Saturday, December 18, 2010

Writing for an Audience of One

By Susan

I want a book that I can’t put down.
I want a book that surprises me, manipulates me, tugs at my heart and my tears and that makes me care about something other than myself. The end of the chapter should surprise me, and make me want to keep reading. The main character should be likable but flawed, and her goals should be attainable yet fraught with obstacles. I want interesting, over-the-top yet still believable things to happen. I want a mystery that I alone can unravel- me, the reader, that is- I want to be right in my assertions but I also want to be surprised.
When I put the book down after the final chapter, I want to reach for the sequel.

That’s also the book that I want to write.

Now that I am coming to the end of my manuscript, I’m changing things. Not the plot or the basic storyline, mind you, but the suspense level, the chapter breaks, and the pacing of the story. I tossed all the chapters in the air and let them fall into place on their own (a lot more work than perhaps I am making it sound here). My story now moves swiftly through three storylines, one in 1950, one in 1968, and one in 2003. And, as a reader, I’ve taken my cues from books that I have loved- not only for their story, but for their craft.

And I’m the first to admit on WhatWomenWrite that I am not a “real” writer. I worked in advertising and marketing for 15 years until flipping careers by taking a move into non-profit work. My full-time job has nothing to do with writing, and hasn’t since college. With that said, I learn as I go. So in the process of crafting a novel that others want to read, and that I want to write, I’ve made decisions based on my gut- not based on a writer’s conference, an agent’s blog, or books on writing. I break all the rules because frankly, I have no clue what they are. And in some crazy way, I’m happy in my ignorance.

What does this mean? In writing the book that I want to write, I’m answering only to me. My audience of one is me alone. I’m attempting, after all, to write a book that I would want to read. When it’s completed in just a few months, I'm the only reader I'm trying to please.

It also means that the book is full of mistakes. Problems with points of view abound. Since no one has edited it but me, my own common misspellings and grammatical errors are sprinkled throughout the story. (Somehow in my mind, this is what agents and editors are for. See? Once again I sit hopelessly lost in my own ignorance.) My ideas may not work for a mass market. Readers may not care about monks and bootleggers and Kentucky families the way that I do.

But then again, maybe they will.


  1. I think that sometimes it can be an asset to have a lot of other things going on in your life besides writing and the writing/publishing industry. It gives you a fresh perspective and an rich background to draw from.

    I'm rooting for you, because I also work in non-writing-related nonprofit fields and want to write a good novel. :)

  2. That first paragraph was exactly what I want to read (and try to write) too.

    Good luck with the editing! =)


  3. Susan,

    I think you're being too modest. I have heard you read certain scenes from your book aloud at retreats, and I think I can safely speak for the whole group when I say that you took our collective breaths away with your gorgeous prose, and the importance of the story you are telling.

    You ARE a real writer, and readers will care.



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