What Readers Want

Time and time again you’re told to identify your reader, to write what your reader wants to read. Wouldn’t it be nice if you could look into a crystal ball and find the perfect reader for your book? crystal ball by Jeffrey Beall

Have you tried to research what the reader wants? An internet search will give you more than 29 million results! Are that that many things readers want? Yes and no. The things readers want are greater than the number of readers. So what’s a writer to do?

Learn the basics.

1. We are born storytellers. Our sense, or need for, story is inborn. Need proof? How about 40,000+ year old cave paintings? How about the questions we ask? How was your day? Did you see the whopper I caught? Did you hear the whopper I told?

2. Learn about the psychology of story.

3. Learn what a story is.

Tell your best story.

1. Understand that your job as a writer is to tell a story about a character who wants something desperately and to make her struggle to achieve that goal.  If there is no struggle, no obstacles, no opposition, there is no story.

2. Learn how to craft a story, There is tons of advice out there on the wild web. Don’t just go with web learning. Find books by authors whose stories you love. I have a list of resources here.

3. Hone your craft. Learn to write a scene.

Learn who your readers are.

1. If you don’t have a mailing list or anything in print yet, look at your own reading habits. Pick one of your favorite books and look it up on Amazon. Look through the reviews for that book. What did the reviewers love? What did they hate?

If you’ve already got books out you can do several things.

Mine your mailing list. What can you learn from the names and addresses? What can you learn from comments left on your blog or emailed to you?

Use tools like the ones this post suggests.

Interview your readers. Or, look at the reviews you’ve gotten. Did your readers love your characters but think your setting was weak? Did your readers love the secondary characters? What did they not like? Careful with this one, you’re not looking for negative reviews, you’re looking for what your readers didn’t like or wanted to see more of.

2. Know the genre of your story. But my book is a blend of several genres you say. Sorry, you have to pick one that is your primary genre. Why? Because when you go to buy a breakfast food at the grocery you don’t go to the this-and-that aisle. You go to the meat section or the cereal aisle, then you make a selection. So you choose one primary genre and you make certain the obligatory scenes for that genre are present. Help your readers find your story.

Can’t decide which genre is your primary? Go to Amazon or other book sellers and look at the descriptions of books that are like yours. What’s the genre? Still can’t decide? Get a refresher on the basic genres and try again.

3. Study the bestsellers lists. No, don’t follow the trend. Read the best sellers in your genre. Figure out why readers love those books. Don’t copy the books, but take the elements that make them popular and use those elements in your own fiction.

Refine. Refine. Refine.

1. Improve your craft. Always. Get feedback from peers and professionals. Learn more about the craft.

2. Practice. Practice. Practice.

3. Listen to your readers. Always. That doesn’t mean give them exactly what they say they want, it means listen. Honor them by writing the best story you can with the elements that they love.

There are hundreds and thousands more references available to you. Reach out. Search for them. Get to know your readers. Your readers will thank you.

To help us all get to know readers better, I am running a series of Reader Interviews (with a tip of the hat to the Actor’s Studio). These aren’t limited to my readers. I’ve asked friends, family, anyone who reads to take part in this. Please help me thank them for their time and candid answers by reading and commenting. Look for the first in that series next week.

 

Image courtesy of Jeffrey Beall via Flickr.com

Nearing The End

I am nearing THE END of this eternal re-write. This novel was first attempted years ago, that’s many, many years ago. Earlier drafts got me two different agents and almost sold twice. Yet, it didn’t sell. And it’s a heart novel, meaning it’s near and dear to my heart. Someone once called it my therapy novel. Truth? Some of it has been therapy. Not in the way implied by my critic, but it has had therapeutic moments. It’s been a slow, difficult re-write with lots of angst, tons of learning, and more than a few tears shed. But, The End is in sight. And yet—

The words come slowly to me on a good day. On bad days—words come slower than a slow snail’s slowest slog. Whew! Which situation do you think I’m in now? Yup. S-L-O-W. You’d think the words would be coming faster, wouldn’t you? And yet—

I sit at the computer and type a few words then come to a section that must be a blend of the old draft and the new one. The words drip out of my fingers and nearly dry up then, something comes along to spur me forward. This blog post, for one. I’m using it to spur me onward to the end.

I’m going to share a snippet of my dystopian story with the working title: My Soul to Keep. It’s the story of two mothers and two daughters, though primarily it’s Miranda’s story. First, a short description:

Miranda Clarke, daughter of America’s premier preacher-politician, leads a charmed life—until she breaks the rules. Haunted by family secrets and hunted by cloned assassins, Miranda must destroy the government controlled by her own family before the Angels of Death destroy her and all of democracy.

 

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My Soul To Keep

A work-in-progress

by

Lynette M Burrows

Chapter One

The giant bronze statue of the angel of death loomed over Miranda Clarke’s shoulder. Was it the statue or was it the tiny flare of rebellion that made her not want to enter the Fellowship Center’s crowded foyer? The statue, Shield of Mercy, Hand of Justice, stood at the grand entrance as it had for all Miranda’s life. With Uncle Sam sheltered in her great black wings, the angel hovered over the fallen body of president-elect Franklin Delano Roosevelt and pointed to the pile of ash where the assassin had stood.

“Is something wrong?” Tom, her bodyguard, came to stand too close.

What could be wrong with becoming a Guardian? She hid her fears behind her angelic-daughter-of-the-councilor smile. “I need to powder my nose.”

“They’ll be seating your family in five minutes. Tell me what you need, I’ll have someone fetch it.”

I need to not be the councilor’s daughter. “There are some things a girl must do on her own.” She dove into a sea of elbows and padded shoulders, big purses, and bigger hats. Her bodyguard followed. He always did.

Hundreds of men in sharkskin suits and women in taffeta dresses filled the foyer waiting for the auditorium doors to open. Clusters of them here and there held onto their hats, an assortment of felt, feathers, netting and ruffles, and peered up at the mural-painted dome five stories above. They reeked of aftershave lotions, cheap colognes, and forbidden cigarette smoke.

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Thanks to hubpages.com and DowntownLynchburg.com for the images. These images are part of my inspirations board on Pinterest. If you’re curious, take a look here.

I’ll be posting stories about my mentors, my process, and some of the history that inspired different scenes and themes of this book over the next few months. And of course, you’re all invited to the party when I finally type THE END!

I hope you enjoyed this taste of things to come. As always, I deeply appreciate the time you give to read and comment on this blog. Thank You!

7 Quotes on Writing

These seven successful authors each offer a piece of advice on how to write. Together these quotes may be all you need to know about writing fiction.

 

 

 

 

So what do you think? Is this complete? Would you add anything?

Thank you for taking time to read and comment especially when there are so many concerns that occupy so many of us.

My heartfelt prayers for safety and strength go to all those affected by the hurricanes, the fires, the earthquake, or the floods ravaging so many.