Monday, January 13, 2014

FOR AN AUDIENCE: A Sleeping Cat is an Easy Target

(NOTE: Measles make you bumpy/And mumps will make you lumpy/And chicken pox will make you jump and twitch/A common cold will cool you
/And whooping cough will fool you/But poison ivy’s gonna make you itch/You’re gonna need an ocean of Calamine lotion/And you’ll be scratching like a hound/
The minute you start to mess around)
Writing gets harder the longer you are committed to the craft. Critical analysis of other writers deepens and sets a greater standard for your work. Only the clueless who depend on formulas can write easier and faster as the years pile up in an auto-da-fé. Leaping out of bed in the morning with enthusiasm for another day at the desk is dampened when confronted with the blank page or screen. Hot coffee grows cold as you question whether you have anything meaningful to say. The pursuit of a ringing story by hours of writing and rewriting and rewriting does not have its own reward. Who do you write for
A conversation depends on both participants speaking and listening with the same language. When a native English-speaker is confronted with High German, their brain seizes short of an aneurism and no amount of Rosetta Stone software can unravel that tangle. Writing on business calls for the language of business, just as writing on science calls for the language of science. The writer’s talent lies in talking with the reader instead of at or to them.
Any writer goes after an audience, the people who buy the books. The audience is any part of the population invested in the same subject. They may not know your work yet, but it speaks directly to their hopes, ambitions, interests, and dreams. An audience is not easy to find; sometimes the search takes dedicated effort without guarantee of success. Even after the audience is found, they may be busy with another book. The writer grows discouraged as he or she seeks any sign of acceptance for the care and attention and sacrifice in their work. They look for the one reader to get them through the days of doubt.
The editor can be the one reader, but once the manuscript is accepted someone in the publishing company knows how to attract the needed audience. Writers need the audience of one before handing in a manuscript, the reader that cares about them as a human being and is willing to say, “You could do better.” Many times the writer’s partner assumes this role, from William Blake and Catherine to Gore Vidal and Howard Austen. Brilliance is only claimed when it appears, and absolute errors in judgment are pointed out with the greatest finesse, especially when they live together. Cold-hearted Vidal stated many times in interviews that he wrote for Austen, and when Austen passed away, the passion for writing left him.
Be prepared to stumble while looking for the one reader. According to the Book Industry Study Group, readers are female, mid-thirties, college-educated, and live on the east or west coast. Writing to this narrowly defined group is dumb on account of their interests are much wider than their demographic. The one reader is able to journey outside their political, social, and economic boundaries, and enjoy the trip. They read what is put in front of them without remarks about punctuation, instead judging for honesty and clarity. A partner can be the one reader, so can a friend, mentor, family member, teacher, bookstore clerk, therapist, astrologer, or tailor, as long as they know the rules: Be supportive. Be honest. Be non-judgmental. Be ready to explain your criticisms. Be supportive one more time.

By gosh and golly, two weeks have passed since the beginning of the New Year. Instead of asking where the time goes, or what it has been doing in front of decent people, pull down your well-worn copy of The Dog Walked Down the Street: An Outspoken Guide for Writers Who Want to Publish (Cypress House, $13.95). Thrill to the wisdom contained therein, such as not using antiquated words like “therein” and other writing tips, and how publishing companies work to make the book like the one in your hand. Wait a minute. Such a discerning reader as you deserves a brand new copy to read by the fire. Log on to the overrated internet and click over to for the nearest independent bookstore. Clerks in sweater vests want to serve you and will offer free gift-wrapping even though the season is finished, dead, over. How much wax would wax paper have if wax paper could have wax?

NEXT: Doggie Bags from the Deli

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