Don’t Forget the Audience


This past holiday weekend, I decided to put ‘work’ aside and really looked forward into delving into a new adventure.  In the space of a few hours, one late afternoon, I went through three books before I finally found one even remotely interesting.  
I became frustrated after pushing myself through the first five chapters of the first novel, hoping and praying that the story will finally hit its stride, but it didn’t.  The pacing was slow, the events were unbelievable and the emotion was completely disconnected.  I so much wanted to love this story, because I loved the book blurb, the story idea and it had received lots of great reviews.  But, I refuse to read for reading sake.  There are too many great stories out there for me to waste my time on dull and dreary. That was $4.99 wasted.
The second story started off promising, but by the third chapter it began to jump from POV to POV without any indication.  I became lost as to who was talking, who was thinking and whose emotions were being described.  Sure that I had checked to make certain the book was not self-published; I was quite surprised to find that it was indeed.  I have given at least a dozen and one chances for the self-published industry to put out some great novels, to be let down a dozen times.  So, I found myself wasting another $2.99 on a literary mess.
The third novel, a self-published title -“The Fall of Billy Hitchings” by Kirkus McGowan, kept coming up in my Kindle library.  I don’t remember putting it in, or even where I heard of the book in the first place, but because it was self-published I kept pushing it away.  So, I spent the rest of my weekend watching movies with my family instead. But, this morning, and back to my regular routine, I needed something to read while on the treadmill (to keep my mind off the timer and the pain in my body), so I flipped on my Kindle and it opened to the last book I had been perusing.  I thought, “What the heck, at least try the first couple of chapters.”  So my dozen and one chances to find a great self-published title turned into a dozen and two.
The story started off with a bang, right in the middle of full blown action, and the dialogue flowed smoothly and is realistic in the modern-day time period, the style of writing was in my favorite  style (active/showing), and within a few sentences,  I was hooked.  I forget about the minute counter on the treadmill, and the aches in my arms and legs from having a laid-back extended weekend and now forcing them to perform at their top level, and got lost in the adventure.  Before I knew it, I the timer started beeping on the treadmill, and I was nearing the end of chapter four. I didn’t want to stop reading, but I knew I must.  I had a full plate of activities to complete (one including this blog) and would have to pick it up again the next morning.  
As I showered, I thought about how nice and refreshing it was to find a diamond in the rough amongst the bilge of self-publication.  I was literally at the point of fiercely advocating against ever reading another self-published title again.  I really, really hope the rest of the book lives up to the first few chapters.  I don’t even know the premise of the story I’m reading, having no idea how I even came across the novel.  It also made me think about how important it is to remember the reader, the audience, when writing a novel.  
Though we, the authors, are the first audience, it is not to ourselves to whom we must appeal, but to our readers.  Society today isn’t the same it was 100, 50, 25, 15 or even 10 years ago.  We live in a fast-paced world that demands our attention, and that attention is divided amongst multiple things in a single day.  A book written 100 years ago, could afford to start off slow and let the characters and emotion build around a central theme, because the readers usually only had one book at a time, and had plenty of time to read through it.  Today, books are published so often, through so many different avenues, and the reader is so inundated, that the writing style has to change to reflect the changing reader – or it will lose them by being left behind.   It’s too easy to put the novel aside and choose something else, and have instant accessibility through eReaders.  So, the story of today MUST be written in a format and a style that grabs the attention, teases the emotion, and broadens the imagination if it’s intent on hooking a reader.
For authors who refuse to change their style in order to meet the demands of the modern, current, and highly-pressured reading audience of the 21st century will find themselves left behind. So, my writing advice for today is this:  Don’t get stubborn and stuck in a rut (a ditch without an end), be open to change, and don’t forget the audience. Without readers, why write?  
Till next time,
~T.L. Gray
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