I have a confession: I’m neurotic.
|yup, neurotic like I've been staring at the eclipse...|
What do you mean you already knew? Oh, right, because I’m a writer. Okay. Well, it’s true. Sometimes writing has me seesawing between the pits of despair and egomania. I’m always looking for ways to shore up the crazies as I write, and lately I’ve been struggling with audience. Not who they are, mind you, but that there could conceivably be many. I know, that’s sort of crazy because I’m a writer and having tons of people read my stuff is sort of the whole reason for writing in the first place. But when I think about those hungry masses waiting for my (not yet written, signed, or contracted book) it’s sort of intimidating.
I know, talk about first world problems, but this is what gets me up early to start pounding away at the keyboard. This is completely neurotic because no one can know what path they will take. For instance, even if my query bait gets the attention of an agent, there's no guarantee it'll go any further than an agent's in box. That's publishing, the harsh cruel truth of publishing. So my imaginary reader problem could be a many many years into the future problem.
But that problem is hurting me now. My guess is because writing has to come from somewhere deep. You can’t just write fluff. There’s plenty of fluff out there, but I’m not interested in writing those books. I want to write books that give people something (wow, I really sound conceited there). So how do I keep in mind the whole reason I write, and yet keep the intimidating possible future readers at bay?
There’s an old saying:
Work like you don’t need the money
Dance like no one is watching
Love like you’ve never been hurt
It’s good advice, but it’s hard to apply to writing. I mean would that be "Write like no one is reading"? Let me tell you, I would write very differently if I were the only person ever to read. I would probably write nothing but Mary-Sue fan fic where the MC was an only slightly veiled version of myself. And our plucky heroes would always win by some crafty bit of almost magic that wasn’t revealed until the second to last chapter.
Okay, that would be too boring even for me, but the point is, we tell stories for other people. It’s to communicate something (sometimes just a fun story full of escapism, mind), so how to keep readers in mind without letting them drive us into a darkened, nonthreatening space?
Liz over at Myself without the shell told me about the one person. Pick one person in the world who you’re writing for. Just one. Then the hoards of readers don’t seem so intimidating. You’re not writing for them, you’re writing for that One Reader.
I couldn’t think of anyone good, so I picked an author I’ve enjoyed. That’s not really going to work out in the long run. Just imagine how crushing it would be if your One Reader was a real person who then read your books and didn’t like them. Yikes! So I immediately took this author and I extrapolated them into an imaginary person.
Now my imaginary reader, let’s call this person the Alpha Reader provides a certain amount of comfort. When I’m in a bind I just ask myself “What would Alpha Reader enjoy?”
Usually the answer is to blow something up.
I like explosions too, so I think this new method might really work for me.
What about you? Do you have an Alpha Reader? Do you keep your Alpha Reader a secret? I’m embarrassed to admit that mine may be inappropriate because I’ve never even met said author. (and again, how embarrassing if said author ever did read it and didn’t like it. Talk about awkward!)