One of my goals for Go Teen Writers is to write posts that meet you where you are as a young writer. Respecting my reader was something I had no concept of as a teenage writer, and that was okay. When you first start writing, it's okay to be selfish with it. It's okay to not factor in the reader. You're experimenting, you're developing your voice, you're figuring out what type of stories you want to write. Having that "me" time was critical for my career, and there's nothing wrong with being in that stage of your writing journey.
But if you've decided you're interested in pursuing publication, your readers will appreciate if you do a couple things to show your respect:
1. Trust their intelligence.
This is a snippet from the dandelion story, which I wrote as a teenager. This is what it looks like to not trust your reader's intelligence:
"Stop it Carter, I'm serious. We need to talk," Paige repeated more forcefully.
Carter ran his hand through his brown hair and collapsed on a swing.
"What's up with you? You've been acting like this all day," Carter cried, exasperated.
"Stop yelling at me, alright!?" Paige yelled, even though Carter hadn’t been yelling. "I can't deal with you yelling at me on top of everything else!"
"Okay, okay," Carter said soothingly.My readers are smart people, and they don't need me handing every single emotion to them. I don't need to say that Paige repeated her sentence more forcefully, or that Carter is exasperated, or that Carter is speaking soothingly.
If your dialogue is strong enough (which is debatable in the above scene) not only are those dialogue tags (Carter cried, exasperated) unnecessary, they're annoying. If I tell my reader that Carter ran his hand through his hair and collapsed, then he says something like, "What's up with you?" then I really don't need to further add that he's exasperated.
This goes along with what we talked about with backstory and flashbacks - don't over explain. It's tempting to pause the action to explain what everyone is feeling and thinking, but you want to keep the story moving. A little confusion is okay. Readers want to be intrigued, and that happens when you withhold information.
Of course, that can also be annoying. It's a tough balance, but one that's worth fighting for.
2. Know who they are and what they're looking for in a story.
Having a specific reader in mind can be tremendously helpful. This goes beyond having a target audience, like writing a book for "boys between ages 3 and 8." This is someone who supports you and who likes to read. Your sibling, your best friend.
When you're writing a scene, it's possible this person pops into your mind. You're thinking, "Sally is going to love this part!"
This is also someone you don't want to let down, who encourages you to do your best. And, ideally, they tell you what they like and what they don't like.
A lot of times when I'm writing, I think of my critique partner, Roseanna White, because I know a lot about her reading tastes. Other times I'll have other target readers in my head - would Kelly think I'm being too preachy right here? That reader of mine who loves my character, Skylar, and relates to her ... how would she connect to this new character?
If you're published, there are other things I would suggest, like taking time to respond to readers who email you, praying for your readers, spend time thinking about ways that you can thank them for loyalty (bookmarks, signed books, etc.)
But the above are two things you can do in your pre-published days, two things that will carry you far as a writer!
Tomorrow I'm taking the day off to celebrate Thanksgiving with my family, and Friday the winners from last round's writing prompt will be announced.
That "follower" number is creeping up there! Don't forget to click "follow," and invite your friends to follow as well to increase the number of words you're allowed to submit to next round's free write. Details here.
Have a great day, guys!