This week’s writing tip comes to you on a Friday because, to be honest, I came down with a terrible cold this week and forgot to post a writing tip on Wednesday. Let it be known: being sick during the summer is much worse than being sick during winter.
Okay, so, this week's advice:
Write for the audience you want to attract.
Let me explain.
A few weeks ago, in a post about rejection, I mentioned The Secret, which is a terrible documentary from a few years back that you should definitely not watch. Maybe read a Wikipedia article about it. To cut to the case, it's partly about new age positive thinking. You get back from the world what you put into it. If you're talking strictly in terms of your interactions with society, this is a pretty effective model (but it's probably best to ignore all the spirituality stuff). If you're a jerk to people, flip off other drivers in traffic, and are generally a miserable human being, you're going to attract other miserable human beings. If, on the other hand, you're a happy-go-lucky sunshine-spewing cheer monster, you'll ignore all the people flipping you off in traffic and naturally attract other positive people. I genuinely believe this.
So, the same can be said of writing for a particular audience.
Full disclosure: this idea is not originally mine, but I don't have a way to attribute it to the original, and I'm probably butchering it, anyway. See, I heard this secondhand from a friend of mine who couldn't recall the source, but it went something like this: when you write, you should always assume the audience is on your side. Flirt with them and have fun with them, because if you're having fun, they will be, too. This might sound obvious, but I think it's vital. My writer friend, when she came across this advice, realized that, in the past several years, she had subconsciously allowed a bit of cynicism to enter her writing. It was as if, for whatever reason, she began to resent her imaginary reader, and started--not exactly talking down to them--but jabbing at them in unintentional ways. I've done this, myself, mostly in stories and nonfiction pieces that I never bothered submitting anywhere because I knew they weren't very good. These pieces were coming from a place of cynicism, of negativity. It's hard to explain, but I think I was subconsciously skewering imaginary people out in the world who might flip me off in traffic. It was heavy-handed, unsubtle, and probably pretty boring stuff. If you're writing this way, you won't be writing developed, three-dimensional, living characters, and you'll probably be turning off a lot of readers in the process.
Write for readers who are already your allies. Forget the people who aren't. They can flip you off all they want. You're in the next lane, minding your own. Roll up your windows, crank the AC, blast your favorite music, and know that your audience will be right there with you, nodding along.