Vision: A Resource for Writers

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From the Editor:

What Do You Owe the Readers?

By Lazette Gifford
Copyright 2008 by Lazette Gifford, All Rights Reserved

With the start of 2008, many of us look over our previous year's work and decide what we want to do next.  Are there specific areas we want to address for improvement?  Are there new genres or styles we want to try?  The possibilities are fun and exciting if you give yourself the chance to experiment.

There is, however, one aspect of writing that you may not think about -- what you should do for the readers.

Many of us write the stories we want to read.  We write for ourselves, and we are our first readers.  For some, the act of writing doesn't go any farther.  Those people are not interested in showing the material to others.  The creation of the story is an act of self-realization, And an exploration of what that writer feels and sees.

Most writers, however, are interested in sharing their stories with others.  They may want to do this on an amateur basis, and share the stories through their blogs and websites.  They may, instead, want to pursue writing professionally.

Sometimes the same person may do all three. There is no rule that says if you do one, you can't do anything else.  Those who are seeking professional publication do need to take extra care, though.   If you are going to put some of your material out there (material that you are not going to send to publishers), you want to place it in the best possible light, because it will be part of how readers view you and your future work.  You want to reach the greatest number of readers who might like your work.  If you join in with others, you will want to make certain they are approaching this with the same level of dedication as you are.  If there are too many poorly written stories, the chances are that readers won't find your wonderful work, buried in the drek.

If you are doing this as a stand-alone -- just you and your blog or website -- you need not worry about anyone else.  If you are only pasting snippets of a work-in-progress, the reader also understands that this is not meant to be a finished story.  However, a completed story of any length has different requirements.

And that brings us to the real question:  What do you owe the readers?

If you are only writing for yourself, you obviously don't owe anything to anyone else.  You can be messy in your storytelling.  You can ignore grammar and spelling and write whatever you like.

If you are presenting material for other readers, then you owe it to those readers to do the very best you can to give them a good story; well-written, interesting, and as free of as many mistakes you can manage. There can rarely be perfection, of course, but that doesn't mean you should be lazy and not take the utmost care before posting the story -- or before sending it off to some potential publisher or agent.

Take your time.  There is no hurry.   

Doing your best is what Vision and Forward Motion are about -- helping you learn as much as you can, so that you can treat your readers to the best story you can write, in hopes they find it entertaining and come back for more.  The reader may be someone who comes across your story blog, or it may be the submissions editor for a publishing company.  Remember, if you do share stories through non-traditional publication (blogs, personal websites, anywhere that is not handled through a regular submission/rejection system and does not have copyeditors), this writing is going to reflect on you, and on your future works, wherever else they may be published.  This is not a test to see how things might go: real people will be reading your material and judging your ability to entertain them, both now and in the future.  You cannot control their personal taste.  The only thing you can control is how well you present the work.

It's easy to be lazy.  It's harder to care about those who are going to read your material -- but caring will pay off in the long run.

So have a good, fun writing year in 2008.  Experiment and enjoy the act of creation -- and sharing, if that's your goal. 

Good luck!