Writing with the Eyes of a Reader

Conceptual Books

Are you writing a story? Remember this: your readers have different eyeglasses than you.

You might be all about making a point, creating lush settings or new worlds, exploring humorous side alleys, drawing eccentric characters, delving into backstory. In other words–describing and explaining. Expressing yourself.

Your readers are looking for an immediate pull into someone’s life. They desire lures that create hunger to know what’s going on. They want to slip into someone else’s skin and mind, to feel an insatiable itching that won’t let them put the story down until they find out what happens next.

Okay, you’re stuck with author’s eyeglasses in the first round of your writing. Just get the story down. Get to know your characters well. Discover–if you don’t know it already–the theme and deeper meaning that drives your story. Create an awesome, satisfying ending. Toil and sweat. Have fun!

But at some point you’ll need to rewrite, revise, rework. This is a good time to take off your authorial eyeglasses and put on those of your reader: at the end of your first, messy draft. Or your second draft, if your first was particularly awful.

Why are those reader’s glasses so important? They’ll help you to cut scenes that meander and lead nowhere. To replace trite images with fresh. To create a razor-sharp focus on your characters’ pain and yearning. To inflame readers’ curiosity with lures and delight them with game-changers. To slough off tedious backstory and plunge readers into the immediacy of your character’s experience. To push your protagonist into hardships you never dreamed possible.

In other words, putting on the reader’s glasses will help you write a story your readers can’t stop talking about (instead of forgetting it a week after it’s finished). A story that readers keep mulling over (instead of closing the cover, getting up to make tea, and wondering what’s for dinner).

Author and teacher Diane Holmes is putting together an online writing course that teaches you how to look at your work in progress through ten different lenses. Lenses that are vital to your readers but that many writers seem unaware of. I’ve been privileged to participate in a trial run of that course. I’ve rarely encountered writing instruction so enlivening, stimulating, and empowering. Immensely challenging, and thoroughly invigorating.

In further posts, I’ll describe a few tidbits from Diane’s course as an exercise in solidfying these concepts in my own mind. And as a way of encouraging you to look for her excellent course online, starting in 2016.

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