To Write a Book Someday, Share Your Writing Now

8139708904_9a1d1783d4_bSome people will tell you the defining characteristic of a writer is that he or she is someone who writes. There is truth to that perspective, but it fails to offer a complete picture. It also gives many “aspiring writers” an excuse to be nothing more than journal keepers: diligently plucking away at Moleskine memoirs or first-novel manuscripts that have zero chance of getting published, ever.

The point here is not a matter of quality. It’s about privacy.

The reason why many written works-in-progress will never see the light of publishing day is that they are stowed, always and forever, in a drawer or on a hard drive where they have no risk of being evaluated by a second person. The writers of these works will never be writers because they will never have readers. They exist completely outside the writing market, and the only critical eye they allow to view their work is their own.

If you think that one day you’d like for people to read your writing, then you should begin by inviting people to read your writing now. Here are five ways readers can strengthen your writing and make it even more worth reading:

Readers help you get over yourself. It’s not uncommon for writers to feel uncertain or insecure about what they’ve written. Will this technique work here? Am I being clear? Am I using a marketable concept? Does anybody else care about the subject? Without readers to help confirm where and how a piece of writing is hitting its target (and where and how it’s missing its mark), these uncertainties and insecurities often grow and fester. But when you prioritize feedback, typically you get it. As a result you might find that your sinking suspicions will be confirmed. Some of your assumptions might be challenged. Maybe you’ll be pleasantly surprised by rave reviews. Whatever the case, you won’t be stuck wondering anymore, and that will help light a clear way forward.

Readers identify strengths in your work. Encouragement and affirmation give extra fuel when you’re trying to produce a manuscript. So ask your readers to note the places where they laugh out loud, hold their breath with anticipation, get caught by surprise, can’t stop turning pages, or are struck speechless. That paragraph you’re thinking about deleting? It might be your readers’ favorite part. Give them a chance to tell you so.

Readers identify weaknesses in your work. That poetic metaphor you’ve taken days and months to craft? It might be so complex that it’s confusing your readers. The story you’ve built a whole chapter around? Your readers might be bored out of their minds.

As the writer of a work, you will undoubtedly feel more attached to it than your readers will. Because of your heightened emotional attachment, you’ll probably miss seeing some of your writing’s flaws. You might even be blind to enormous holes in the work. Let your readers open your eyes to the problems you don’t see, so you can take the opportunity to fix them.

Readers expand your perspective. You are only one person, so your outlook on the world is limited and skewed. You have strange views about certain things, and some of your views simply haven’t been challenged in a way that forces you to clarify them well or charitably. Readers can help you identify the odd little points in a draft, the ones that either are or seem arrogant, stingy, dismissive, hyper-emotional, you name it. Points like these will jut out in unseemly ways, always subtracting and distracting from good work, unless someone will be so kind as to call your attention to them, so you can know to improve them.

Readers make the process realistic. If your writing aspirations are real, then you’re going to have to accept the reality of readers at some point. Get used to feedback now, and critiques won’t make you crazy later. Write with readers in mind now, and it won’t feel strange when they’re a part of the process later. Start learning what readers are interested in now, and then when your defining moments as a writer come, you’ll be prepared to deliver for your readers.

YOUR TURN: Respond in the comments: How have readers helped your writing? What kind of readers give the best feedback? What keeps you from pursuing readers?

Photo credit: cogdogblog cc

2 Replies to “To Write a Book Someday, Share Your Writing Now”

  1. Aloha Lisa Velthouse,

    I believe your post – To Write a Book Someday, Share Your Writing Now – hit the nail squarely on the head. I purposely used the ‘nail’ image because I think writing is about building a story in a reader’s mind. (BOOM – there it is, in the second sentence “reader” comes up – they are that important.)

    Writers need readers – they are the point of writing. But how to get readers? Let me present a few ideas in addition to yours.

    Beta readers — Ask people to read your work. The longer it is the more reluctant they might be. However, if you get one – BOOM – you’ve got a reader.

    Critique Circles — Join a critique circle – I joined . You will have to write some critiques before you get any but writing them makes you a better writer. Then when your piece comes up and you get critiques – BOOM – you have also got readers.

    Comment on Blogs — Write comments on other people blogs. Yes, one or two people will read this – BOOM – another reader or two.

    Start a Blog — Write your own blog about whatever interests you. Make a post or two a week. I started – most of the posts are about golf and it is challenging to find something interesting to say about that. However, occasionally I slip in a post about a very interesting topic – me. And BOOM – more readers.

    Use Facebook — Be active on Facebook. Announce your blog posts. Write better posts and comments than your ‘friends’, sadly this isn’t usually difficult. However, Facebook is an extremely competitive environment; you’ll be up against pictures of puppies, kittens, and babies. You will have to celebrate the small victories – but BOOM- more readers of your words.

    BOOM – BOOM – BOOM – BOOM – You will build up readers of your work. But be warned – readers are addictive. Before you know it you will be sending that manuscript out to agents and publishers. Then, like me, you can spend time each day thinking up new derogatory terms for those who don’t respond. Save those terms, write them down – you can use them in your next manuscript.
    A Hui Hou (until next time),
    Wayne Halm

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