It’s been said (a lot) that you need to know your audience. It’s true, you need to understand them so that you can understand what they’re looking for, what they enjoy, what they will pay for, and other things. Well, in the world of non-fiction, there’s another reason you need to understand them. Sometimes, the reader is the hero of the story!
Nope, we’re not talking about writing in second person. There are fiction and non-fiction reasons to do that, but it’s not what we’re talking about today. Today’s focus is on areas like self help and how-to, places where your reader wants to do, overcome, or achieve something. In those cases, your focus needs to be on helping the audience to get what they want.
It’s a challenge. Many well intended authors struggle with it (I know I do sometimes). And, if you get it wrong, it’s easy to end up in the “pontificating ass” category, which hurts readership and your publishability.
But… It’s my advice/experience/story…
You’re the author of your work. You’re the one writing it. Hopefully, you’ve got something to say.
If you don’t have advice or experience related to the subject, why are you writing it in the first place? If you didn’t, there’d be no reason for the reader to pay attention to you. But, most of the time, they’re not here to listen to you reminisce about your own successes and adventures. They’re here to find solutions to their challenges. When they pickup or download your writing, they’re giving you a chance. But they’re far more likely to be asking “how can this help me?” than they are “What’s this person’s life like?”
Actually, even if they are asking “What’s this person’s life like?” they have their own reasons for doing it. And, if your stuff doesn’t fit with those reasons, they’re going to put your book down and might not pick it up again.
We like sharing (at least sometimes). The reader is (hopefully) here to read the things we’re sharing. But, we have to do it in a way that helps readers achieve their goals. If we ignore the reader and the reader’s needs, they’ll notice that, and our success rate goes down. So, we have to find the right ways and words to share our stuff and communicate to readers that “this is here to help you.”
It’s a giving experience, not a telling experience
We love our strokes. Most of us want to be heard. But, very few of us like being lectured to (and when people like being lectured to, it’s often because being lectured to doesn’t require them to do anything). If we’re teaching and helping, we want to give our audience every reason to “read and heed” that is to actually learn and do stuff.
We’ll also want to reduce excuses and reasons to not follow through with the stuff we’re offering. Putting thought and focus into how what we write helps the reader instead of how it makes us look goes a long way in the right direction.
We want to include our readers and help them feel they can do and achieve things. Yeah, we’ve got stuff to say. Hopefully great and inspirational stuff. But, it should be stuff we’re offering them, not stuff we’re forcing them to accept (forcing them is a great way to get people to not do things (things that we want them to do at least…)).
Willing giving can be powerful. Back in the day, when I worked in a group home setting, one of the most powerful techniques I used was helping the residents understand the situation and giving them a choice. The guys who just told them what to do met a lot of resistance. The teens we worked with wanted to make choices for themselves. By allowing them to make choices, I got the kids to do things the “force-em” guys couldn’t, simply because doing things my way allowed the kids to make their own decisions.
A funny thing happens when you give rather than tell. It happened with my group-home kids and it happens with readers. When you do it right, they think more of you than they would have otherwise.
Yes, I had to set some bounds and boundaries with my kids. They needed some time to learn and see. But eventually, understanding happened and opinions shifted. The “force-em” coworkers struggled to understand why the kids were “good” for me and not for them. On the kids’ side, it was all a difference of perception: the “force-em” guys were weak and petty. I was so powerful that I could offer the kids a choice and not be diminished by the offering.
We can do the same thing in our writing. If we think about our audience and offer rather than lecturing, we can grow in stature as our readers achieve their own success. And that, dear reader, is worth doing!
That’s it for this one, dear reader. Next work we’ll talk about “team work” and teamwork, the cause of and solution to so many of the headaches we have.
Until then I wish you success in your own writing. See you next post.