Many writers say, with great pride, that they “write for themselves,” as if this means they are a “real” writer, in touch with their Muse. But this is only true if you are writing a journal, meant just for your eyes.
Books, articles, blog posts, indeed anything written, are communication vehicles. Effective communication is two-way. The written word is no exception. You have to know what is important to your reader. Otherwise, he or she will not read your writing. People have a choice to read your book or blog, or not to read it. It’s as simple as that.
How you present your ideas must be done in a way that your readers will understand or be entertained by. Yes, I am talking about slanting your writing.
Some people think that “slanting” your writing to what your reader cares about is selling out, betraying “the muse”, pandering, or manipulation. No! Slanting your writing so that your reader can “get” you is simply good communication. It shows respect for your reader. You are paying attention to who they are and what they care about. Aren’t you more likely to listen when people pay attention to your interests, and offer you respect by talking in terms you understand? Of course you are. It’s the same with writing.
Tailoring your writing to your readers’ “care abouts” will allow you to elicit emotional responses from them. You want bells to go off in their heads, or for them to snap their fingers with delight, or be dazzled by the brilliant light you have poured over them. Emotional responses lead to action or change. That’s ultimately what you’re trying to get from your reader – you want them to do something, learn something, or feel something.
You can only emotionally hook them if you know what they care about.
You might be tempted to think that your particular topic is something that everyone needs to know about. Maybe so, but no matter what you think, not everyone is going to be interested in what you have to say. So the first step in writing for your readers is to define who they are.
It is true that with written work going out into the big wide world, you cannot know for sure who will be reading what you write. But you can know two things: you can know who is most likely to read it; and you can know who you want to read it. Is the topic of your writing going to appeal to men more than women, or vice versa? Will it appeal to people in their thirties and forties, or seniors over 65, or teenagers? Are you writing for experts in your field, or laymen? Do you want to win over the liberals, or the conservatives? Are the people who will want to read your
thoughts going to be intellectuals or jocks, engineers or artists, or of a particular ethnicity? Get as detailed as you want. For instance, are your hoped for readers middle-class moms, or environmental activists, or people challenged by cancer?
Why is this important? Because you are going to tailor the writing to whomever your audience is. Different people respond to different kinds of words, different slang, different metaphors, different jargon. This does not mean you are pandering or betraying your own muse. All it means is that you are treating your readers with respect, and paying attention to who they are.
After all, the reason you write is so someone else will read it. It’s not about you.
As a ghostwriter, my topics are all over the map, and so are the readers. So I’ve learned some tips to define these elusive creatures. Next month I’ll share some more ideas with you.
Kim Pearson is an author, ghostwriter, and owner of Primary Sources, a writing service that helps others become authors of professional and compelling books and articles. She has authored 6 books of her own, and ghostwritten more than 30 non-fiction books and memoirs. To learn more about her books or services, visit http://www.primary-sources.com/.