on why you should read and what to watch for. Actors notice great acting. Writers notice great writing. Noticing means you know something about what you see. When you read, watch each sentence like an actor watches another’s hands. Notice pacing. Rhythm. All capable writers are masters of noticing. Our lives are devoted to observing finer details. See, your OCD is a blessing after all.
I wish there were other quick tips to improve your writing. But even the advice just given, might prove difficult to implement. At first. The best way to improve your writing is to read, often. Not one book a month, but four or five or more. Tiger Woods is a famous golfer whom is universally recognized as one of the games greatest athletes to swing a driver. He boasts that before he plays a round a golf on any given day, he hits one thousand balls. Reading is like going to the driving range before playing eighteen holes. It can be a great warm up. How could anyone be a great story teller, if they do not read stories? The answer is, any writer’s whom do not love to read, end up editors. Or worse, sales people. I shutter. That is joke. But one thing is certain, If you do not read, you are not a writer. You might be a great school paper writer, but a far cry from a novelist.
Read. Read. Read. Read some more. And read across styles and genres. Immerse yourself into poetry (which will teach you everything), fiction, creative nonfiction, etcetera. Manuals might be the only exception. But even they will prove useful to the creative. Read everything.
I hope this blurb of mine helps. Classes are going well and I enjoy sharing what I learn with all of you. Tell me what you think? Maybe you have an idea about a topic I should cover? Tell me what you are reading? I want to hear from you!
I am currently reading Les Miserables. You can follow what I am reading on Goodreads.
Building character is part of the magic in the creative process.
I first started to write about something generic. You know, apply depth to my new blog. But superficial content plagued the blog I retired two years ago. Instead of capturing me as an individual artist, it became journalism for vegans. I still don’t eat animals. But I don’t want to write about them either. No, […]
This marks the first post of my new blog. I welcome you to follow me on my journey as a writer. Every week I will post writing tips I am learning from both personal and academic study at Liberty University. As well as posting my favorite reads. Together we are on an exciting adventure. Thank […]
Many forces compete for our attention. I know I am not the only one exhausted by ultra-capitalist tools to alter reality. I am most susceptible by social media and ever spinning ‘doomsday’ news cycles. My addiction to them is debilitating. But unplugging from it all is not so easy for us millennials. How I wish it was. Where and how can anyone connect in a world that relies on social media? Will not cutting off facebook, twitter, and instagram for good, cut me out of society? How would I know of local events? Do other people actually know their neighbors? So unless I am at some communal fellowship; church, work, or event of common interest, I am completely superficial when meeting new people. I will probably never ask a complete stranger anything about their lives. Cause what if they ask me about mine? That thought alone is frightening. I don’t even know who I am. We are a generation distracted from knowing ourselves. It is lonely.
I believe social media destroyed the fabric of community. I hear about it all the time. All of us can relate to speaking to those living a generation or two before us. They talk about how interactions between people were deliberate. Premeditated. Can you imagine that? When you had something to say; you called a specific person. You had your say and walked away. There was no burden to make superficial general statements online, so not to upset anyone. They talked to one person at a time; we talk to hundreds at a time. The ramifications of our generation is we have no sense of community. Yet we are connected to each other more than ever. Our grandparents generation never had the burden of context. We worry all the time if something we say will be taken wrong. This can’t be healthy. I have tried many times to step away. But I hate being alone. I already suffer bouts of depression. Losing online connection is unfathomable. Because even though it is harmful, superficial, and honestly unreal; it is all many of us have. I confess I have few real friends and none within five hundred miles. It is no easy thing to write, I am a loser.
But there must be something I can do.
I decided if I can’t pull my attention away from these anthemic forces vying for attention; I would compete them out. That is to say, I would find something ‘productive’ to replace them. The plan is to distract myself into something new. I wanted a new habit that would enrich my life. Something in addition to my writing. I chose nature.
