Vision: A Resource for Writers
Remember the Audience
illiam Zinsser, in On Writing
Well, insists you need to write for yourself
first—an audience of one. Ultimately,
this is true, but to sell a product you will need to find a balance between the
paying audience and your personal style—without compromising your integrity.
I periodically hear the question "Is such-and-such a topic OK to
write about?" This question
usually prompts many follow-up questions, but this article will only cover one:
Who is your audience? If you
are not writing for sale, this question is less important; however, if you
expect to receive payment for your work, those paying you determine your
readership, both for work already sold or commissioned and for work with an
"Know your audience"
is the premiere point driven home in technical writing classrooms everywhere;
however, it applies for all
writers. People frequently ask if
they should write about a certain topic in their work in progress (WIP).
I always think, "It depends upon your intended audience."
consideration for who will read your work, you can write about nearly any
subject for a willing audience. If
you have sold your story and are writing for a specific agent, editor, or
publisher, then you need to please them before your public will get to read your
work. However, at what point in the
writing process must you consider audience? It depends upon your writing process — but it must take
place before submitting your work for publication.
If you do
pre-writing, you might find it helpful to consider your final audience when
determining content and tone. Some
people, however, prefer to get their ideas on paper (or into an electronic file)
before turning a critical eye toward them. Others like to produce a near final draft in the first
take—writing and re-writing as they go.
have sold the piece before writing it, your life will be easier if you research
your audience first. Ask yourself
the following questions:
writing preferences determine when you act upon those questions.
Consider your reader during your writing, giving it a lot of attention or
a little. As you edit or re-write,
incorporate audience consideration into your process.
During the creative process, something may have interested you, but
carried you away from your audience. Editing
or re-writing is the time to wrestle these things into line.
during critique sessions, listen to your critiquer's comments.
If it is not already included, consider adding an audience section to
your critique format—something like "Who do you think the audience is for
this piece?" The answer will help you determine if you have met your goals
in addressing your audience.
piece is unsold, you have more options. Most
notably, the opportunity to write the piece of your dreams and then try to match
it with a buyer who is looking for just the piece you have written, thus
achieving writer nirvana!
work? Chances are you will have to
adjust your writing for your potential buyer.
Perhaps you have written a sensitive piece about a young, committed gay
couple. You should be able to sell
this piece; however, the subject matter will limit your audience.
For instance, this piece is unlikely to sell to the Southern Baptist
Convention (even if your couple is Southern Baptist), but it is likely to sell
in more markets now than it would have ten years ago.
market research. Perhaps you have
written a screenplay or sitcom about aliens living among us in our society.
Of course, this has already been done quite successfully in several
iterations—"Mork and Mindy," "Alf," "Third Rock from
the Sun," or "Men in Black" to name a few examples.
In each example, we saw a different illustration of the common theme, and
clearly, the audience for this material is broader and more receptive than the
previous example. Perhaps you want
to write about gay aliens living among us in our society. Who ever complains about alien sexuality?
This approach might be worth a try.
your story; just make sure you direct the story you write to your intended
audience. You can do it; you will
find a way. You will know when it
happens—your work will sell, and you will be proud of what you produced.