When you write a story, how-to or self-help piece or something instructional, who do you write it for? Of course, you’re going to say that it’s for your audience. Right answer! But is it really? You may address your audience using “you” a lot in your nonfiction works. You might believe that you are providing instruction or information for your audience. But are you really? How do you know if your writing attempt will truly engage, touch, teach and/or otherwise resonate with your audience?
I meet authors who are so into their fiction stories or memoirs that they forget completely about their audience. They remain in their own little world of thoughts, memories and fancy word combinations that they pay little attention to their reason for writing this in the first place—to engage members of an audience. They disregard their readers while trying to satisfy their own egos. They are more focused on their way with words than the readability, continuity and flow of their work.
The nonfiction author sometimes confuses the reader by providing too much of the wrong kind of data. A reader on overload doesn’t benefit much from the material he is trying to sift through. Authors often make simple instructions terribly complicated. It takes a knack to write clear instructions.
Many nonfiction authors have trouble organizing the material for their books. Some are not good researchers, so they omit important aspects of the topic they are trying to cover. Others simply don’t know how to appropriately and sensibly present the information. They don’t have a clear intention for their book.
All of these problems make for books that are not reader-friendly.
What is the solution? Number one: Think about your reader and then strive to speak to him/her, engage him/her and entertain, teach, inform him or her.
What are you writing today? Go to your desktop now and read through it. Who is it written for? If it is fiction, is it an enjoyable story or does it drag and seem a little dull? Go back and read a book or short story that really kept your interest. What makes this story different from yours? What can you do to improve the entertainment value of your story?
If it is nonfiction, is it crystal clear, well-organized and informative? Is it easy to read and follow? Have you provided a mix of text, bulleted sections, Q & A, anecdotes and a study program, for example? What, exactly, will your reader get from this book or article? What is your intention? What do you envision the reader walking away with: A new skill, a greater understanding on some topic, a fresh perspective? Do you believe that you have succeeded in providing this opportunity? If not, I suggest going back to the drawing board.
Patricia Fry is the author of 28 nonfiction books and a memoir. Her book, The Right Way to Write, Publish and Sell Your Book is designed for authors who are at any stage of writing, publishing or promoting their books. Read the profile for this useful book at http://www.matilijapress.com/rightway.html