Let me tell you how crazy this idea has been. I know nothing of nature. Absolutely nothing! I cannot name more than three types of trees on earth. When I first stepped into that other realm; the forest, I found myself lost. Everything was fuzzy. Eerily quiet. Often I mistook a scurrying chipmunk as a terrifying predator. I laugh about that now. It still happens time-to-time. But I kept returning to the quiet realm of trees, birds, fungus, etcetera. I had made a discovery. One in which would make Henry David Thoreau proud. The forest is anything but still and quiet. How did I ever feel alone there? It took time to render myself noticing things around me. Under almost any canopy of trees is a cacophony of songs sung. An ever evolving orchestra. What use to be only mud and rock; the earthen floor was now a freeway of sentient traversing. In time I came to distinguish between types of birds and plants. I have not yet learned all their types. But I notice them now. I wonder if anyone else notices just how loud the forest is? A living organic city. One where God is still mayor. Of course, without the app iNaturalist, I would not be able to tell you one plant from the next. But I am learning. Just like learning a new language; to learn the forest you must first learn her nouns.
Did that do it then? Have I dropped social media? No, not completely. But I use it a lot less. Will-power didn’t work for me. How could it? But the art of noticing things helps. I still know next to nothing. Despite that, I have heard the song only the wind carries. A melody of a bigger life. Her lyrics permeate through me a sense of higher purpose. I am convinced all the wisdom needed in life can be obtained by sitting in the woods. There I am not alone. But connected to something higher and deeper than the material world’s urgency. What has humanity lost in a world built on screens and concrete? My answer; soul.
Please let me know if you have had a similar experience.
Anyone can write. Few revise well. Revision is essential. It is much more than spell-check and grammar adjustments. Revision is ensuring the story you are telling is clear. Rarely is misinterpretation the mistake of a reader. The job of writers is to ensure readers do not do any heavy lifting. Any skewed reading, comes from bad writing. How does the writer ensure the message they are conveying is interpreted clearly? You guessed it; revision. No one sits down and writes a novel by the seat of their pants in one long first and final draft. If they do, the writing will be garbage, regardless of talent. I would not count on being the exception.
Revision is where the real magic happens.
Starting over sucks. I dread it. All who write dread it. My stomach turns at the thought. But understand this, the rewards of revising will outweigh the pains. You will be shocked. Learn to enjoy the process. Here are some questions you can ask about your work:
- Why should my reader turn the first page to the second? Does the first sentence, paragraph, page introduce tension? If not, red alarm.
- Is there unnecessary summary? Cut. Cut. Cut! I too often have the impulse to cover too much ground. It destroys energy and I find, I tell more than show. This is a bad thing. The whole premise of writing prose, is to show not tell. A concept I will elaborate on with a later post.
- Is it original? Stereotypes are lazy. A good writer will extract any cliches and make a point to show the exact and honest.
- Is it clear? Ambiguity and mystery are one of the pleasures of literature. But there is a fine line between mystery and sloppiness. I love characters rich with contradictions. That is the human condition. But I often have to start off with a more simple reality. Then I can build out the imaginative. Have your character answer these: Where are we? When are we? Who are they? How do things look? What time of day or night is it? Weather? What is happening? On how to create captivating characters, check out: Create Captivating Characters
- Is it self-conscious? Just tell the story. Your style will follow of itself. But you have to just tell the story. If you get carried away dressing your prose with all your wit and insight, there is a good chance you are having more fun writing that the reader will have reading. Good writing is easy reading! Just tell the story.
- Where is it too long? In fiction, you want sharpness, economy, and vivid details in telling. With every sentence, say what you mean to say and get out. Hit it and quit it. Use the fewest possible words. What does this look like? My advice, read the poets. Trust me, the poets will teach you everything.
- Are there too many scenes? Try and tell your story with the fewest possible scenes. It is tempting to give each turn of plot or change of setting a new scene when fusing several together would proffer better effect.
- Where is it too general? Look for general and vague terms. Write instead a particular thing, an exact size and degree. In fact, my short tip, cut the words very and really out of your work entirely. You are welcome!
Revision, revision, revision. Originality, economy, and clarity all come from thorough revision. These questions are just the start and short of taking a creative writing class, they will serve you well.
Remember in fiction, the goal is to show characters doing things. Never tell what you mean. I promise if the prose is clear and concise, the reader will not misinterpret. You write for the reader. If you forget that, you have lost your way.
