1. rhsexton
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    rhsexton Member

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    Reader's Goals

    Discussion in 'Publishing' started by rhsexton, Apr 28, 2011.

    Okay, I'm not sure this is in the right section. My apologies if it is not.

    A friend helped me get in touch with an editor with a publishing company and she's been helping me work out the problems with my book. The problems haven't been plot or character though.

    Yesterday, I had a long exchange with her, and it ended with the decision to rewrite two of the chapters with the goals of the reader in mind. When I asked what she meant by that, she said to think like a reader.

    Good advice. The problem is, I don't even think I've ever thought like a reader.

    Now, I understand the importance of putting myself in the shoes of the different characters in my stories, to understand their motivations and goals, to have an idea of where they come from and what has influenced them in the past. I'll even draw on my table-top gaming days, playing a particular character in an RPG who has not only personal goals that I want the character to accomplish, but goals that coincide with the group's efforts too. I've even been the Game/Dungeon Master and had to fill the rolls of all the characters the players encounter, everything from vendors, to monsters, to the main bad guy and all his/her lieutenants the players have to defeat.

    I've read a lot of books too, but I've never asked myself what I wanted out of a book, other than a few days of entertainment, or a form of distraction while I went about doing whatever. I read books while I was in the US Navy, standing in lines that lasted over 40 minutes to get a meal. I read books while riding buses to and from work because it passed the time better. And I've read books that I had been looking forward too. For me, Harry Potter was like that and Anita Blake still is.

    Here is a list of goals one girl posted on her blog:

    1. To absorb some sort of emotion from every book I finish reading. Whether it be good or bad, as long as I feel something after reading I feel like I have accomplished something.

    2. To get inside the main character's head. I want to at least understand them and their actions, whether I like them or not.

    3. To learn something new. I want to learn something from each book I read. It can be something about writing, human nature, or a random fact. I just want to learn.

    4. To see both the good and the bad. I want to be able to point out one thing I liked and one thing I did not like from every book.

    5. To decide if I will continue reading books by the author. I want to feel compelled to continue reading an author's books.

    6. To appreciate each book. Although I might not like some books or writing styles, I want to appreciate each book that I read in at least some small way. Somebody put effort into writing each book that is on a shelf.

    So, ultimately, the question is, what are the goals I should consider. The list above is great, but almost seems too much for any writer to aspire to. On top of the research, the creation of all the details, the writing, re-writing, and re-re-writing of chapters to make sure they not only convey the point of the chapter but surpass it, I also have to think about what the readers will get out of it!

    If the company is taking a chance on me, willing to pony up the money to print what I've written, the least I can do is put in the effort to do my best. I suppose I'm feeling a little overwhelmed at the moment, and scared that if what I think is a good book may turn out to be a complete flop. I don't know how many times I've gone to the movies and watched something that I thought was fantastic, but everyone I know seemed disappointed by it. Why is it I can let go so easily of my analytical side and enter a vicarious state?

    Now, thinking about this bit of thinking like a reader, I'm lost. I didn't know I was supposed to have goals as a reader. I've read a lot of books, as I've mentioned, and never once did I have particular goals in mind at the time. I look at the list above and realize that I certainly hit several of those with every book (1, 2, and 4). But of the books I read, I don't remember half of the authors. There were a few that I don't remember the title, though I can describe the primary plot.

    I suppose what I'm trying to ask is, what would you suggest. I don't know that I'm mentally equipped to come up with my own list of readers' goals, and I'm worried that without it, my book with fold.
     
  2. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    i think you're overanalyzing everything... relax... take a deep breath...

    now, just go back and read over your book as if you just bought it at walmart and are comfortably ensconced on the deck of a cabin overlooking a lake, with nothing to do but read...

    don't look for errors, or story glitches, etc., just read it for pleasure!

    this is what you should do with all of your writings... first, read it as a 'reader' and only after you've done that, should you read it as its writer/proofreader/editor/revisor... doing the first will help you greatly when you do the second...
     
  3. rhsexton
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    rhsexton Member

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    Oh, if only I could get away with doing just that... a boat, peace and quiet, and only a book to keep me company. <sighs>

    But I see what you mean mamma. I've been so caught up in the details that I couldn't make my own mind think that way. I've always known (somewhere in my head) that something was lacking.... maybe now I can find it.
     
  4. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    remember, you're a writer... and as such, you can make anything 'be'... so just use that writer's imagination and put yourself at least mentally on that deck, while you read your work...

    this may help: http://saysmom.com/maia/content.asp?Writing=161

    happy reading!
     

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