Y – You

YI seem to be missing one last critical component of writing – You! The reader! Without an audience, a book is not a very interesting thing, and a writer is not going to be a paid author for long. So on the one hand, the goal is to get published – but on the other hand, the goal is to get read.

I think that’s a lot of the appeal to self-publishing. Yes, money, a career, all that. But really, if the goal is to be read – if the goal is to get the book to You – then by any means necessary!

It’s the reader who must meet your words with their understanding, it is the reader who tries to figure you out. Who tries – and wants to try! – to know what you scrawled out on the page, what you typed hastily into a computer. It is the reader who makes this worth it.

I missed the opportunity to write about Audience, when I wrote about Author instead, for this A to Z Challenge. So instead, I’ll let you read a post better than I would have written anyway, from the Writing Catalog. I say that in part because I like Gene’O’s writing, but also in part because I don’t think enough about the audience when I write. In a lot of ways, I write for an audience of one: myself.

And maybe that’s why I have a hard time starting to write. Because while I could write, if my main audience is myself, well, I already have the story here in my head. I know what happens. Would anyone else care what I write? Would anyone else like it?

So that means for me the most important question right now goes back to audience. And actually, I think that it may also answer a question I asked before: why write a blog? The answer may well be that you write a blog to have an audience. To experience that, to want that. To interact with them and find out what they like and don’t like. To get praise, or constructive criticism, or to get shared – all to give you that little bit of confidence you need, to know that you might just have an audience outside of yourself (or maybe your family, hopefully they’d read it too…), and that it might be worth it to drag those ideas out of your head and let them see the light of day.

Thus, concluding my posts on the essentials of writing, I dedicate this post to you: my reader, my audience. That’s right, you. Right there. I’m thinking about you when I write this. And I am thanking you for being there. Whether you’re there just as a blogger, wandering by from the Challenge – great! I know I don’t read nearly as many blog posts as I should. I am a bad audience member. Or whether you’re a follower – thank you so much! You remind me time and again that maybe I really can be a writer.

And this seems like an excellent time for self-promotion. If you like my writing here, like being my audience here, check out my geeky blog I write with my wife: Comparative Geeks. It overall has much more content and posts than here. However, since my audience has grown quite a bit during the challenge, I’m going to have to keep going strong here too, I think!

Thank You!

W – Writer’s Block

WAh, Writer’s Block. That scourge of writers the world over. I suppose. Is it though? What are some of the elements of Writer’s Block?

For me, the very first and major hurdle of Writer’s Block is how to start. I, like many writers I imagine, have a number of stories mapped out in my head, notes hidden around in margins, on smart phones, tablets, writing programs. When do you know enough? About your characters, your setting? Do you understand it all? Have you read enough to know that no one else has already written your story? And how do you hook your readers?

This is a hard wall to get past, for sure. As best I understand, at some point you just have to start. For me, that’s still a work in progress.

Once you’re going, maybe you started too soon! Oh no, how do you resolve this part? Describe this scene? How do you convey to your readers exactly what you feel when you think about it? Or maybe you know time needs to pass, but don’t know what might happen between where you’re coming from and where you’re going. Maybe you need to give another character some time in the sun, but aren’t sure what to have happen.

Or maybe Writer’s Block is just your excuse – your excuse for having a life, for letting time get away from you, for not being as diligent in writing as you feel like you ought to be. Because while the largest category is likely the books never written, there is still very likely a very large selection of books started but unfinished. It’s an easy trap to fall into. It’s life.

And then there’s towards the end, you have a written story! But you’re editing. Thinking it through, revising. Have you developed your voice enough? Have you used good language to convey your points and story? And is it something unique, something that hasn’t been written before? Is it something new under the sun?

At some point you have to let it go, have to decide it’s good enough. Not everyone can be J.K. Rowling or George Lucas and edit their works after they’re already published. But before you reach that point, you can likely hit the hardest road blocks, the most doubt: is it good enough? Will anyone, in their right mind – or at least the mind they bring to the table on the day they’re making the decision – publish it? Would you even self-publish it yourself? As you might be your hardest critic, after all.

I can see a lot of things we might mean by Writer’s Block. Once I get going, in a single session, I tend not to stop when writing – I tend to flow. For me, the trouble is getting started, is having the time, is taking the time. How about you? Any Writer’s Block stories or tips to share? Venture forth to the comments below! Can’t think of what to comment about? Writer’s Block strikes again!

U – Understanding

U

Okay, so on the one hand, this seems like me reaching for something that starts with U for the A to Z Challenge. On the other hand, this is one of the ones that made some of the most sense to me.

The famous quote is, of course, Write What You Know. Because in so many ways, writing is taking what you know, and making it so it’s a thing the reader knows. Maybe they won’t know all of it – maybe they’ll only take a quote away. Nonetheless, you’re adding to what they know.

However, as you may have noticed, I am a fan of science fiction and fantasy – genres that are impossible if you take a literal interpretation of “Write What You Know.” Only a handful of people would be qualified to write about travel in space. No one has been to Middle Earth (except apparently anyone who has been to New Zealand). And yet, these works can be written, and read, and understood.

So that is the crux of the matter: it’s about understanding. The writer should understand what they are including in their book: understand the language they are using, understand the grammar and words; understand the characters they are including, their psychology and experiences; understand the setting and the things that happen there, whether that’s the climate or how the people fight or what they eat for breakfast.

And maybe you don’t have to know all of those things. And certainly you don’t have to have experienced them all yourself. But the writer should have an understanding of these things – whether that comes from education, research, reading, experiences, talking to people or experts, or wild extrapolation.

Because when you understand it, and put it in such that it makes sense and is believable, your readers will get it too. Not to say all writing must be realistic in that it is only real things that happen; however, the things that happen should be internally consistent, should have a realism within the world they are in. Whether that’s how alien technologies work or magic systems or biology or computer software (No click enhance! Bad!). By understanding these things happening, you can create that consistency, make things make sense, and have their own logic. And then your readers will understand, too.

What do you think? Write What You Know? How much do you need to understand? Let me know in the comments down below!

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