My goal here is to share what I am learning with others. I would love for you to follow my blog and join my journey. I also wanted to ask you something. I am thinking of creating a photography page on my blog. I love urban photography. Let me know if you think it would be a good idea or not?
You are writing your novel, screenplay, short story, etcetera and need good characters. But how do you go about building characters? I will be blunt, there is no definitive answer. Building character is part of the magic in the creative process. But do not fret, there are four essential qualities that go into making great characters. In order to create good characters, you must dig deep. You are going to build the very foundation of their lives.
Here are the four essential qualities that go into making good believable characters:
- Your characters have a strong and defined dramatic need.
- Your characters have an individual point of view.
- They personify an attitude.
- Your characters go through a change or transformation.
Write that list down. Put it somewhere easily accessible to reference when needed.
What works for me is writing one-two page biographies. Start from their childhood to when the story begins. You can keep these bio’s as a reference when writing from that character’s point-of-view. Doing this will prevent your characters from doing as they please.
Some “general” things you will want to write down:
- Childhood relationship with parents and friends?
- What was school like? Was he/she bullied, popular, a wall flower, etcetera…
- What was high school like? College? What did he/she major in? Did his/her parents approve of their major?
- How was his/her’s romantic life? Does he/she tend to have lots of sex, none, or somewhere in between? Does her parents/friends/society approve or disapprove of his/her love interests?
- What does he/she like about themself; hate about themself?
- Rich or poor?
- Does he/she like her job? Does her partner approve of his/her work, religion, etcetera…
- Much, much, much more.
The goal here is to find tension.
Building character is part of the magic in the creative processW. Alexander
This may sound strange, but the characters you create cannot be you. Sure, by all means insert your unique experiences into your writing, but your characters cannot be you. You are writing from another point of view, in someone else’s shoes. And don’t worry if you want to change things later. This exercise is to help you build deep, relatable, and believable characters. Whatever changes you make, write them down again.
Wherever in your character’s life the story begins, it is important they go through some kind of incident. A change or transformation. Like Harry Potter finding out he’s a wizard or Bilbo finding the ring. I will go deeper into incidents in a later post.
Remember, have fun creating characters. Push yourself beyond your comfort zone. Happy writing and good luck fellow authors.
I would love to have you follow me and learn more writing tips 😊
I first started to write about something generic. You know, apply depth to my new blog. But superficial content plagued the blog I retired two years ago. Instead of capturing me as an individual artist, it became journalism for vegans. I still don’t eat animals. But I don’t want to write about them either. No, with this blog I want to connect with you; the reader. I want to share with you my journey of becoming a professional writer. Think of it as I am calling on the collective power of dreaming introverts. May we isolate together.
The purpose of this blog is to share what I am learning in school and personal study. I am a creative writing student at Liberty University. My hope is by doing this, not only will it help you, but me too. By sharing my experiences and on occasion my writing; I hope to grow as an artist.
Introductions are in order. My name is W. Alexander. You already know I am a creative writing student, but just wait, there is more. I am also married and have one child. Plus, another baby on the way. I have traveled extensively across both America and Europe. I love to read, duh! But I also love movies, walks by the lake, and you got it; pouring my heart out onto a merciless blank page. I am passionate about my writing.
Other key things about me?
- Favorite book? The Hobbit
- Favorite screenplay? Midnight in Paris
- Favorite song? Stressed Out
- Favorite celebrity? Margot Robbie
- Favorite country? France
- Favorite pastime? Does cuddling with my cats count? I guess not. I read, a lot!
- Favorite President? Hmm, not 45
So there you have it. I have written about myself. If you subscribe to continue following my new blog; I promise the next posts will be about writing, art, etcetera. You can also follow me on Instagram. Until next time, live long and prosper. Yes, that just happened.
I am a writer. And I think a good one. In truth, I work hard on my craft. But there is a monolithic obstacle in the way. My obsessive self deprecating tendency to care what other’s think. And by others, I mean family. Both sides perceive a life dedicated to the arts, impractical. Their wisdom is one should make money first; follow dreams second. Over the years, how I responded to their apprehensions has influenced my craft. Mostly injuring my creativity. At thirty-one years old, time appears to be running out.
My record of trying to please everyone is no secret. I have never taken a job I wanted. But I have been successful. Whether I worked in finance, management, or retail, I did well. My biggest and therefore most hurtful failure is sales. In my early twenty’s, I was a dominant salesman. Everywhere I turned, money followed. Overtime I developed a disillusionment toward the industry. Sure, I struggled at times, sometimes teetering on poverty. But usually I outperformed everyone I knew financially. And to everyone’s surprise, I hated myself. Soon it proved impossible to be successful at selling anything.
“There can be no happiness in achieving someone else’s dream”
— W. Alexander
Ever since I was a child, I had a mind for the arts. In high school and college, I recall fond memories of performances in theatre. Not as some might expect, my successful boxing career; something I did to please my father and other toxic masculine traits. I always felt who I truly was must be second in order to be accepted. Therefore, I spent my entire twenty’s pursuing the life everyone else wanted. If I got the big house, nice car, hot wife, etcetera, I’ll be loved then, right? Turns out, the philosophers were right all along. There can be no happiness in achieving someone else’s dream.
Despite this revelation, being your true self is to be condemned a black sheep. A frustrating character in your greater family’s drama. They don’t get it and despite their honest efforts to understand, I realize they never will. How can they? They are predisposed to think a certain way, according to their own triumphs and failures throughout life. A person who sees life as black and white, will struggle to see life through more flexible patterns. For me, life is a twisted construct of contradictions, exceptions, and explanations. Think Van Gogh’s, Starry Night. My family is realism. Even this metaphor, which to the creative is like two+two=four would confuse them. For to them life is a linear set of actions and achievements. To me life is fleeting moments of arbitrary events. Focus on things that matter. Of course I want to make them happy, but I cannot on their terms and I need to be okay with that.
Often when I write prose or poetry, I write to them. As if my work is in constant need to defend itself. My characters are always in conflict with their influencers. They are always misunderstood and feeling rejected. Not because their influencers (often family) is openly hostile, but because of a myriad of micro-aggressions. I grew up in an abusive home, underneath an alcoholic patriarch. From grade school to college I was bullied at school and beaten at home. So I struggle with feelings of unworthiness and other’s disapproval has real consequences for me. When I was in school, if someone didn’t like me, they beat me up and often. This developed into a tendency to pacify and seek approval for my own survival. In adulthood this manifests itself in seeking approval through accomplishment and assimilation. But I have to find a way through life that puts me first for once. I am worthy of what I want. These pulling forces plunged me into a deep depression nearly a year ago. But not all is lost. I have begun to do me as I please. Displeasing my family still bothers, hurts, and stifles me. Yet, I manage to keep moving forward.
“I am worthy of what I want”
— W. Alexander
Only a creative can understand being born into a world that doesn’t appreciate their gifts. For ten years I submitted to everyone else’s expectations. I worked my ass off. But with every new trophy came a deeper emptiness. It wasn’t the goal I wanted. I envied those walking around with pink hair, paint under their fingernails, and gages in their ears. They are themselves and fuck everyone else. In secret, I thought they were the bravest of us all. I still do! Naturally, when I hit my depression, a true rock bottom, I coped and decided to say yes to myself. I wanted to be brave too. At thirty years old, the night before thanksgiving, I got my ears pierced. Over the next couple months I got several tattoos. My writing flourished and I am again a student, majoring in, you got it, creative writing.
Is everything better now? No, but life is on my terms and that is something. I have little desire to play life safe. Arriving into my old age, rich and comfortable scares the hell out of me. I would much rather die contributing to this world, than carving a quiet place in it. But that is the mark of an artist.
P.S. I don’t know if writing this blurb was for me or you reading it. But I hope it helps anyone who shares these frustrations to know they aren’t alone. It is never too late to shake off this world’s materialism and create. Friction makes perfection.
Please follow my blog for writing tips and other heart wrenching posts.
This marks the first post of my new blog. I welcome you to follow me on my journey as a writer. Every week I will post writing tips I am learning from both personal and academic study at Liberty University. As well as posting my favorite reads. Together we are on an exciting adventure.
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